Friday, April 24, 2009

Curried chickpeas

The other day I was planning to make a tabouli-style salad, only with kasha instead of bulgur wheat...but once I chopped the red onion, green pepper, and tomato I decided it would be much lovelier to saute them with the (soaked & cooked) chickpeas and some olive oil and spices. Well, it came out delicious! I used about a cup of chickpeas (soaked 2 days with 2 tbsp. whey and plenty of filtered water, then cooked in the crockpot for a full day until tender), and sauteed them with the veggies and lots of muchi curry, cumin, coriander, turmeric, garlic powder, sea salt, black pepper, and dried ginger. The kasha (a.k.a. toasted buckwheat -- which you should NOT soak, by the way, unlike all other whole grains) was cooked with broth I saved from the pot roast I made last week, plus a little sea salt. The kasha and chickpea dish go together pretty well...cous cous or basmati rice would probably be better, though. This makes a good hot or cool dish.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Aren't we getting a little spoiled?

I have been thinking lately about the vegetarian/vegan debate. At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (where I'm finishing up my certification in holistic health counseling) there are many many vegetarians and a large number of vegans. I completely understand that some people would not want to consume other creatures for ethical, moral, or religious reasons. However, I take issue with the health and environment arguments in favor of veganism (vegetarianism is more moderate and flexible so I'll leave that out for the moment). This past weekend at IIN I was eating my city-farm-girl style lunch in the midst of many vegans. Some had brought their lunches; others were eating take-out from Whole Foods. One girl who stood out in particular (as she sat down she loudly announced that she is vegan) was eating what looked like some kind of pressed tempeh or fake-meat product out of a big plastic package. I looked around at everyone earnestly talking and discussing their various dietetic gyrations and was struck by the overwhelming spoiled-ness of it. Only in America are we so rich that we can turn up our noses at great local farm food and instead buy things like goji berries from South America and over-processed soy (that sickens everyone in the cities where it's produced with its awful odor). Many people like to argue that eating vegan or vegetarian is the way of the future, that everyone should do it because it would make the world a better place. I have to wonder, though, would they also try to apply this standard to poor people living in small villages around the world who rely on a few animals for their milk, eggs, and meat to round out their diets? Would we advise them to switch to soy milk and flavored tempeh? Probably not. Perhaps instead we should take a lesson from these people who are -- in many cases -- enjoying better health than most Americans and using far fewer resources that impact the planet; after all, they are eating local, unpackaged, largely unprocessed foods, and they are conserving and appreciating what they have. Maybe we should consider our local farmers who are struggling to stay afloat and who really need our support, which means buying and eating the products they offer. Small farms need to practice biodiversity (raising both animals and plants) in order to be healthy and avoid the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. And they need us -- the local eaters -- to remember that a loaf of homemade sourdough and a roast chicken and an arugula salad are real foods that are precious and that eating them is good for our environment and our local economy. A natural side-effect of eating local, conscientiously-raised animal products will be to save, to conserve, and to cut back, simply because the prices are (rightly) higher, and the quality higher as well, so that we need to consume less to get excellent nourishment. What do you think? I would like to hear from readers on this. In the meantime, please consider checking out your local farmers' market or joining a Community-Supported Agriculture program.

The big sleep struggle

Ever since the time change this year we have felt like Oliver is ruling our lives at night. He has been going to sleep at varying times (mainly in our arms) and after battles of various duration. Basically Oliver is great at taking naps during the day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon when he goes down with no problem in the crib, but at night he has been wanting only to sleep in my arms or in our bed, or else play with us (in bed) long into the night. This has made for some very tired parents, especially Hugo who has to get up early regardless of how the night went.
Finally I had enough last week and had a long conversation with my older sister (who has a 14-month-old) about these problems. Fan encouraged me to do what I felt was right for Oliver and for our sanity, so I decided I needed to let Oliver cry in the crib for once. This was a difficult decision since everything I have read says not to do this, but I felt that at 8 months old Oliver is now able to use crying to get what he wants, to the ultimate detriment of all concerned. I decided I would nurse and hold Oliver for about 20-30 minutes last Friday night, then when he drifted off to sleep I would put him in the crib and let him cry. Well, he woke instantly when I put him down and cried in the crib for an hour and a half before finally going to sleep. It was really not fun listening to him, and I'm sure it was a terrible time for him as well! In the past I have always picked him back up and nursed him again and again off to sleep, in this endlessly frustrating pattern; I'm glad I remained firm this time, though, as hard as it was. This seems to have worked because it has been almost a week and we have not had another night-time crying session! In fact, Oliver has been going down easily in the crib every night since, somewhere between 8 and 9:00. Occasionally he will wake to burp and have another snack after his first nap of 30-45 minutes, but then he goes down again easily and sleeps til I wake him around 3:00am. By this time I need to feed him again (for my own sake) and he sleeps the rest of the night in bed with us. We're keeping our fingers crossed that this continues...!

steep price

this is what usually greets me when I get home from a long day of work. hannah's efforts to make everything from scratch is paid with more work from my tired muscles. and the sink is only indicative of other dishes laying about the kitchen table and house that I can't see. (as a guy I have housework blindness) Is this the price I have to pay so that I'm eating healthier and that Oliver grows up healthy with beautiful teeth like mr. tooth?!?!

well I'll gladly pay it! I will wash sinkfuls of dishes for health and happy mouths!

