Friday, April 26, 2013

On the Same Wavelength

You may have already seen this post from the other two blogs for which I write, Atlanta Functional Medicine's "Functional Food 4 Thought" and also "Functional Food For Thought" On the latter blog, this content appears on the "Lifestyle Change" Page. I decided to share in this post a few of my own lifestyle change tips which were sometimes learned the hard way.

Serendipitously, the very next day after I posted this, Gwyneth Paltrow (AKA People Magazine's Most Beautiful Woman of 2013) Made a post on her website, "goop"about tips for breaking or starting habits. I guess we're on the same wavelength!
So if you've not already read it, here's mine:

Lifestyle Change Tips From the Layperson

When considering a lifestyle change, guidance from a professional is key. Your doctors at Atlanta Functional Medicine have the well-studied research to support the change, and are qualified to tailor it to your unique system. While I've touched upon some of these tips before, as a fellow patient who has made a lifestyle change, I'd like to share some lessons I've learned, sometimes the hard way.
We are creatures of habit. Be patient with yourself if you subconsciously self-sabotage, especially during what I consider "stage two" of the change implementation. Let me explain "stage two": when we endeavor to start something new, we are buoyed at first by enthusiasm (stage one). We often jump in with both feet, only to burn out early. In "stage two", the part of the process after the novelty has worn off and before obvious benefits are noticed, we may feel irritable and resentful of the process. This is the stage where many of us talk ourselves out of sticking with the program. The draw of the familiar can be very powerful, and we can easily forget our original reasons for the early enthusiasm. Some realistic planning ahead of time can be helpful with this "stage two sag", but if you find yourself here without a plan, its best not to judge yourself and just see it for what it is -- human nature. Forgive any lapses. Every moment provides an opportunity for a fresh start.
Choosing the holiday season or your daughter's wedding as a jumping off point for your new life may be setting yourself up for a less than successful start, so be reasonable. With that caveat, if you are doing this for your health, do it regardless of circumstantial deterrents. In other words, don't wait for the whole family to get on board. There is never a "perfect" time to make certain changes. When you determine a change is what you need, do it as a gift to your beautiful self! But what does this mean, practically?
Using my family as an example, I am vegan (+ fish, occasionally), my daughter is a vegetarian (+ chicken nuggets), my husband cares about his diet, but not enough to stop eating red meat, and my son mainly subsists on macaroni and cheese. Everyone's mostly grown now so my influence in the kitchen only extends so far. What do I do? I pour my creative energy in the kitchen into where my heart is -- whole, organic, vegan food. I always serve a green salad, and I give the family a half-hour heads-up so they can begin to prepare whatever additional food they want if what I'm making doesn't happen to appeal. Almost everyone usually tries my food, and often eats it as a side dish. Gluten-free pasta dishes and taco nights are always popular, since we can each tailor the meal to our own preference. Since my youngest was only 12 when I made my change, she seems to be the most open and is more adventurous with healthy foods than the others -- the young ones are more like sponges, as they are with learning languages. I've noticed her friends have also taken notice and ask a lot of questions about my food, even trying it themselves sometimes. I do have hope that the others will come around eventually.
A beautiful, whole-foods diet is often most delicious in its simplest form. When planning your menus, complicated dishes will lure you in, which is fine -- it's fun to cook, but only when you have the time. You need to consider what you can do realistically. Set yourself up for success. Fortunately, organic foods are so much more flavorful than conventionally grown, so they lend themselves well to a simple preparation. If you build your meals around whole grains, lots of dark leafy greens and lean proteins, you will have ample delicious options. Since preparing these items may take time, it's a good idea to do what you can ahead of time. These tips may be helpful:
  • I do much of my menu planning and shopping over the weekend when I have time, but I don't buy the veggies for the whole week since fresh is best. I fill in during the week with one or two more veggies-only trips, which takes much less time than the shopping-for-everything trips. If, when I get to the store, the veg on the menu doesn't look as fresh and healthy as something else, I don't hesitate to swap it out.
  • I normally have a pot of cooked brown rice or quinoa in the fridge which can be quickly reinvented with freshly sauteed veggies or salads into wraps, tacos, stir fries or Buddha bowls. As  the pot-o-grains is running low, I'll start more water boiling for the next batch, and I choose a different grain each time for variety. Whenever my husband orders Chinese takeout, to save time I include an extra large steamed brown rice with the order which lasts me several days for the family meals. Quinoa is more flavorful if you prepare it with broth instead of water. I also squirt a little tomato paste into the cooking liquid. The taste is so subtle you can still reinvent the quinoa however you want later.  Whole grains are packed with protein and fiber, and are very important for feeling full.
  • I use three large bowls when prepping vegetables -- one for a fresh water soak, one for the parts I'll later compost, and one for the clean, chopped veggies. I delay washing fresh veggies as long as possible since they stay fresher with a little dirt on them in the fridge, but cleaning and chopping veggies a day in advance is fine. By all means do this if you will be short on time. If I need to do this, I store the cleaned veggies in a zip lock with a paper towel to absorb excess moisture. In the soaking bowl I pour a little white vinegar which removes any wax or other stuff you don't want in your system. Then the scrub, with a little brush under running water, goes very quickly.
  • Freshly made dressings or sauces made 2-3 days ahead can often make all the difference in flavor when you are overwhelmed and without a plan. I have a few tried and true recipes, but I actually rarely pull out the Vitamix for them because of time constraints. Sometimes very good oil and lemon is the best!
  • Organic is worth it. No, we don't have a very reliable regulatory system in place as of yet for organics, but buying something deemed organic has got to be better than feeding yourself with genetically modified veggies coated in pesticides and who knows what else. You are doing something good for yourself. Why undo it with this filth? Better yet, if you can, grow your own. Besides -- organics taste exponentially better!
  • Store your oils and nuts in the refrigerator. They can go rancid at room temperature.
  • When using canned beans, rinse them very, very well until the foam and slippery liquid is gone. This cuts down on gassiness, as does cooking dried beans with a strip of kombu seaweed. Be sure to remove whatever foam comes to the top when cooking dried beans too.
  • I have found these expensive items are worth every penny -- they are so flavorful a little bit goes a long way, and they last for ages if stored correctly:  umeboshi plums, umeboshi plum vinegar, balsamic vinegar, Bragg's apple cider vinegar, truffle oil, extra virgin olive oil, capers, olives, shoyu or tamari if you are gluten-free, canned artichoke hearts in water, canned hearts of palm in water.
  • Make use of the many blogs out there for inspiration and planning. Depending on what you're seeking, you can find so much by googling "gluten-free", "dairy-free", "sugar-free" "Mediterranean diet", etc.
When making a lifestyle change, set yourself up for success, be patient with yourself and be proud! The longer you're at it, the more like second-nature it will become, which will make it much less overwhelming.
by Cheryl Salinas

