Monday, March 12, 2012

That Wiggle in Your Walk

Yesterday I wrote that gelatin doesn't have to be the junk food it was when my grandma (bless her cotton socks) was molding that day-glo stuff in a box into wiggly, jiggly shape for every holiday of the year. (This reminds me- every year she made a delicious and no doubt highly traditional green St. Patrick's Day cake out of boxed yellow cake, boxed pistachio pudding and green food coloring. It sure wasn't anything approaching real food, but the memory of it makes me smile this week as I'm preparing for a healthy St. Paddy's feast with my mom and family.)

Last year I read and loved Deep Nutrition: Why Your Genes Need Traditional Food by Catherine Shanahan MD and Luke Shanahan.

Known on her web site as Dr. Cate, Shanahan writes with her partner, a chef, about the healing benefits of real, traditional foods. I’m a real food research junkie so the information presented in the book wasn’t very new. In fact, I was put off by the otherwise very enjoyable text because the writers clearly drew so heavily from the work of the amazing Weston A. Price Foundation but they say that their inspiration came from reading Dr. Andrew Weil - a lovely person, I’m sure, but his nutritional advices are usually far too soy-heavy and low-fat to be truly healthy. In any case, I won’t be offended if the WAPF isn’t, and Deep Nutrition is engaging and easy to read so I recommend it to my skincare clients all the time.

What makes Deep Nutrition particularly interesting is its focus on beauty as a manifestation of health. Dr. Price did so too, in his book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration. But Dr. Cate’s book is more of the how-to book to Dr. Price’s drier anthropological work. She has a lovely passage about skincare, inside and out, which I've written a little about over here. When I reread it recently, I was hot to go and rediscovered my love of making gelatin molds to add a sweetish and snacky alternative to my usual gallons of bone broth.
The incredible Cheeseslave has a terrific recipe here that includes freshly-juiced fruit to get a really nutritious gelatin. I'll bet it tastes divine but I'm not that committed. To reduce the sugar content, I use one part water to three parts organic unsweetened fruit juice and I follow a tootsed-up recipe I devised yonks ago off the back of the Knox box. I don't buy Knox, though. I boycott Kraft, its icky industrial food parent company, and I get Great Lakes brand gelatin online because it comes from healthy cows that are pasture-raised.

I like my gel-o really firm so my gelatin content is high. Here's how I do it:

Put one cup of cold filtered water in a bowl and sprinkle with 5-6 tablespoons of unflavored gelatin.

Stir gelatin into juice until it is dissolved.

Bowl 3 cups of juice.

Add boiling juice to the water-gelatin mixture.

Stir together and pour into a your mold or baking pan that has been laid with a shallow layer of the frozen organic fruit of your choice. (I use a silicone bundt cake mold that I got as a wedding gift and it is perfect for this recipe. Next week- ask me about Punch Bowl Kombucha!)

Let it set in your refrigerator overnight and by morning you will have a very firm, very delicious treat that is relatively low in sugar, very high in protein, and full of the collagen we need for healthy hair, skin and nails - or, as we say in our house: healthy claws and a shiny coat.

It's wee-beastie approved!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Busy Kitchen Sunday

Yesterday I was completely grateful to a client who brought me a nice big cup of Starbucks during a long Saturday working afternoon, but otherwise it's been 100% Radical Dining-In for a week. This is the longest I have gone I've gone in a long time without visiting so much as a coffee shop-- much less a restaurant or two.  It is always odd to remember that that participating in public life without spending money is really, really hard. Earlier this week I had four hours free between work ending a a class starting, and being unable to stop into a cafe for a warm drink on a cold day was downright unpleasant. After spending an hour in a book store, an hour walking around, and another hour hanging out reading on a rooftop garden, having "nowhere to go" for another hour started to provoke a little anxiety. It made me feel for people who literally have nowhere to go and who can't just stop their little blogging experiment at any time to go back to their normal consumer lifestyles.

So I feel good and my body feels well and today the kitchen buzzing with good things to eat later on in the week. Better than that, my family is eating gorgeous, organic, pastured, grass-fed, grass-finished and totally home-made for somewhere around $8 per person, per day. That is what a bit of planning will do for you. (I realize that that number would be high for a family on a tighter budget than ours, but these things are relative and $8 is relatively dirt cheap compared to our usual cash spending on food. Before we started Radical Dining In my husband and I spent a combined $12 a day on breakfast alone.)