-- Post From the blessed iphone


I always forget how 15 minutes of morning yoga can do such wonders for my sore back and tight muscles! Carrying an 18+ lb. child around on one hip or in a sling is really taking its toll on my back. But a few downward dogs and cat-cows and proud warriors do the trick! Oh, and don't forget my favorite: child's pose. Don't we all love that one? :)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The most important thing in the world

Over breakfast (black field-blend rice with milk & honey) I decided to revisit The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell. I located some very apt passages about food that I had remembered, and want to share them with you here. Remember, this was written in the 1930s:

"When I was a small boy at school a lecturer used to come once a term and deliver excellent lectures on famous battles of the past, such as Blenheim, Austerlitz, etc. He was fond of quoting Napoleon's maxim 'An army marches on its stomach,' and at the end of his lecture he would suddenly turn to us and demand, 'What's the most important thing in the world?' We were expected to shout 'Food!' and if we did not do so he was disappointed.

Obviously he was right in a way. A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion... [he goes on to talk about the processed, depleted diet of the people, especially the poor, like the miners' families, and the unemployed in England at that time; then:] The miner's family spend only tenpence a week on green vegetables and tenpence halfpenny on milk (remember that one of them is a child less than three years old), and nothing on fruit; but they spend one and nine on sugar (about eight lbs. of sugar, that is) and a shilling on tea. The half-crown spent on meat might represent a small joint and the materials for a stew; probably as often as not it would represent four or five tins of bully beef. The basis of their diet, therefore, is white bread and margarine, corned beef, sugared tea and potatoes--an appalling diet. Would it not be better if they spent more money on wholesome things like oranges and wholemeal bread or if they even, like the writer of the letter to the New Statesman, saved on fuel and ate their carrots raw? Yes, it would, but the point is that no ordinary human being is ever going to do such a thing. The ordinary human being would sooner starve than live on brown bread and raw carrots. And the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food...White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don't nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the Englishman's opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread.

The results of all this are visible in a physical degeneracy which you can study directly, by using your eyes, or inferentially, by having a look at the vital statistics. The physical average in the industrial towns is terribly low, lower even than in London. In Sheffield you have the feeling of walking among a population of troglodytes. The miners are splendid men, but they are usually small, and the mere fact that their muscles are toughened by constant work does not mean that their children start life with a better physique. In any case the miners are physically the pick of the population. The most obvious sign of under-nourishment is the badness of everybody's teeth. In Lancashire you would have to look for a long time before you saw a working-class person with good natural teeth. Indeed, you see very few people with natural teeth at all, apart from the children; and even the children's teeth have a frail bluish appearance which means, I suppose, calcium deficiency. Several dentists have told me that in industrial districts a person over thirty with any of his or her own teeth is coming to be an abnormality. In Wigan various people gave me their opinion that it is best to 'get shut of' your teth as early in life as possible. 'Teeth is just a misery,' one woman said to me... As for the vital statistics, the fact that in any large industrial town the death rate and infant mortality rate of the poorest quarters are always about double those of the well-to-do residential quarters--a good deal more than double in some cases--hardly needs commenting on... If the English physique has declined, this is no doubt partly due to the fact that the Great War carefully selected the million best men in England and slaughtered them, largely before they had had time to breed. But the process must have begun earlier than that, and it must be due ultimately to unhealthy ways of living, i.e. to industrialism. I don't mean the habit of living in towns...but the modern industrial technique which provides you with cheap substitutes for everything. We may find in the long run that tinned food is a deadlier weapon than the machine gun...The English palate, especially the working-class palate, now rejects good food almost automatically. The number of people who prefer tinned peas and tinned fish to real peas and real fish must be increasing every year, and plenty of people who could afford real milk in their tea would much sooner have tinned milk--even that dreadful tinned milk which is made of sugar and cornflour and has UNFIT FOR BABIES on the tin in huge letters...

To begin with, there is the frightful debauchery of taste that has already been effected by a century of mechanisation. This is almost too obvious and too generally admitted to need pointing out. But as a single instance, take taste in its narrowest sense--the taste for decent food. In the highly mechanised countries, thanks to tinned food, cold storage, synthetic flavouring matters, etc. the palate is almost a dead organ. As you can see by looking at any greengrocer's shop, what the majority of English people mean by an apple is a lump of highly-coloured cotton wool from America or Australia; they will devour these things, apparently with pleasure, and let the English apples rot under the trees. It is the shiny, standardised, machine-made look of the American apple that appeals to them; the superior taste of the English apple is something they simply do not notice. Or look at the factory-made, foil-wrapped cheese and "blended" butter in any grocer's; look at the hideous rows of tins which usurp more and more of the space in any food-shop, even a dairy; look at a sixpenny Swiss roll or a twopenny ice-cream; look at the filthy chemical by-product that people will pour down their throats under the name of beer. Wherever you look you will see some slick machine-made article triumphing over the old-fashioned article that still tastes of something other than sawdust. And what applies to food applies also to furniture, houses, clothes, books, amusements and everything else that makes up our environment. There are now millions of people, and they are increasing every year, to whom the blaring of a radio is not only a more acceptable but a more normal background to their thoughts than the lowing of cattle or the song of birds."

Phew! If Orwell has harsh words for the "modern" and mechanised life of the 1930s what would he say to the typical American diet of 2009?