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Vegan Italian!

This lusciousness may not be what most Americans would think of as Italian since Italian usually means pasta over here, but it is actually based upon authentically Italian dishes. This was sooooo good! I would even venture to say the polenta was the most delicious thing I have ever eaten. I'm not kidding.

The "Sage Polenta" was from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Kitchen and was an amazing vehicle for the abundant sage supply in my garden.  Seriously delectable, and the recipe makes a ton. I ate this for three days, and I am so sorry it is all gone now. A funny thing did happen to the appearance of it, however, after an overnight in the fridge. It became gray in color. The flavor remained as luscious as ever. My theory is that my sage was a very blue-green, which mixed with this pretty yellow, brought out the greige in the cornmeal. It worked for me -- after it turned, I no longer felt compelled to share it -- MINE ALL MINE!

The collards are a recipe that is tried and true for me -- Alicia Silverstone's "Sicilian Collard Greens" from The Kind Diet The flavors are unexpected and delicious -- raisins, balsamic vinegar, garlic and pine nuts, and this time, since I was serving a completely vegan meal to the family (a rare event since they grumble) I added cannelini beans to get the protein box checked. Newsflash: they loved the meal!! This was a homerun. I miss this food, and looking at it is making me hungry.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


What'd I tell you? See the opacity of green? I love living in my green cocoon! Here are some more pretty garden shots:

In addition to this woodsy greenery, I've been very excited about my ever-changing veggie garden, though its changes are less dramatic, so I'll try not to bore you, selecting only a couple of highlights:

I'd planted every last Chinese long bean I was able to wrest from the jaws of Draco Hortus, last year's fearsome garden dragon, and had not yet seen any evidence of germination, so I'd begun to despair. Then one morning I was rewarded with three of these little bean shoots! I've got my fingers crossed that the onion arsenal will prove to be a worthy dragon-deterrent.

