Sunday, May 27, 2007

Bean Anywhere New Lately?

I am definitely on a bean tear. For me, part of the joy of teaching is that it keeps me doing what I talk about -- eating lots of great food. I have leftovers that I pretend someone else made for me. They are what I want to eat, and wish that I could find in restaurants -- the more low key and standard kind than upscale and pricey. I think that everyone deserves to eat tasty, wholesome food that provides incredibly nutrition such as freshly cooked dried beans, sprouted corn tortillas (made by Food for Life), some spring onion and cilantro with a bit of local hot sauce. Yum, yum.

So, let me tell you what I've been up to and thinking about. I want to mention beans again. The Rancho Gordo beans are relatively expensive at $4.95 per pound. When I mentioned the price at the demonstration that I did at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, I think that I heard a gasp. When I went on to say that it turns out that they cost 70 cents per cup, people became more interested. I also mentioned that it's likely that many of the animal products that they eat such as fish, seafood, and meat all cost more than $5 per pound, and that you'd be hard pressed to feed a family on a pound of that while you could do so with the beans. A pound of the Cellini beans makes about 7 cups (it varies with the variety cooked).

Getting people to see that buying a latte for $3 is expensive while the beans are not, is tough. But it's only one of many of the challenges that I face in my teaching. I am up for it.

Today I cooked brown tepary beans from the Tohono O'odham Nation tribe in Arizona. They are small but so delicious. They are native beans which have sustained that Native American tribe for many years. They're available from

And that brings me to another interesting project that I came across at the farmer's market in Santa Rosa.

There is a woman who has been coming there and giving away heirloom seeds for people to grow and save. Agreeing to take some home got me out of my comfort zone as I don't consider myself much of a gardener although I do grow a number of summer vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers and occasionally peppers and/or eggplant. She calls what she does Seed Stewards I am kind of excited to see how these plants turn out, and if I can give them enough care.

I would love to grow some heirloom beans but know that I lack the space to do so. I only keep encouraging farmers I know to do that. Jill Adams at Crescent Moon farm told me that they will be growing 8 or 10 varieties of dried beans this year. I am very excited about that. And my friends at Tierra Vegetables will hopefully have the amazing pink beans that I bought last year, if all goes well with the crop.

And the best part about beans is that they are made for pressure cooking. So, now on to my pressure cooking DVD. And you will hear more about that, and beans, I am sure.

Contemplating Beans and What That Means

Part of my presentation and cooking demonstration at Kaiser in Santa Rosa mid-May was about beans. I used some wonderful beans from Rancho Gordo called Cellini which is a large white runner bean. They are "meaty" and delicious but take a while to cook. I was happy to have used the pressure cooker, and they still took 10 minutes after being presoaked. Yet they were delicious.

Now, about soaking. Someone asked me about whether or not you need to soak beans. I answered that when you soak beans and you then dispense of the water, you get rid of some of the indigestible carbohydrates which can cause gas. The best way to presoak is to put 3 inches of water above the beans, bring to a boil, turn off the heat, cover and let sit for an hour. Pour off the water, and then cook. If you add a piece of kombu seaweed, it may help make the beans easier to digest. And even if the seaweed doesn't do that, it will add important minerals that you need to get daily.

The other way to make beans more digestible is to eat them more often. Yes, that's what I said -- EAT BEANS MORE OFTEN. If you eat small amounts of beans every day, your body will likely adjust to the fiber in the beans. The key is to not eat a large portion of beans at once, if you don't eat them regularly. The indigestible carbohydrates may end up fermenting in your intestine, causing flatulence. This may not be a problem for you but possibly for the people around you. It is a natural occurrence but you can lessen the effects.

Another way to make beans more digestible is by sprouting them before cooking them. You can do this by soaking the beans in a glass jar overnight. Then drain, place a piece of cheesecloth on top of the jar, turn it over and put it in a bowl in a dark place and rinse the beans twice a day. When they have sprouted a little tail, which takes a day or two, then the beans are ready to eat or cook.

I also want to address the myth of beans being fattening. I was sitting across from an older friend who told me, "Beans are fattening." He said this while he was eating roast beef and I was eating pasta with pesto. I said, "This pasta is fattening. Beans are not." I am often amazed at what people think about food and what will make you fat.

Of course, if you eat too many beans you might gain weight. But that's not what I'm contemplating today.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Vegetables Improve Your Sex Life

Did I get your attention? Do vegetables sound sexier now? I think that's part of the problem with veggies -- they don't get much respect and they aren't somehow tied to sex. But did you know that eating lots of antioxidants can keep you healthier and that can lead to better sex more often? (How's that for a big jump but it would make a good headline, wouldn't it?)