Monday, April 20, 2009


Last Monday I was at the Greenmarket with Oliver, on a mission to buy whatever was available and make some great meals. Usually I plan ahead what I am going to make, then buy according to a list, but I decided to try things more Iron Chef-style and see what would happen...

It was 5:30 and I didn't have too many options since many vendors were packing up or long gone. So I picked up some veggies (baby bok choy, kale, celeriac, parsnips, red potatoes, blue potatoes, arugula, napa cabbage), apples for a tart, a dozen extra-large pastured eggs, a loaf of whole wheat sourdough, and a container of delicious Korean kim chee. Then I ended up at the Central Valley farm booth where all they had for sale was raw milk cheddar (smoked and regular), and grass-fed ground beef. I instantly thought: cheeseburgers! I bought one lb. of the beef ($5.50 - a great price for grass-fed!), and an 8-oz. block of cheddar ($5). Then I picked up two small sourdough loaves (white flour, a compromise) to serve as upscale burger buns. Walking to the train I realized the napa cabbage would make a great slaw with the mayo Sarah and I made a couple weeks ago!

We had cheeseburgers two nights last week -- I used fresh thyme, fresh oregano, plenty of dried basil, lots of raw milk, whole wheat panko bread crumbs, sea salt, and organic Worcestershire sauce to season the meat. The cole slaw was made from shredded napa cabbage, finely-grated red radish & parsnip, homemade mayo, Dijon and lemon juice. We also made our own version of oven-fried blue potato chips (thinly-sliced blue potatoes tossed with olive oil, sea salt & pepper and baked at 400 degrees til crispy). Hugo hadn't eaten a burger in over 15 years, and pronounced this one delicious! I was impressed with how everything came together so well by just buying what was available. Definitely going to try this again every week!

Urban farm lunch

So today I was going through the fridge and pantry trying to figure out what to have for lunch. This weekend was very busy so I didn't do any cooking which means we had no leftovers... HOWEVER, thanks to Saturday's Greenmarket trip I was still able to throw together a great lunch: whole wheat sourdough toasted with raw butter (as you can see, I eat LOTS of butter on my bread!), Cajun pheasant sausage, delicious crumbly raw milk cheddar from Central Valley Farm, a hard-boiled egg with Celtic sea salt, olives, sliced tomato and sliced kiwi (these last two from my last Urban Organic delivery of 2 weeks ago). I had a handful of crispy pumpkin seeds to start, and actually got to eat lunch alone (Oliver was napping) without any interruptions. Not too shabby for a rainy Monday. :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

Family photo op

Oliver and I visited Hugo at work yesterday to admire the annual Macy's Flower Show. Ollie enjoyed the unusual chance to hang out with Papa in the middle of the day.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

as an introduction

**Devil's (Food) Advocate**

this is my morning breakfast. I know hannah is rolling her eyes loudly right now (believe me, entirely possible and I make it happen often). but it's justified!
the weekday mornings are cold and forbidding places to be. I need the comfort of a warm hug of coffee, the pat of a savory egg and cheddar bagel, the sweet kiss of a cherry danish and I need them delivered to me in the quick and now.
now I know I should be having hannah's breakfast of champions oatmeal. I know it would probably keep me up and running for the whole day. I know it would help me acheive my genetic potential for the days to come.
but it's still cold outside. it's early. and I need something to ease the pain and launch me into the here and now like a skiff into the wild river.
in the warm springs days to come I will change my food habits. I can see it now: gourmet oatmeal in the park under a canopy of green leaves paired with spring air.
but until then
'The usual please!... to go, thank you.'

-- Post From the blessed iphone

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happy Mama and Ollie

Just wanted to share this picture of Ollie and me enjoying some delicious oatmeal on Sunday morning. It is family moments like these that are the best... (He is wearing his winter cap "helmet" in this picture b/c he is going through a scary phase where he is always bumping his head.)

Fava bean cakes & jicama salad

Last night Hugo and I enjoyed a totally unseasonal -but delicious!- meal. The bean cakes are remarkably easy to make with the assistance of a food processor or blender. Cutting everything up for the salad (which is so tasty & refreshing!) took about 15 minutes but it made a huge amount so we will be enjoying this all week. I would advise using fava beans if you can, but you could also substitute other beans if they aren't available (perhaps chick peas).

Fava Bean Cakes (adapted from Vegetarian Times cookbook)
blend the following in processor or blender til smooth:
-2 large eggs
-2 rinsed/drained cans fava beans (easily found in Middle Eastern shops)
-1 tbsp. olive oil
-large heaping spoonful flour
-chopped garlic & onions if you like (I left this out as Hugo hates onions and the garlic was too much work for a busy Monday night)
-generous dashes of the following: garlic powder, cumin, coriander, dried parsley, sea salt

In frying pan, heat a couple tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil for frying. When hot, drop in 3 very large spoonfuls of bean mixture to make 3 cakes. Allow to brown, then flip as you would pancakes. You will probably make about 3 batches, so 9 cakes in all (add more olive oil each time to avoid sticking). Garnish with diced red pepper and serve with plenty of whole-milk yogurt sprinkled with turmeric for a nice touch!

