• 28Apr

    Life races by yet there doesn’t seem enough hours to the day…no wait a second – I sometimes barely have enough energy to get through the day so scratch that. My better half always says, “you just have to prioritize.”

    Easier said than done! or is it?

    The past two weeks since my last posts have been jam packed…(truth be told when you see a flurry of posts it means I am procrastinating…I’ve got two papers due – one on allergies & immune and another on cancer, then my final project on Type II diabetes. All this by the end of June!). Another by-product of the big P – The garden is looking better than ever – tomatoes, squash, peppers, pole beans, chard and kale are all in. The baby bok choy is starting to sprout their third leaves. The keffir lime tree got a nice hair cut and shampoo (to try and rid it of weird looking bugs that took up residence). Next up as I recover from being sliced up from weeding the patch of lemon grass, is transplanting of the garlic chives, planting the basil and readying a bed for beets, carrots and sugar snap peas.

    Any way let me procrastinate some more as I’ve been bursting with thoughts and things I’ve been wanting to tap out on blog.

    First, I had a chance to have a lovely lunch last Friday with Eggbeater at Cafe Gratitude. You can read EB’s review at Bay Area Bites. Food and company were great. I’ve even been making my own rendition of their “I am Giving” salad at home…I call my version “I am a Copycat”. I encourage you to read Eggbeater’s review and comments – lots of food for thought.

    Made me think about food as medicine. As Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, said, “Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food” Wow, modern medicine must have veered off that road like some pharma drug crazed addict on a bad trip! But that’s another rant.

    It’s very well accepted these days (so says Dr. Mehmet Oz who co-wrote You: the Owner’s Manual) that while genetics plays a part in whether we are stricken by illness – we – yes, you – can control at least 80% (some scientists say 95% but let’s be conservative here) of your health outcome. How you ask? Well, those genes may exist within us ready to throw us a curve ball but they don’t have to express – that is become diabetes or cancer or lupus or…

    Your actions – whether you smoke, drink, live in a smoggy city, decide to sand that lead paint off that old dresser, exercise enough or too much, get enough sleep and a hundred other things all contribute to whether those errant genes become alive…. But let’s not forget one major contributor to your health – what you eat!

    This from Deepak Chopra’s book Quantum Healing,
    98% of the atoms in your body were not there a year ago
    In 3 months your entire skeleton is replaced – unless you are on fos@max(my comment)
    6 weeks your liver
    1 month your skin
    4 days your stomach lining

    So what does that tell you-
    Everything you put in your body is processed – it’s used as building blocks or passed

    What would you want your building blocks to be…

    nutrient deficient mass produced “food” that contains enough preservatives to stay ‘fresh’ for years…

    Or wholesome foods, vital and alive with nutrients that your body can use to keep you healthy

    One of the comments raised from Eggbeater’s review of Cafe Gratitude was that the prices at the cafe were criminally high. EB’s reply touch on many points – one was that food should cost more that it does. Big Food with the help of govenment subsidies has so cheapen what is packaged as food we might as well be eating packing peanuts. Yes, I agree we need to pay the true costs and get food that nourishes us and supports life! And I don’t think it is a mere coincidence that many of the illnesses that ail modern society today came about as our food supply became cheapened.

    I am so grateful to have grown up learning that there is a connection with food and our bodies – that food is medicine. I’ll never forget when my brother broke his leg and mom made pot after pot of frog’s leg baked rice. Or fearing that we weren’t doing as well in school as we should, we’d sit down to steaming bowls of calves brain soup – this on more than one occasion. I still can’t figure out that stretch of periwinkles though…

    Which brings me to what I fear will express…what lurks in that genetic soup I have swirling around inside…

    Type II Diabetes is on both sides of my family – uncles and aunts, a grandmother died after suffering many complications including a stroke and amputation of a leg, a parent was recently diagnosed and a sibling who is prediabetic…On top of that Asians are 1 1/2 to 2 times more likely to develop type II diabetes that Caucasians. There are estimates that 3 in 5 or up to 1 in 2 Asian children today will develop type II diabetes in their lifetime.

    I recently purchased a blood glucose meter for a family member and while testing it on myself, I’ve discovered numerous morning fasting blood glucose levels to be a tad high…yikes! I will be at the doc’s come Monday morning!

    Well, there is lots to be done and according to Dr. Anne Peters, a well respected expert on diabetes, the condition can be reversed or very well managed through diet and exercise.

    So as I delve deeper into this subject for my final project, I will share what I learn. Separating the foods that are medicine and those that are not. From my experience change is not an easy thing, habits become so ingrained, and the foods -we love- that we may have to give up for some have so much memory and history attached that they will be difficult to let go. For now I must end my procrastination and get back to the books.