Anyway here's what's cooking:

  • a huge batch of almond flour blueberry pancakes for breakfasts
  • a 10" x 12" almond flour-apple sauce "cake" with raisins
  • a giant egg casserole with spiced ground beef from our Marin Sun Farms CSA and spinach and arugula from the farmers market
  • two quarts of raw sauerkraut
  • one quart of raw milk yogurt
  • tons of vegetables prepped and stored for the week
  • crockpot chicken casserole simmering away
  • chicken livers soaking for my truly knock-out pâté*
  • gelatin for snacks and my kid's lunchtime treats**

eating our almond-blueberry pancakes a few Sundays ago

* because do you know how amazing organ meats are for our health? Here's a bit about liver from the really fantastic Primal website, Mark's Daily Apple: Possibly the most common organ meat consumed in the U.S., liver was once regarded as a meal for the affluent and was even named one of the Eight Delicacies in The Li-Chi, a handbook of rituals published during China’s Han era. So why should you be eating it? According to those in the know, liver is an excellent source of high quality protein; contains an abundance of vitamin A and several B vitamins; is an excellent source of folic acid and iron; is the number one food source of copper; and contains CoQ10, which is important for cardiovascular function.

**GELATIN?!! Yes, Gelatin. Believe it or not, a properly-made jello-mold is actually a tremendously tasty health food. I'll write about why tomorrow, and include a little recipe. For now, it's time for a cup of broth and a cup of tea.

Friday, March 9, 2012

NPR on Claudia, The High-Tech Cow

I like my food low-tech, thanks. Yet another reminder to buy REAL milk from small, organic farmers. Listen to the story (4 minutes, 19 seconds) on NPR here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

From the Huffington Post- How Wheat Makes Us Fat

Really interesting article from Mark Hyman, MD in the Huffington Post, about why wheat makes us fat.


Hint: it's not just donuts. Here's an excerpt:

The biggest problem is wheat, the major source of gluten in our diet. But wheat weaves its misery through many mechanisms, not just the gluten! The history of wheat parallels the history of chronic disease and obesity across the world. Supermarkets today contain walls of wheat and corn disguised in literally hundreds of thousands of different food-like products, or FrankenFoods. Each American now consumes about 55 pounds of wheat flour every year.

It is not just the amount but also the hidden components of wheat that drive weight gain and disease. This is not the wheat your great-grandmother used to bake her bread. It is FrankenWheat -- a scientifically engineered food product developed in the last 50 years.

How Wheat -- and Gluten -- Trigger Weight Gain, Prediabetes, Diabetes and More
This new modern wheat may look like wheat, but it is different in three important ways that all drive obesity, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, dementia and more.
  1. It contains a Super Starch -- amylopectin A that is super fattening.
  2. It contains a form of Super Gluten that is super-inflammatory.
  3. It contains forms of a Super Drug that is super-addictive and makes you crave and eat more.
Read more. . .

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Little Mid-Week Update, and Grain-free Pumpkin Bread

Yesterday I felt well, but so hungry! I had my little pumpkin bread* with butter and a hardboiled egg for breakfast with coffee and milk. For lunch I ate my too-small  but very nutrient-dense salad then went on about a crazy-busy day. By the end of my workday I was famished. By the time I finished my 6pm dance class I was ready to eat the house. I settled for some grain-free bouef bourguingon over cauliflower and called it a night.

Today I packed extra raw almonds and a banana to get through the day, but it brings up a useful question to me: What is the difference between buying nuts and packing them in my lunch and stopping at the store to buy a bag of nuts when I'm hungry? The answer is that I'm just not stopping in to buy anything this month. This is radical dining-in and that means If I Dont Pack It I Don't Eat It. My shopping and prep are on Sunday and that's all there is unless I realize I've run out of something crucial. So I am reminded that I need to start making kombucha again, because O! how I miss my daily fix of it from the GNC next to my office. (That commercial kombucha and two ostrich meat sticks have made a thrown-together lunch more often than I care to think about, and at $7+ for something so silly there is really no excuse for me not making my own at home. Easy-peasy. A recipe and tutorial are coming soon.)