Jicama salad
-basically you just chop all the veggies as small as you like, then add the dressing items, mix, and allow to sit a few minutes so the flavors can incorporate.
-1 large jicama, peeled
-4 large radishes
-1 red pepper
-1 large cucumber
-plenty of fresh cilantro (about 1/2 cup chopped or more)
-juice of 3 limes
-1 tbsp. vinegar (should be rice, I used apple-cider)
-big drizzle olive oil (about 2 tbsp.)
-small drizzle honey
-generous dash of spicy chili powder of some kind
-sea salt to taste

This meal would have been better suited to summer-time, so we will definitely be revisiting it! FYI about planning portions: Hugo ate 4 cakes (though he could have eaten 5), and I ate 3.

Addressing Fat Phobia

I found myself writing a really long response to a comment on my "Shouldn't we be fat by now?" entry, and decided I should just post it here for everyone to read. This reader was saying she is having a hard time accepting the idea that animal fats do not make people fat. My response is this:

This is something most Americans have a really hard time with because we have been so thoroughly brainwashed about fat, cholesterol, obesity, etc. I, too, was a die-hard no-saturated-fat person for a very long time. It took me a while -and some dubious experimenting- to become convinced. Now I have learned some things about this from personal experience and would like to share them with you.

First of all, I think one of the main reasons enjoying animal fats (the right amount for your body) works is that they are SO much more satisfying and filling than the salads and low-fat foods most of us are trying to eat, so it prevents the "cheating" that usually happens, esp. for women. In the past, even when letting myself eat pretty much whatever I wanted (I mainly ate "healthy," though, meaning low-fat foods and small quantities) I would still have a LOT of episodes where I would kind of go a little crazy and splurge on cheese fries or a Boston cream donut (and would inevitably want another one afterward). While I didn't struggle with guilt over these things I knew they weren't doing my body any good, especially since I was facing issues like daily hypoglycemic episodes, mood swings, and acne. I have now learned that generally when we are eating a diet that is in line with what our bodies really need (in terms of the right balance of fats/carbs/protein, and all the requisite vitamins, minerals, enzymes, etc.) we will feel pretty good, balanced, and energetic with no significant weird cravings. So my cravings were a sign that something was out of balance; for me there was a big deficiency in animal fats in my diet and eating things like greasy fried foods from time to time was not doing the trick (perhaps b/c the frying fats are of vegetable origin -- another very unhealthy modern food, more on that later). Now when I start craving things like French fries, mozzarella sticks, and Popeyes fried chicken I know it is time for me to have some red meat (chicken and fish will not suffice). If I acknowledge this craving and honor it -not by eating the junky foods I think I want, but by digging deeper and finding out what's underneath the craving- then it fixes me up perfectly and I am usually satisfied with one small serving. Case in point: Hugo and I ate mostly vegetarian last week and were a little low on food by the weekend since I hadn't been able to get to the farmers' market. By Saturday night I was dying for a steak but didn't want to eat conventional meat at a local restaurant, so instead we succumbed to the lure of Popeyes (the steak probably would have been a better choice). My stomach didn't feel too great after eating so I drank some kefir which helped a lot, but basically I was unsatisfied because I knew this meal was not deeply nourishing in the way I needed -and in fact pretty gross when you consider how the chickens were raised and everything else surrounding this meal- but I really felt a strong pull to fats and protein and had to give in. The next day I still had a craving for steak so defrosted a small grass-fed pot roast from the Union Square Greenmarket and cooked it with lots of butter, carrots, onions, potatoes, and some fresh thyme. I ravenously ate a plate of the veggies and about a 1/3 lb. serving of the meat and then felt totally satisfied. It's been two days and I still feel great from that one meal - in fact, yesterday I had only oatmeal and a vegetarian dinner and felt really good and energetic. Which leads me to the next point...

I have also noticed I'm not eating as much or nearly as often as I used to, but feeling fuller, more energetic, more balanced (I used to get very irritable very frequently), and healthier; my skin has totally cleared up, my hair is getting thicker again, I don't have hypoglycemic episodes, etc. So I am actually eating more richly but staying slim and feeling less food-obsessed by not restricting my eating...does this make sense? For example, I used to want cheese ALL the time -- mac & cheese, grilled cheese, etc. Now I hardly eat cheese, except for cottage cheese now and then, occasional cheese & crackers, or some fresh mozz on Italian dishes. It's not something I crave anymore because I am getting the whole milk, butter, and occasional red meat I need. Interesting how this works. I also used to crave carbs a lot and would make white pasta and homemade baked goods and things like garlic bread on a regular basis. I would crave decaf coffee with lots of cream and sugar; for a while there I was getting one a few times a week. Now I have totally natural homemade raw milk ice cream maybe once a week, all the butter and whole milk I want (the latter mainly just on my breakfast cereal), and very little pasta or baked items. The main thing to remember with this, though, is that I AM NOT DEPRIVING MYSELF. When I start to want foods that I know are bad for me then I have to re-evaluate my recent diet, level of fatigue, and any stressors, and figure out what I really need to be properly nourished and satisfied. This is a no guilt way of eating, and it is ultimately a healthy and effective way to maintain an appropriate weight. The key is finding what works for your unique physiological makeup and lifestyle. Of course, if you are eating for emotional reasons that is a separate issue -- and a topic for a later post. Please weigh in and tell me what you think about all this!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Oliver decides what's for lunch

After deliberating for a few minutes Oliver decided he would go with two butter-fried eggs dressed simply with Celtic sea salt and fresh-ground black pepper, some ends of olive-rosemary whole wheat sourdough toasted with raw butter (alas! all out of sourdough now), two breakfast sausage links, and a cup of Mama's special turkey-spelt-fava bean soup. Actually Mama ended up eating pretty much everything, but Oliver enjoyed some delicious bright-orange egg yolk and even some cooled turkey broth in his little bottle shaken vigorously with pureed chicken liver! He was having so much fun drinking from the bottle that he didn't even realize he was getting lots of great nutrients and minerals, particularly iron and calcium.