  • 17Apr

    Mochi the dog is the poster dog for celebrating Variety in the diet. Don’t get me wrong, she can be discriminating…she won’t eat just anything – it at least has to be animate. I say animate rather than ‘considered food’ because she did at some point in her puppyhood enjoy dirt clods and what dog doesn’t like to nibble on some grass every now and then. Plus if she were allowed to label her world – the kitty’s litterbox would have “Snack Jar” written on it.

    No, no…this post isn’t about that! Sorry I was just rambling about variety and…well, anyway back on track…Mochi loves vegetables of all sorts. Raw no less. Carrots, broccoli, the cores from cabbage & lettuce, apples (peeled without cores please), cauliflower, asparagus, kale stems…and one big surprise – sheets of nori! It’s a hoot to watch her eat the sheet, ripping off pieces as she stands on a corner.

    Now, I’ve always had a fondness for salty crispy snacks – my biggest vice was potato chips, oh and kettle corn which is more the salty sweet krispy thing but anyway. A number of holistic practitioners out there (Bernard Jensen, Colleen Huber among many others) link food cravings to specific nutritional deficiences. So crispy/salty/oily = minerals. Rather than taking Mochi’s lead with the dirt clods I thought mineral rich seaweed might be the ticket. My SIL’s mother came to visit and gave us some packs of Korean seaweed sheets – fried and salted! Yum! These were great but I was drinking gallons of water with all the salt. I figured I could make my own less salty less oily version.

    Here’s what I did to make a quick healthy crispy snack…

    Take 1 piece of nori and dribble 1/8-1/4 teaspoon sesame oil on it. Spread the sesame oil with your hand to cover the whole sheet. Sprinkle a pinch of good quality fine sea salt on the nori. Now put in a toaster oven for 30 seconds to a minute to crisp it up. You can cut up or tear the sheet into bite size pieces. With this, the coolest toaster oven on earth, I found 1 minute on 250 was perfect.

  • 15Apr

    The last two weeks we’ve gotten a head of cabbage in our CSA box. I’ve been wanting to make sauerkraut for awhile but after two rather odiferous attempts I was wary. I’d been making kim chee with much success but the Euro version was not working for me.

    First I tried Sally Fallon’s trick of putting a few tablespoons of yogurt whey in with the cabbage. Made sense in that sauerkraut is made from a lactic acid fermentation of cabbage as with milk to yogurt. Result…uh, not very appetizing…the sauerkraut was sour but the cabbage turned to mush. The lactic acid needed for yogurt must not be the same as that for sauerkraut. I tried again with just salt but it stank up the house and got moldy…tossed it.

    Last week the CSA came with a beautiful head of Savoy cabbage – this is a yellowish/green cabbage with crinkled leaves, a sweeter variety than the typical smooth leaf cabbage. I decided to ‘kraut’ this head on Saturday. But before I tackled the cabbage I ventured out to the Berkeley Farmer’s Market to pick up a case of Bariani olive oil. While I was there, I decided to purchase a jar of sauerkraut from Cultured. Why? I figured I could use some of the brine from this ‘live’ sauerkraut as a starter for mine.

    I now was very confident this attempt at sauerkraut would finally be successful. First I sliced up the cabbage very thinly with my Japanese mandolin, the Benriner. Next I tossed the cabbage with sea salt, a splash of the Cultured sauerkraut brine and just for kicks I added a teaspoon and a half of grated ginger. I then used a big wooden spoon to pack the cabbage into the removable ceramic crock of my 4 quart crock pot. This part was fun – you just smash the cabbage until it releases it’s juice. Once the cabbage was densely packed I weighed down the cabbage so it was totally submerged in the resultant brine with a stack of 6 plates. I covered the crock loosely with some plastic wrap to keep out the bad bugs and put on the glass lid. Now I had to wait.

    Sidebar: Hardcore fermenters out there would use the Harsch fermentation crock – the Mercedes Benz of pickling crocks. If you don’t have a Harsch or a crock, a large jar will work too.

    Everyday I took a sniff. After a few days I could see bubbles forming on the surface and smell the telltale signs of fermentation. Yesterday (after 7 days), I finally got my first taste. Success! Nicely sour but not overly so, a hint of sweetness (those Terra Firma farmers sure know how to grow a sweet head of cabbage), not as salty as Cultured’s (which I found to be alittle too salty for my tastes) and very crispy :)! The ginger (which was really P’s idea ) added a nice kick. We’ll be enjoying a bite of this kraut with each meal.

    Sauerkraut is a very healthy food after all. Full of vitamin C it helped prevent scurvy way back in the seafaring days. Not only that, but sauerkraut is a great source of vitamin K – important for blood clotting, bone formation and repair. Wow, and it’s also chockful of beneficial bacteria that your intestines would love to have move in. Especially if you’ve recently had to undergo a round of antibiotic therapy. After the Korean study suggesting that Kim Chee, sauerkraut’s cousin from the far east, prevented bird flu, a recent report by ABC news headlined “Is Sauerkraut the Next Chicken Soup?” I don’t know for sure but to get the full health benefits make sure what you are eating is unpasteurized and contains live cultures.