*So. Pumpkin "Bread". . .
. . . is more like a bread-with-pie-center and maybe something that you eat if you are hankering for a baked good and unable to allow yourself one, even if it is Girl Scout cookie month and, come on, now- don't raisins and spices make everything just a teeny bit better? I make mine very loosely.  Since they're never perfect like a real baked good I feel like you can be a bit loose with the ratios and play around until you hit on something you like. The main idea is that they are heavy on the eggs so they're full of protein and a little piece can therefore function as an actual breakfast. Plus you only have to bake one once and you're set for a week. I add a tiny bit of stevia (an herbal-derived sweetener that doesn't seem to raise blood sugar levels) but you can use raw honey or maple syrup to add sunshine to the morning. Seriously, this recipe and its variations have been a work in progress I have been tinkering with for the past year. If you have a better method won't you send it my way? I will keep tinkering and post an update when I've figured it out. Here's how I did it this time.

Grain-free Pumpkin Bread
5 eggs
2/3 a cup of organic pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut flour (I also have used almond flour, which may work better for you)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon molasses
nutmeg, cinnamon, and stevia to taste
some raisins
some almonds
I preheated the over to 350 and oiled a square Pyrex sheet (8 x 8") with coconut oil.  I mixed everything well in a large bowl, and poured it into the baking sheet. Letting it turn very nice and brown on the outside will mitigate some of the "mushy center" issues so common in grain-free baking. Adding more almond flour as you go can also help, but don't add too much or you end up with that chalky, dry texture that is also so common in grain-free baking. You're looking for a raw texture that is more like cookie dough, less like pancake batter.

Bake until brown and toast up in squares. Add butter and your morning beverage of choice and you've started the day with a powerhouse of protein, beta carotenes, and good fats.

And you've staved off the Girl Scouts for another day.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Past is So Often Not Pretty

Like many people who seek the secret to health, I've had some successes and a great lot of misses. In past moments of alternately chasing health and ignoring it completely, I've eaten: SAD, lacto-ovo vegetarian, vegan, junk-food-falafel-only vegan, Taco Bell-and-Jagermeister vegan, organic raw vegan, 85% raw, macrobiotic, espresso and cigarettes, French fat fallacy, all-cheese-all- the-time, the coffee-carrot-pretzel diet. Among others.

Trying my hardest to be healthy, I spent 10 years as a run-down vegetarian and 5+ years as an exceptionally unhealthy vegan. Even when my diet was well-planned, totally organic, and very healthy (at least on paper- depending on what paper you happen to be reading), my skin was dull, shiny and broken out. My hair was like straw and my nails were brittle. I bruised easily. I cried easily. I was fat, tired and depressed. I had a short affair with Wellbutrin before I discovered first running and then acupuncture. The combination of those two life-changing things gave me the energy to keep looking for a way of eating that works for my body and mind.

My life changed and I enjoyed much better mental and physical health following the comparatively fantastic Weston A. Price style. And then I had a life-changing experiment with paleo / primal eating that left me feeling better than anything has before or since. My skin cleared up, my hair got a little shiny, I felt clear-headed and happy, and I stopped being so tired. I seemed to lose weight and gain muscle effortlessly.

Then life went on. Somewhere along the line these past six months, I have become reacquainted with my old friends Almond Croissant and Lemon Scone. I see them far too frequently.

The goal of my home cooking experiment is to see how food affects my physical and mental health through these next four weeks. Because I want to be able to track that, I won't be doing any additional exercise or skincare beyond what I normally do. I look forward to 30 days of clean eating (though you can have my coffee when you pry it from my cold, dead hands). I would love to have you join me and share what you are eating and how you are feeling in the comments.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Day One

For my part, the goal of this month is to break sugar addiction and get back into a cooking rhythm that is grain-free and unprocessed.

Though a great number of my clients with persistent acne find that it clears up to some extent when they eliminate dairy, my jury is out about the effects of dairy on my own body. Other than our usual Sunday visit to the ice cream place, when our house eats dairy we eat organic and raw. I don't seem to have any negative effects from it, though I am carrying somewhere near 20 pounds more of me than I would like to be and if low-dairy or dairy-free helps the healthy weight cause then I will say good-bye to that too. (And of course, our weekly ice cream date will be on hold for this month of home cooking.)