On to the soup...

Remember how I was soaking spelt and kamut the other day? Well, first I simmered our turkey remnants (bones, skin, etc. from 3 drumsticks) for an entire afternoon (about 6 hours) in a potfull of water with 1 tbsp. apple-cider vinegar. This (apparently) is how you make stock, though of course usually you would want to add veggies to flavor the broth. I prefer to add vegetables later. In the early evening I removed all the bones and pulled off all remaining meat to return to the pot, then added the pre-soaked whole grains to the broth and allowed them to simmer several more hours to get nice and soft and a little puffy. I also added celery (w/leaves), onions, carrots, and a can of fava beans, plus some frozen peas that had been hanging around too long, and a good amount of seasoning (sea salt, rosemary, thyme, etc.). I let this simmer again the second day so the flavors could incorporate well and the broth could gel properly. Bone broth (as this might be called) that is properly made will become a bit gelatinous in the fridge, which is a good thing -- it's a sign that it is full of minerals. Broths and stocks made from bones of conventionally-raised animals will sometimes not even form gelatin at all, which is not a good sign. Of course, when you re-heat the soup the consistency returns to liquid. Broths are especially good for sick persons because they are so incredibly rich in minerals and absorbed very easily.

Recent text conversation

...with a friend who is cutting down on sugar and refined carbs (not real names).

Karen: I have to tell you John and I were like a couple of addicts last night jonesing for our next hit! We wanted dessert after dinner SO BAD! Ended up eating carrots and hummus, apple, orange, and finally a bag of potato chips at midnight.
Me: What did you eat for dinner?
Karen: Ate pork chops, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, and corn. Drank water. Did not have gum.
Me: How did you feel after? Full? Hungry? Satisfied?
Karen: Satisfied but could have eaten more. John wanted more of something right away.
Me: Was it plain apple sauce?
Karen: Yeah, organic no sugar.
Me: Could be a few things. Maybe John needed more meat. Or wild rice w/herbs & butter and a big green saald might have balanced the meal better. Eating all those carb-heavy foods at once can create the desire for more carbs later. Depends on the person.
Karen: Yeah, that's what happened I guess. Really need a safe dessert.
Me: Yes, sometimes fruit doesn't cut it. Another thing is the fat content. Pork is pretty low-fat so maybe you needed another fatty food with it. Sour cream? Guacamole and chips?
Karen: I mixed tons of sour cream in the potatoes.
Me: Hmm, full fat, right? I think less starch might help. You have to eat enough protein, too, though.
Karen: Yes, full fat.

Post-conversation commentary: I forgot to mention that sugar is 4 times more addictive than heroin! Believe it or not, humans trying to give up sugar face a tougher challenge than your average drug addict. Based on what I now know about sugar and all the bad things it does to the human body and psyche (cancer, depression, aggression, diabetes, weight gain, immune suppression, etc.) it is really hard for me to understand why it's still legal! (especially when a life-giving, delicious food like raw milk has practically been banned outright) Chalk this up to industry pressures: the sugar and corn industries (which of course makes high-fructose corn syrup) are incredibly powerful and more or less "own" many government representatives and agencies (USDA, anyone?).

Well, I'll get off my soap box here. Just keep in mind if you're trying to cut down on sugar that there are a few simple rules to follow:
1. substitute (use raw honey, molasses, maple syrup, or dehydrated cane juice instead of sugar or corn syrup products; while these products will still break down into sugar in your body you will at least get the benefit of the enzymes and minerals which are present in natural sweeteners but not present in refined white sugar; oh, and I should mention artificial sweeteners should be avoided like the plague they are)
2. go slow -- cut down gradually on the amount you use (i.e. a little less every day in your baked goods or coffee until you reach a reasonably-low level, or slowly begin substituting white-flour items with whole wheat)
3. resist your cravings -- eating refined carbohydrate foods and sugar in all its forms (soda, muffins/bagels, pretzels, goldfish crackers, juice, etc.) will simply reinforce the desire for more. I have found that having a couple cookies a few days in a row will make my body expect it -and want it- again and again! Even chewing gum will create this desire: every time you taste something really sweet you will want to experience the sweet taste again, whether it be a few hours later or the next day. The more times you can simply avoid giving in to this desire, the faster these chronic cravings will subside.
4. boost your protein intake -- this will really help with refined-carb cravings (think of it this way: your body is starving for nutrients (protein) so it craves calories (sugar))
5. ADD FATS!!! This is probably the most important thing you can do. While we have been taught to avoid most animal fats thinking they are what is causing our mass epidemic of obesity and chronic disease, this advice is totally wrong. We really need high-quality animal fats (pure butter, lard, cream, duck/goose fat, eggs, meat, etc.) in order to meet our nutritional needs and quench sugar cravings. These fats are very useful for treating numerous disorders from infertility to hypoglycemia. Olive oil, nuts/seeds, avocado, and coconut oil & cream are also great, but not quite as satisfying for many people (and among the plant sources of fats, only coconut products provide a lot of the all-important saturated fats ). You can pretty much eat the amount that feels right for your body without worrying about things like cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight gain. Not only will you easily shed a few unnecessary pounds by eating this way, you will also experience a lift in your mood, greater patience and resilience, more energy, better sleep, clearer skin, and fewer colds/flus and infections (remember, all bad bacteria, tumors, cancer, etc. feed on sugar).