    Here’s the recipe I used:

    * Exported from MasterCook *


    Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
    ——– ———— ——————————–
    2 1/2 pounds cabbage
    1 ounce sea salt

    Make sure everything is clean. Remove all rings from fingers and wash hands well.

    Shred the cabbage using a mandolin or thinly slice with a knife into a large bowl. Toss the cabbage with the sea salt and mix well. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, pack the cabbage into a crock or large jar. Don’t be shy – put some elbow into it so the cabbage starts to let out it’s juices – you know back in the day when folks would put up 1000+ pounds of sauerkraut at a time they would just jump into the barrel with feet bare and stomp away – not just good for grapes, eh? Just so you know, none of my piggly wigglies took part in this recipe.

    Ok, back to the recipe…Weigh down the cabbage with a number of plates or follow instructions if using the Harsch fermenting crock. Make sure there is enough brine to cover the cabbage. If you need more brine you can dissolve 1 T of sea salt with 2 cups of water. Cover with a lid (a plate works) or loosely with plastic and set in a cool dark place to ferment. If the weather is cool (65-68F), the sauerkraut should be ready in 5 to 7 days. Fermentation will be quicker if it is warmer. You can taste beginning after a few days and refrigerate as soon as the sauerkraut is as sour as you like.

    Notes: 1 ounce of sea salt = approx. 1 1/2 Tablespoons. For different size batches multiply the number of pounds of cabbage by 0.4 oz or 0.6 Tablespoons to determine how much salt to add.

    Variations: add a teaspoon or two of grated ginger or juniper berries or caraway seeds or cloves of garlic or chile flakes or dill… Use red cabbage or a mix of red and green. Replace some of cabbage by weight with a few grated beets or fennel bulb.

    “1 1/2 quarts”

    I’m on a roll…made another batch today with half and half red and green cabbage along with some grated ginger.

    Give it a try and make your tummy happy :)

  • 14Apr

    Here we are in the midst of Spring…finally (with fingers crossed)! Sprouts are sprouting, little heads of asparagus are shooting skyward, buds are opening their colorful faces to the sun and little birdies are singing their songs as they squeeze out their eggs…ouch!

    So what’s so horrible about that? Well, its not really. I just want to wallow for a moment…you see, I recently found out I have a food sensitivity to eggs (and milk and soy) :( Ironic to find out now during the height of egg hunting season.

    I love eggs, not just poached and fried and scrambled for breakfast but they are in all manner of the foods I love…pancakes of all sorts, waffles, custards, frittatas, egg noodles, gnocchi, matzo balls, profiteroles, pastry cream, lemon curd, cakes, cookies…the magical egg – it can hold things together and make things puff…oh, boo hoo :(

    I did find out that egg allergies can sometimes be linked with pollen allergies. According to about.com egg allergies can flare up with the pollens from oak trees (hello oak…land) and some very specific weed pollens. Hmmm, there may be hope.

    You see, our bodies are so elegantly designed to ingest all kinds of foods, breathe in so much pollen, suck down so much dirty air, and withstand a goodly amount of stress. A little too much of some combination of these and our body begins to become a bit overwhelmed. The “total load” on our systems become too much and we begin to not tolerate a food or a fragrance or your boss telling you one more time to do xyz… The manifestations of these intolerances vary depending on the individual. You might experience dry patches of skin, a runny or stuffy nose, more frequent colds, asthma, digestive problems, achy joints, a foggy brain, fatigue, a short fuse…

    So, I’m gonna lighten the load by being careful to eat lots of fresh organic foods, drink plenty of clean water, avoid the foods I know I’m sensitive to, reduce stress (ha!), get enough sleep, review our stock of cleaning supplies for toxic substances with the help of debra’s list and of course not stress about the absence of some of my favorite foods. One day, maybe soon…I’ll be able to enjoy them all again.

    In the meantime I’m enjoying experimenting with different kinds of pancakes based on recipes for the batter of South Indian Idli’s and their various incarnations found on the incredible blog site Mahanandi and Korean mung bean pancakes (look for this recipe on a future post.)