I moved a few pots around because I was thrilled to see an early response to a handful of microgreen seeds I'd sown, so I planted more, and revised the irrigation configuration accordingly. I see daily living baby salads in my very near future!

I love feeding myself and my family with green -- visually and orally.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Never Enough Kale + Odds-n-Ends

I created something fabulous to eat recently -- one of those recipes that continues to call to me from its shelf in the 'fridge. The good news is there was very little guilt associated with succumbing to its pull. Here's the recipe:

Spring Puttanesca

1 bag of brown rice pasta, prepared (I used Tinkyada spirals)

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
6-8 leaves of kale, roughly chopped, tough stems removed
1 pint of mushrooms, cleaned and roughly chopped if large
1-2 plum tomatoes, diced
1 can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2-3 Tbsp. capers
2 Tbsp. Shoyu or Tamari
3 Tbsp. Olive oil, plus more to finish
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, quickly cook onions and garlic in olive oil for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to medium and add mushrooms, tomatoes and chick peas, stir and cover for about 3-4 minutes. Stir a couple of times so the veggies don't burn. Turn the heat back up to medium-high and quickly add the kale and the shoyu, and a little water if the mixture seems dry enough to burn. Stir, cover and steam for 2 minutes, then stir in the cooked pasta, turn down the heat and simmer until warmed through. Remove from heat and stir in capers and additional olive oil to make the pasta unsticky. Don't add too much oil. Season with salt and pepper and stir.

This makes GREAT leftovers, but this post is called "Never Enough Kale" because no matter how much kale I prepare, once it cooks down I want more!

I cannot imagine ever thinking to myself, "Oh, I just ate too much kale," --the idea is laughable.

So, with each reheating the kale/other ratio increases, and the capers increase too. I don't heat the capers because I like them sharp in flavor and firm, but that's my preference. Obviously, the quantities needn't be precise in this dish. There's a lot of room for creativity with a puttanesca, which features antipasto flavors like capers or olives or marinated artichoke hearts -- you get the idea. Just choose your favorites!

And now for the "odds-n-ends" portion of the post, which is really just a lightening-round, stream-of-consciousness report on various and sundry items which have caught my attention over the last week.
This is a roasted cabbage "steak" as I've seen here and there on vegan menus. It is simply a 1/2" slice of cabbage, dipped in oil, salt and pepper and roasted at 375 degrees for 20 minutes. It's supposed to be an "impressive presentation". At my house, I was the only one impressed with the presentation, but upon sampling the "steak" I became unimpressed. It was dry and devoid of flavor. I sprinkled more salt, some dill and nutritional yeast --still unimpressed. Instead, I craved juicy, quick-sauteed slivered cabbage and onions with olive oil and earth balance, still green and fresh then brightened with a squirt of lemon {LOVE}. This "steak" (calling it that was actually the first turnoff) was a waste of a good cabbage, in my book. We only learn what we love by trying a myriad of diverse approaches, so I'll chalk this up to a learning experience.

Here are some recent indulgences I've enjoyed. The espresso grinds in the almond butter impart a gentle kick, and the Ginger and Orange Marmalade reminds me of something my Mom, the francophile, used to serve. The bitter candied orange rind elevates this one to a grown-up treat. There are worse lapses, of course, but I've still got to deal with that sugar monkey on my back again.

Speaking of detox, as my final odds-n-ends tidbit for today, I want to feature my old tried and true friend:
The Eziekiel English Muffin -- to my palate, king of the Eziekiel kingdom! My husband, the carnivore, asked me yesterday morning about the muffins. I told him I loved them, but since he doesn't care for most of my fabulous food, I couldn't predict whether he would or not. I was blasted back in memory, oh so many moons ago, to when my doctor, the late, great Christine Gustafson, MD, (RIP Christy) prescribed a cleanse to find any food sensitivities. The list of allowed foods for the cleanse was miniscule, and I remember asking her, "would Eziekiel bread be on my list?"