*One note on animal fats: go for local grass-raised animal products whenever possible, and balance them out with a good amount of leafy greens. Experiment with quantities and types that feel right for you!

Pita chips

I will be making more pita chips today as we seem to have gone through an entire batch in just 3 days. We are lucky enough to live in an area with lots of Middle Eastern shops that carry great packaged pita bread. I try to look for a brand called Kings Pita; they make large Lebanese-style pitas that contain only bran, whole wheat flour, yeast, salt, and water (unlike a lot of store-bought pitas that are filled with additives and preservatives). This time I picked up 2 bags (12 large pocket pitas in all), and froze half of them. They defrost very nicely and this way we avoid the whole mold problem.

Here is what I do (using about 4-5 large pocket pitas):
-cut each pita pocket entirely open to make 2 round flat sheets
-cut each sheet into narrow wedges as if it is a pie and you are a dieter :)
-using a large tupperware or bread bag, shake the pita pieces with plenty of olive oil, sea salt, and any desired herbs/spices (I always use dried rosemary as it tastes great on pita chips)
-spread pieces in a thin layer on cookie sheets and bake at 250 degrees just until slightly brown and crisp (about 10-15 min); stir them around a little during baking
-allow to dry COMPLETELY before storing tightly covered -- you don't want any heat left as they will get soggy!

I like to serve them with an eggplant dip like baba ghanoush, or with hummus or other bean dips. You will be amazed at how thin, crispy, and delicious they are! They make a surprisingly substantial snack and are great for holding hungry husbands at bay while dinner is being prepared. Of course, strictly speaking, these are not a true traditional food as the flour is not properly soaked to render it completely nutritious, but these are a great compromise snack food.

Cheese thief!

This just goes to show that Oliver is now at the age to get into things...apparently he cannot be left alone with a bag of groceries for 2 minutes! In case you're wondering, yes, this is a giant ball of fresh mozzarella and when I discovered him with it he was enjoying some with apparent relish. (Oh, and the hat is his indoor "helmet" since he takes little tumbles on occasion now that he is very mobile and constantly trying to stand.)

Ice Cream!

Last Thursday Sharon and I made ice cream at her apartment. Of course we can hardly be said to have really "made" anything at all since the ice cream maker did all the work, but still, we had a hand in it I suppose (even if this mainly consisted of lugging our farm-fresh booty to her place after the TNG pick-up). We used 3 cups of raw light cream, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 3 egg yolks, plus 1 tbsp. vanilla and 1 tbsp. arrowroot powder (optional, though it's said to prevent ice crystals from forming). These ingredients were mixed for about 25 minutes in the machine, and then frozen; I should add that the results were predictably delicious! Hugo and I are sold -- we will be purchasing our own ice cream maker sometime this spring so that we can enjoy homemade ice cream all summer long. We plan to use raw whole milk and fresh seasonal fruit for a lighter hot-weather version.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Loaf-al warming?

Am currently very excited over an article a friend just sent me on solar ovens made from cardboard! This design, called the Kyoto Box, is composed simply of two cardboard boxes (one inside the other) with an acrylic cover that lets in solar rays. The box uses black paint and aluminum foil to concentrate the heat, making the temperature inside the box high enough to boil water (to make it safe to drink) or bake bread! The inventor, Jon Bohmer, (who just won the FT Climate Change Challenge), envisions the solar oven being used throughout Africa where people without electricity routinely burn wood and charcoal for fuel.

This is brilliant -- read the article here. Sign me up; I'm ready to buy one for our terrace!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lunch guests

Sarah and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch yesterday with Baby Lilah and Baby Oliver. I made one of my favorite super-easy dishes, Two-Cheese Pudding:
combine 4 eggs, 1/4 cup shredded cheddar, 1 cup cottage cheese, 1/8 tsp. sea salt, and 1/2 tsp. paprika; pour into a buttered glass dish (1-qt) and bake at 350 degrees until set (about 30 min.). This recipe can easily be halved and baked in a tiny casserole for a single serving.

We also had sauteed red swiss chard, and sourdough croutons I made by tossing small chunks of sourdough with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder, sea salt, and dried oregano, then toasting in the oven with the pudding. Sarah proclaimed the meal to be delicious!

Lilah and Ollie enjoyed some raw milk yogurt which they ate with gusto (sweetened ever-so-slightly with some baked apple juice).

Mayonnaise-making party!

My friend Sarah brought her almost-7-month-old baby over to play with Ollie yesterday. We made mayonnaise using my food processor. This is how we did it:
1 egg + 1 egg yolk (at room temperature)
1 tbsp. whey (this is optional, but it will make the mayo last much longer)
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1.5 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
generous pinch of sea salt
-Combine all in food processor. Then add 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil using the attachment that lets you add liquids drop by drop with motor running. Taste and season with additional lemon, mustard, salt, garlic, herbs, etc. if desired. Either refrigerate immediately (if no whey), or if using whey let the mayo sit outside for 7 hours well covered, then refrigerate. The whey will actually preserve the mayo for several months through the action of lactic-acid producing bacteria -- resulting in a lacto-fermented lunch condiment that is delicious and good for you. (recipe adapted from Nourishing Traditions)

Monday, April 6, 2009

Battling Hypoglycemia -or- "Waffles with Staying Power!"