This week is all about getting back in the swing. In preparation for a busy week, I've made a meal plan, shopped for the week, and gotten a jump on a few of the tasks that could be done ahead. So far I have:
  • Boiled a dozen eggs

  • Washed, chopped, and stored a metric ton of vegetables

  • Baked a small sweetish pumpkin and raisin "bread" (made with molasses and coconut flour)

  • Pre-baked enough nitrate- and nitrite-free organic bacon for adding a bit of flavor to our packed lunches

  • Started a beautiful boeuf bourguignon (kind of like this one, but grain-free and in the slow cooker)

  • Pre-made a delicious mashed cauliflower for dinner tonight and to serve as the boeuf's base

  • Started a GIANT pot of bone broth to freeze and use throughout the week (because I have come to understand from years of research both personal and academic, that "good broth can resurrect the dead.") We use it as a base for soups and sauces, and if we were eating grains we would use it for cooking water for that too.

  • Made all three of our lunches (salad with hard boiled egg, avocado, a bit of bacon, olive oil and balsamic vinegar for the adults, and leftover chicken and cauliflower plus olives, raw cheese, pepitas, yogurt and apple for the kiddo)
Wahoo, bring it on. I feel good. It's empowering to get a reign on things, even if I will miss my evening chocolate and glass (or two) of wine.

(Edit: Today was a day running around with my kiddo, with a lot of cooking for the week and a lot of eating. The menu was: Breakfast: 2 pastured eggs and 2 pieces of organic bacon; coffee with raw milk. Elevensies snack: a small piece of pumpkin "bread," an apple and a hard boiled egg. Lunch: tinned sardines in olive oil with broccoli. Late afternoon snack: a small cup of hot cocoa made with raw milk, molasses, a touch of cocoa powder and a touch of stevia. Dinner: Mary's chicken, dredged in almond flour and cooked with coconut oil. Served on a bed of cauliflower mash and wilted spinach. I didn't have enough water and I was too busy with projects and cooking to keep up with my usual supplements. I drank some herbal tea infusions for general health, and a cup of Irish Breakfast tea for a mild caffeine pick-me-up in the afternoon. Tomorrow will likely look very different from today.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Intro Post

I was on one of my acupuncturists' tables recently when I realized that lately I spend a lot more time thinking about cooking and talking about cooking than I do actually cooking. In my house, we read cookbooks and essays on food. We shop farmer's markets and are passionate about local produce, traditional foodways and sustainable living. . . at least on paper. The reality is, we are two adults-- one a reluctant and harried citizen of corporate America and the other a happily busy business owner--working hard, volunteering, raising a toddler, doing our projects, and just trying to keep it all together. More often than we should, we fall into the grab-and-go trap that is completely at odds with what we talk about when we talk about Slow Food, Weston A. Price, Paleo-/Primal, Wendell Berry, et al.

When we do cook at home, we cook good food. We belong to a meat CSA and buy organic produce. We shop farmers' markets for the good local stuff, and we are fans of soaking grains and making a big pot of bone broth on the weekend.But too often we let time get away from us and we find that it's 9pm and no dinner in sight. Out comes the phone and the Thai delivery menu. Or it's 8am and late for work and nothing for breakfast. So we make a quick trip to the Peet's kiosk in the train station for our morning coffee and start the day on unorganic coffee and processed sugar on the go.

The cost of our coffee and muffin in the morning, our tom ka gai takeout at night, is not only hazardous to our health, it is also a nightmare on our bank account.

And then there is the environment.

If all we did was have that one coffee a day, in a paper cup, then between the two of us we are using 730 cups a year. 730 cups, plus their little plastic lids, the stir stick, if you use it, and the coffee sleeve. The takeout containers - the plastic boxes, the paper bags, are a huge amount of landfill as well. We reuse what we can (those plastic containers we get from Indian delivery are excellent for storing stock in the freezer) and we recycle of course. We're not total barbarians. And yes, sometimes we are organized enough to bring our own coffee cups in the morning. But sometimes we're not, and we've decided to not leave our eating habits up to chance anymore.

So I've decided to embark on a very simple adventure. For the next month, I will endeavor to eat and drink only things that we have prepared at home. With the exception of water and tea in my office, one daily cup of coffee in a reusable mug, and some travel and lunch dates plans we already have in place, everything I consume will be made at home. If I don't make it and pack it for the day, I won't eat it. No more sweets at the coffee stand, no more poison popcorn on our (all too rare) movie dates, no more sweet, sweet 10pm delivery Tikka Masala. I know that getting back into the swing of conscious eating and pretty clean living will affect my health. As a holistic professional whose daily work is helping others achieve their wellness goals, this will of course be a good thing. I'm particularly interested in seeing the effects in my skin, my energy levels, my cravings, and to a lesser extent to my weight. I will report back to show what I am eating and how I'm feeling. Care to join me?