She nodded and said, "You can have sprouts,"

"That's what Eziekiel bread is?" I countered, incredulous.

"That's what it is!" she answered.

My carnivore loves the Eziekiel! It's going to change his world!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happiness Is . . .

A watercress salad! You're laughing at me no doubt, but seriously, it's the little things in life . . .  I had a lovely morning today with my Mind-Body Group at Atlanta Functional Medicine and as I made my way out of the office the sun was shining and the air, fresher after last evening's shower. I stopped for a few things at Publix on my way home and I found this beautiful watercress. Watercress is always a treat for me. One comes across it so rarely in our area, and when I do it's usually in a pretty sad state -- tired and abused -- so I normally pass. When I saw this pretty tangle this afternoon, you can bet I snapped it right up.

This salad was just what the doctor ordered for perpetuating my "Mind-Body" happy. The fresh, tender, peppery shoots were perfect with only half an avocado, a few pine nuts, a squirt of fresh lemon and a scant drizzle of my favorite olive oil. The flavor of watercress is a perfect foil for buttery flavors like avocado and pine nuts. Obviously, this salad was so simple it doesn't even warrant a recipe format, but I'll label it that way so I can find it again if I ever follow through with a cookbook someday.

Though the salad was the lunchtime star today, I like to eat a lot, as you know, so I also enjoyed some leftovers -- a crock pot chickpea stew I made a few days ago. I'm sorry, I actually should have written this one down as I was making it, but I was in a hurry at the time and wasn't expecting anything fantastic so I didn't. As it turned out, this stew is really, really good and I'm not tired of it yet after three days. Trying to remember, I think I soaked a pound of dry peas overnight, then cooked them for about 5 hours with a strip of kombu, a handful of dried porcini mushrooms, a couple of squirts of tomato paste (from a tube I keep in the fridge), about 2 Tbsp. of shoyu and a can of organic tomato soup. I sprinkled a tiny bit of cumin, a couple of good shakes of chipotle powder and a couple of shakes of garlic powder as well, and as an afterthought in the last hour I chopped up an onion and threw it in there. I added more water as it cooked down. I will recreate it along with a pencil and paper sometime to confirm I'm telling you the truth here.  Today I warmed it with a big handful of spinach (never enough greens!) and a sprinkling of daiya. Delish!

In other news, yesterday I spent a bit of time working on the other blogs for which I write, among other projects, and as the afternoon wore on, my energy began to flag. I want to share a delicious boost which provided more hours of productivity:
It looks like Ellie could have used a little sip of my magic boost as well! She's such a sweet little ole' lady now. She's got so much gray around her face. A more soulful dog I've never known. I'm pretty sure she thinks she's a human being.

Back to my smoothie: you may say it's not too pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I say it's gorgeous. This qualifies as a dessert really, in my book, since I used a cup of Silk Mocha Soy Latte as the liquid. It also contains two big handfuls of spinach, a banana and a couple of tablespoons of cacao --pow! It's been over three years since I've had a chocolate milkshake, but to my memory this was every bit as luscious, and it did the trick!

These are a few of the little things which bring me happiness today.  What are yours?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

My Relationship With Food

I am participating in a Mind-Body Medicine Group at Atlanta Functional Medicine. The Group is an 8-week series of meetings where Dr. Sue Blewett has been teaching us well-studied and proven techniques for lessening stress in our lives by utilizing the connection between mind and body. It has been wonderful. This is the practice where I work, and where I contribute to the blog and website. (see my latest post: Today the subject matter was: Mindfulness and Our Relationship with Food. As part of today's session, we were provided with paper and colored pencils and asked to create drawings expressing our relationship with food. Here's mine -- not fine art, to be sure, but hopefully it gets the point across. In case you can't tell, that one on the right with the evil eyes is a dark chocolate bar. If you haven't already read it, this old AMLV+ post explains more about my relationship with chocolate:

My relationship with food is really wonderful, actually. We communicate very well with one another. It lures and tempts me, and when I accept, I immediately either reap the benefits or suffer the consequences of the indulgence, depending on which food it is. I know where I stand with food. I am so in love with food, in fact, that I write about it, read about it, plan, shop for and cook it, and I even grow it!