Today I had two leftover waffles with raw butter and maple syrup, plus a small bowl of raw-milk yogurt sweetened only with the cinnamon-apple juice I saved from baking apples on Saturday morning (this delicious syrup contains only water, cinnamon, and any juice the apples released during baking). I ate this meal very late, around 11:00, and am still not ready for lunch at nearly 3pm! This is not because I am a light eater -- to the contrary I have been known for needing to eat constantly throughout the day because I would get hungry all the time.

In the past, waffles and pancakes would be initially very filling for me but would make me very tired and lethargic, followed by hunger after an hour or two -- this was despite baking with whole wheat flour and using very little sweetener! Since I learned to properly prepare my baked goods from Nourishing Traditions (the cookbook I refer to with all my cooking and nutrition questions), I have been enjoying an excellent energy level for many hours after eating pancakes and waffles. The record for me was 6 hours I think: Hugo and I had a pancake brunch (I could only eat 2.5 pancakes as they were very filling), then went into the city and didn't eat again until dinner. During that whole time I felt quite good, which is an unthinkable accomplishment for me! In the past I have always carried emergency snacks because I would become hypoglycemic at the most inconvenient times and generally frequently throughout the day (despite eating very healthfully).
So by now you're wondering what the secret is, right? It's simply this: use whole wheat flour (I use organic whole wheat pastry flour which is virtually indistinguishable from white, BUT much better for you), and combine it with the liquid (buttermilk, soured milk, etc.) in your recipe, then allow this to sit overnight. This will begin breaking down the indigestible components of the whole grain flour, and will make it able to provide lasting energy. NOTE: the liquid must have an acidic quality - thus you need to use a cultured dairy product like buttermilk, yogurt, kefir, or milk/cream that have soured naturally. And of course the best results will be obtained with raw dairy. Here is the recipe, adapted a little from Nourishing Traditions to make it easier:
2 1/2 cups whole wheat (or other whole grain) flour
2 cups buttermilk, soured milk/cream, or yogurt/kefir (FYI: using this will impart a slightly sour flavor)
-combine these and leave in a warm place overnight, then add the following:
2 eggs
2 tbsp. maple syrup (or other sweetener)
2 tbsp. melted butter or other shortening (I use coconut oil)
1 tsp. sea salt
+ regular or soured milk to thin to desired consistency
Cook as you would normal waffles! These are dense and filling, and very delicious.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Shouldn't we be fat by now?

If you've been following this blog at all you know how much I love cooking with butter and eating things like eggs, cheese, and ice cream. So you may be wondering by now why we aren't fat. We have all been told that fats in food (particularly animal fats) are what make people sick and overweight. However, while we won't touch trans fats at our house with a ten-foot pole, we are eating plenty of animal fats and some natural plant fats as well (such as those in things like nuts and olives) -- AND enjoying excellent health. Oliver and I also take daily high-vitamin cod liver oil (from Radiant Life) which provides excellent amounts of vitamins A and D, as well as the all-important omega 3 fats. [I take 2 tsp. daily, or 2500 IUs of D and 25,000 IUs of A, plus 1.6 grams omega 3 fatty acids in the form of EPA and DHA; Oliver receives about 1/2 tsp. which is important for his health since vitamin D does not come through in breastmilk. We both drink it mixed with raw milk - Oliver relishes his but I gulp mine quickly while holding my breath. Vitamins A and D are crucial for pretty much all types of development and for healthy immune function.]

It is my firm belief that refined carbs and processed foods (which are largely made of refined carbs) are what cause weight gain and innumerable health problems. At our house we try to avoid processed foods as much as possible. The most processed we get is occasional organic whole wheat pasta, Amy's canned refried beans (the black-bean version is eat-from-the-can delicious!), blue-corn taco shells from Whole Foods, and my favorite whole-grain Kavli crackers. And yes, now and then we eat things like potato chips or shortbread cookies, but these are few and far between and always the best quality (which are usually better for you). All these great high-quality fats are curing my hypothyroidism and long-time hypoglycemia, and making me even-tempered and consistently happy for the first time in my life. Plus they make for incredibly rich breastmilk and a happy, well-behaved baby. I have also noticed that since eating this nutrient-dense, high-fat diet I have totally stopped craving sweets and carbs.

When people look askance (or even shocked) at my suggestion that they eat things like (gasp!) butter or whole milk, I like to mention the Masai of Africa, who are reported to consume up to 400 grams of fat on a daily basis, mainly from meat and raw cultured milk. Granted these people are living a more or less traditional existence with plenty of daily exercise, but they are effortlessly slim and healthy - something most Americans cannot claim to be. Until the past century, in this country we ate plentiful amounts of butter, lard, eggs, raw full-fat dairy, liver, and fatty meats and enjoyed far better health, high fertility rates, and much smaller waistlines than the average American does today -- as well as enviably low rates of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

All this is to say, as long as we keep seeing positive effects of our new way of eating at our house, we will continue! Of course, I also believe firmly that we should buy the best quality we can possibly afford, and limit consumption of conventionally-produced animal foods and fats. Farmers' markets and local buying clubs are the best way to do this.