    One experiment this weekend will be to make the traditional Easter Bunny Carrot Cake without eggs. This version will also be gluten free (no wheat flour) as well. I’ll post the resulting recipe when I can get into the kitchen (all the windows in the house are being replaced as I type…bbbbbbrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!) In any case, here is the original family favorite carrot cake recipe complete with yummy eggs and wheat flour…

    * Exported from MasterCook *

    Carrot Cake or Muffins

    Recipe By :
    Serving Size : 18 Preparation Time :0:00
    Categories : Dessert

    Amount Measure Ingredient — Preparation Method
    ——– ———— ——————————–
    1 3/4 Cups Brown sugar
    4 each large egg
    1 Teaspoon Vanilla
    2 Cups Flour
    1 Teaspoon Baking soda
    1 Teaspoon Salt
    2 Teaspoons Cinnamon
    1 1/4 Cups Oil
    12 ounces crushed pineapple — drained
    2 Cups Carrots — shredded
    1 Cup Walnuts, optional — chopped

    In large bowl, beat eggs and sugar on medium until well mixed. Add vanilla. Sift together dry ingredients. Add flour and oil to egg mixture (alternating – beginning and ending with flour) until well blended. Fold in walnuts, pineapple and carrots by hand. Pour batter into well greased and floured 13 x 9 inch pan. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes

    For muffins – bake 25-30 minutes. Makes 24 muffins.

    Variations: sub carrots with grated zuchinni or solid packed pumpkin.

    “1 cake”
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

    Per Serving (excluding unknown items): 315 Calories; 20g Fat (56.9% calories from fat); 5g Protein; 30g Carbohydrate; 1g Dietary Fiber; 48mg Cholesterol; 213mg Sodium. Exchanges: 1 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 0 Fruit; 4 Fat; 1 Other Carbohydrates.

    My plan is to sub a mixture of ground flax seed with water or bananas for the eggs and a 50/50 mix of almond meal and brown rice flour for the wheat flour. I may also combine elements of a recipe for a carrot cake a classmate shared with us in class on Monday. Her recipe used coconut oil for the oil and agave syrup for the sugar. We’ll see…

    Til then, have a great holiday weekend.

  • 03Apr

    a leek, that is…

    it’s been a cold and wet one…I keep trying to figure out if I should get the garden ready for planting or build an ark. Well, we’ve been working on the garden between rain storms – weeds took over through the winter so the spring ritual is to pull them all out. Things are taking shape – our backs and knees can atest to the progress. We’re about half way there so I’m contemplating what we want to be nibbling on this summer. Here’s the list so far: green beans, sugar snap peas, pak choy, chard, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, cilantro, lemon cucumbers, beets, strawberries and a few peppers. Looks like I’ll need to replant the herbs too so in will go some tarragon, oregano and thyme. And, we can’t forget Mochi (she’s nudging me now to tell you with her chin resting on my lap), she loves carrots freshly yanked out of the ground (which she has learned to do herself.) I know this sounds like a lot of vegetables but believe me the snails will get their fair share 😉

    In the meantime, we got our first Terra Firma CSA box last wednesday. What a lovely assortment of carrots, potatoes, leeks, green garlic, asparagus, mineola tangerines, ruby red grapefruit, lemons, beets, kale and spinach. Whew, that was a lot of veggies to eat up! We still have a few potatoes, carrots and citrus left – here’s what I did with the veggies this week…

    I roasted the beets (325F for 30 minutes or til tender) in a covered casserole with a splash of water. Cooled then peeled them and tossed with grapefruit segments, olive oil, feta and salt and pepper. This would be equally yummy with the mineola’s.

    Lightly sauteed the beet tops with the kale in olive oil and a clove of garlic.

    Made a ‘hash’ with sauteed leek and a couple of the potatoes.

    Most of the veggies went to the once a month (more or less) lentil soup. Every few weeks I make a big batch of lentil soup and freeze in portions for those busy week days when I don’t have much time to cook. This week’s soup: 2 cups of lentils soaked overnight with 2 T of lemon juice. Chopped up a bunch of veggies (include if you can onion, carrot and celery – the remaining veg can be whatever is in your crisper and in season. I used green garlic, leek & not in season peppers) to make about 6 cups. Sauteed these veggies with a few teaspoons of salt in olive oil with a couple of bay leaves. Tossed in a 14 oz can of diced tomatoes, drained lentils, 1/2 cup of quinoa and 8 cups of water (you can use vegetable broth or chicken stock.) Simmered for 30-40 minutes. At this point you can add a few diced potatoes or winter squash. Simmer til just tender. Then I add some chopped greens (I used the spinach). Stir until just wilted. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can season this soup any way you like. This time I added some lemon zest and lemon juice. I just wanted something simple this time around. I then portioned out the soup into 1/2 quart portions to freeze.

    Some times I make it Indian style, or maybe French with some herbs de provence or South of the Border with some chili powder – any of these flavorings you would add during the vegetable saute step if you want the whole batch flavored in that way -Or – you can just flavor each portion as you heat to serve. Oh, and fresh herbs are also great. Add the herbs towards the end of the big batch to keep those flavors fresh or add to the smaller portions when heating to serve.

    Now we just pray for sunshine…