Vegetables need a better image and I think that maybe people would eat more of them if they had it. Anita Levine Goldberg, FNP (nurse practitioner at Kaiser in Santa Rosa) and I were talking at the farmer's market in Sebastopol about how Kaiser farmer's market customers wanted fruit not vegetables. I said that I think that they are intimidated by vegetables. And many people are afraid to go to the farmer's market to shop because they don't want to ask questions and have to learn more to eat their veggies. Granted, it is easier to be on automatic pilot. But if you learn and change what you do, that will some day become automatic pilot for you.

Try eating more vegetables and see what happens -- you never know what it might lead to. You may just end up feeling better and having more energy, and that's good, too.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Peased to Meet You

This morning I put on my pea shirt with the slogan, "Peased to Meet You", with the hopes of finding peas at the market. I parked in a different place than usual and guess what? I saw the Nielsen Ranch sign and got excited at the prospect of potatoes. Boy, was I surprised when I saw that they didn't have potatoes but instead had peas, both English and sugar snap (edible pod), and favas (which are not of interest to me because they are too much work). Carey wanted to know if I could stand at her booth and advertise peas with my shirt. (I didn't do that but mentioned my peas to numerous shoppers.)

Her husband Robert told me that he just finished planting potatoes 2 days ago and that they'll have 14 varieties this year, including red, white and blue for July 4th. I am looking forward to it so I might be able to make my red, white and blue potato salad.

I bought both types of the delicious peas which was a great start to my market morning.

Although, I was quite tired from doing a cooking demonstration last night for Women's Night Out at Kaiser Permanente in Santa Rosa, I got to the market early. About 100 hundred women were at the Kaiser event and I'd have to say that it was a success. I got home around 9, had to unpack and it left me dragging a bit.

At the market, I still had enough energy to help my friend Larry of Triple T Ranch and Farm, after I snagged a number of baby artichokes. Oh, I just love the veggies of spring. Larry also had beautiful red spring onions, asparagus and a new crop that's similar to broccolini (which is trademarked) called Happy something which I just call happiness or "beyond broccoli". I will eat well in the next few days.

At Orchard Farm I got some "mandrake" carrots that really looked like people pulled from the ground. No mistaking that one of them was a male carrot. (If I had a camera, I'd show you.) They were sweet to eat and interesting to see.

In addition to great veggies, there was summer fruit: apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines and sweet as can be strawberries. At last night's event which was called Greens, Grains and Chocolate: The Path to Women's Health, we finished the evening with organic strawberries and dark chocolate. The local strawberries were incredibly sweet.

My fellow presenter, Melanie Larsen, MA, RD, asked me to address the issue of buying in season. So I went on a few minute rant about shopping at the farmer's market and buying locally. I explained that it's next to impossible to get really ripe strawberries (or any fruit for that matter) at the supermarket or natural food store. They don't travel well. In fact, one of the peaches that I bought this morning had to be eaten as soon as I got home because it got bruised, and I was pretty gentle with it. Just imagine what would happen with commercial shipping and handling.

I want to continue to encourage you to buy as fresh and local as you can. And if you can get your produce unsprayed or organic, that's even better, especially for strawberries and other produce on the Environmental Working Group's Worst 12 list (Check out it out at I know that cherries are on it and I have been told by Brenda, who works the cherry booth where I buy, that no harmful chemicals have been used by her "uncle". I hope that's true. I justify my eating them this way: they are fairly expensive so I don't buy lots at a time, and they aren't in season for that long so I don't have continued exposure, should I be poisoning myself unwittingly. I am paying attention and like everyone else, I have to make choices about what I eat. Fresh, ripe cherries are hard to resist.

Now, I shall turn my attention back to my sweet and delicious peas, which I added raw to the Quinoa with Spring Onions and Herbs that I cooked up last night. This is real food at its best.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

To everyone who is a mother (and even those who are not), have a wonderful Mother's Day. I find that it is the one time a year that I try hardest to indulge myself. This morning I bought roses at the farmer's market. I am not talking about the long-stemmed modern kind that emit almost no scent but the ones that not only look but smell wonderful.

They are nestled in a vase (that was my grandmother's) numerous feet from me and I can smell them. They have perfumed the air. Their colors are beautiful and range from light yellow to apricot to lavender and the double colored Double Delight which has an aroma to match its white and fuchsia beauty.

If you're lucky, at this time of year (at least here in CA) you'll find peas of all types -- English, snow and sugar snap, the first of the cherries, peaches, nectarines and apricots. It's finally the true end of the apple, pear and citrus season. And I am thankful.

Last week I went to the Pleasant Hill Farmer's Market and did a cooking demonstration. The highlight was trading my book for a bottle of Deep 6 wine from Periscope Cellars I love the name of the cellar and the wine and the winemaker works here in Sonoma County.

The Veggie Queen cookbook comes in handy for many things, and trading for wine is one of them (which you'd find out if you read this blog often enough).

Since I live in wine country, it's easy for me to meet winemakers and I know a number personally. I am incredibly lucky and I know it. If you are ever planning a trip to Sonoma County, I'd be happy to steer you in the right direction regarding your food and wine interests.

Happy day to you.