Honey, there's a baby under the table

In the past few weeks Oliver has become very mobile, and now demonstrates an alarming capacity for pulling himself up to stand in various places. During brunch today he discovered he can stand very comfortably underneath our kitchen table!

Poached eggs with bacon

This morning Hugo and I enjoyed poached eggs (from a small farm upstate) over sourdough toast (from Hawthorne Valley at the Greenmarket), and bacon (from Flying Pigs Farm, also purchased at the Greenmarket). Ollie had a few tastes of bacon and seemed to like it a lot. We also had baked apples with raw cream as a special brunch dessert. For perfect poached eggs, crack eggs into tea cups, then slip into gently boiling water and cook in gently bubbling water for exactly 2 minutes 20 seconds. Remove carefully with slotted spoon and allow to dry off briefly on paper towels. For baked apples, I wash and core them, then bake covered in a glass dish with a little water in the bottom and plenty of cinnamon - about 30-45 min. at 350 degrees.

Notes: Be sure to reserve the cooking water (which is like a cinnamon-apple syrup) to use as a light sweetener on yogurt or ice cream! Also the fat from high-quality bacon like this should be saved for frying potatoes and potatoes, or to be used as the shortening in Yorkshire pudding.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Brown rice for breakfast?!

The past few days I have been eating leftover brown rice (from the salmon-bok choy stir-fry of Wednesday night) as a hot breakfast cereal. Besides oatmeal this is my favorite weekday breakfast. I cook the leftover rice with raw honey, butter, and milk, plus golden ground flaxseed, dried shredded coconut, and the final touch: cinnamon.

Tonight I spent about 5 minutes getting some stuff ready for tomorrow. I put spelt and kamut (two great whole grains) on to soak -- they will be going in my turkey soup; also combined soured milk with flour for what will be Yorkshire pudding for tomorrow's dinner (to go with chicken livers & shallots); and washed three Greenmarket apples to be baked with cinnamon in the morning. I plan to eat them over the next few days with raw cream...or maybe some of the ice cream we made last night! YUM

Note on soured milk: raw milk/cream etc. go sour very gently. In fact, I find that the first few days of souring are still pleasant-tasting enough to continue drinking them. Once the milk or cream (or even sour cream) have become too soured and fermented to consume, use them in baking. They are a great source of leavening power and work well in any of the baking recipes I offer here that require soaking flour ahead of time. If you cannot obtain raw dairy, you can still use regular soured dairy products for these purposes, but raw dairy from a certified small farm will provide amazing nutrition and support your local farm economy.

Have I told you lately...

...that I LOVE raw dairy? Yesterday was the monthly pick-up night through our local buyers' club. I had ordered the following (all raw of course) - keep in mind this will last us about 4 weeks. The total cost (with 16% delivery charge) was about $180:

  • 3 gallons milk (this is always whole milk, no nasty low-fat variations allowed! whole milk not only tastes better, it's actually really good for you unlike low-fat dairy)
  • 3 lbs. butter
  • 2 pints cottage cheese
  • 1 pint sour cream (Hugo says this is like the sour cream in Mexico!)
  • 2 quarts yogurt
  • 1 quart light cream (for making ice cream)
  • 1 quart kefir (an effervescent, tart drinkable yogurt)
  • 1 lb. cheddar and 1 lb. monterey jack
  • 1 lb. pork breakfast sausage links (pasture-fed, like all Abner's meats)
  • 1 lb. ground goat meat (tastier than beef!)
  • 1 dozen pastured eggs (for my friend Sarah who was delighted last time by the deep orange color of the yolks)
  • unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • 1 pint kim chee
  • 1 quart maple syrup
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (Oliver LOVES them)
As always, it was an adventure getting all this booty home! First I went to Sharon's with Ollie to make ice cream (more on that later). Hugo came to pick us up and carry the food home. Of course the whole way back he was wondering why he married me... In case you're wondering, yes, that entire rolling cart is filled with raw dairy and farm products and weighs well over 60 lbs. Aren't husbands great? :)

*Note added 1/19/10: our requirements have grown with Oliver -- we now need about $150 worth of these foods every two weeks! Gone are the days when Ollie drank only tiny amounts of raw milk.

Sleep deprivation = cravings

The last three days I have had less than half my usual amount of sleep (due to a large project with an absurd turnaround time). In addition to the usual side effects like mental fuzziness and bumping into things I have begun having strong cravings for foods I never eat anymore: think Ramen noodle soup, Chinese food, white flour. I know cravings are a sign my body needs something. It's possible I'm craving salt because I need extra minerals to deal with this stress. As for the carb cravings usually those signal protein deficiency. I skimped on eating a bit yesterday as I was just too busy so will need to catch up today... It's interesting to me to observe these cravings I haven't had in several months.


As I mentioned earlier, nuts and seeds must be properly prepared so that you will benefit from their nutrients -- and experience the best flavor as well! I just recently learned about this, and decided to finally try it this week as we enjoy nuts and seeds on a regular basis at our house. Hugo picked up a container of organic raw shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds) at Whole Foods the other day, and two days ago I put them on for a long soak (2 cups pepitas, 2 cups warm water, 1 tbsp. sea salt). I drained them in a colander today and then dried them out at about 150 degrees for many hours -- at least 10 I think (the time is not that important, they just have to be completely dry and crisp).
I was delighted to find they taste quite delicious -- much better than raw! We will enjoy them on salads, in baked goods, and straight from the container. When stored in a cool dark place they will last a few months.