I had a bit of a blue winter after losing Mom last year, so my heart wasn't into putting in a winter crop, but I got the gardening bug again yesterday so I cleaned and mulched, sowed seeds and nestled plants all snug in their pots. What a wonderful day it was. I actually felt the whole thing was a meditation which drew me closer to something larger than myself. It doesn't look like much just yet, but I will share the progress as my garden goes along.
My herb pot looks pretty much like last Spring's. Only the oregano and the thyme had survived the winter, but the thyme had gone to seed, so I pulled it out and got a new one. the rebirth of the oregano is the little one in front. I also have Italian parsley, basil and sage. I accidentally bought two sage plants from two different places. I wonder what that means -- too much sage? Wisdom maybe? Or Dad's famous sage dressing, veganized for my benefit -- either way, I'll take it!
Here's the garden itself, after planting. I told you it wouldn't look like much. I moved the stepping stones around to accommodate the tomatoes -- just 4 beefsteaks -- which I actually planted this year with space requirements in mind. I'm trying onions this year. I found a little bunch of baby onions at Walmart wrapped with a twist tie for $1.60. There were about 70 of them. I am hoping the stinky onions will discourage garden marauders. I've had bad luck three years in a row with little critters. First there was Heimlich, the big juicy tomato worm (search "Desnudos" on AMLV+ for back story), then there was Buster the adorable Chipmunk, then there was Draco Hortus, the slinky garden dragon who ate absolutely everything, even the stems and marigolds that were planted to deter pests. You can search "Buster" and "Draco Hortus" too if you're interested in the details. So this year I am trying onions and marigolds to see if my quest for a critter-free garden will improve. In the bare patch on the left, I've sown carrot and radish seeds. Microgreen seeds are in a few more pots.
Cherry tomatoes always do so well in pots, so I put in a black cherry tomato plant on the patio. Here are some more patio shots. It's a gloomy day today since this afternoon we are expecting the storm which spawned tornadoes in the Midwest yesterday.
I like how the addition of this white caladium brightens the old lavender bush from last year. The petunia is a trailing variety. I always loved the combo of fuschia and cobalt.
The white caladium was going to go along with her sister here in my boy and girl planters, but when cleaning up last year's debris, I discovered the rebirth of last year's hosta in the boy's pot. If you look very, very closely, you can see it peeking out of the soil. It's just as well that the white one went with the lavender bush. It was too tall for this planter, and the pink caladium looks none too pleased to be in this little pot. I'll have to find her a better spot too, and come up with something little to fill her space. 
My husband would not be happy I am sharing this shot of the yard with you. He prides himself on his lawn. Emma and Ellie (my pups) destroyed the lawn last year, so we laid some sod, and it was so new we could not apply pre-emergent weed control, so here we are with these lovely bright green weeds all over. When the warm-weather grass wakes up, it'll all blend in, and then we can fix it next year.
Here are some more patio shots. I love the white dogwoods and the red maple in this one. You can see the green trees are only now waking from their winter slumber. Pollen is all over EVERYTHING! In a week or so, the forest will be opaque with fresh green leaves.

I love our patio. We used to have a little wooden deck that was up on the level of the back door. It was always way too hot to use in the Georgia summers with our western exposure. Now the patio spills down gradually  right onto the yard, and the roof makes the space livable.

I'll share more garden shots soon if I see any progress. What is your relationship with food?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Drinking the Earth

Yes, that's what I said, and no, I don't mean drinking dirt. I am talking about a fresh glassful of juice teeming with the life of our mother earth, so that we can almost feel the enzymes humming, syncing the vibrations, bringing us closer to the oneness of all things. That sounds pretty far out, but you should have tasted it.
When my Dad visited recently, we had a lot of fun with the juicer. We started off mild, all the better to entice my husband to try some (cuke, celery, a couple of leaves of kale and a couple of apples). We got a bit more adventurous day by day, adding lemon, ginger, radish. Dad kept pushing for garlic, but I vetoed it, at least while my husband was around. Then, finally it was time for Andres to go back to work, so we added the garlic -- four cloves!  This obviously won't work on a day I'd have to clean up and go to work, but Dad and I didn't mind each others' garlic breath and the juice was really, really good. We reaped the benefits of the natural antibiotic qualities of the raw garlic along with the other megamicronutrients. This earthy luscious juice was shockingly delicious!