Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Veggie Queen's Husband's Secrets for Health

The other morning my husband said, "I know that I haven't gotten sick because of vegetables, fruit and my medicinal mushroom capsules. And you can blog about it."

Everyone in my husband's office has been sick with some cold, other virus or the flu. Somehow my husband, who doesn't eat nearly as well as I do, has managed to ward off those bad bugs. He has been taking Mushroom Science medicinal mushroom capsules for almost a year now. They stimulate your immune system to keep it healthy at a very deep level.

Hubby has managed to stay healthier than most years by doing this - repelling almost every illness that has swept through his office. In addition to the better eating, he also takes a packet of Emergen-C each morning in the cold months, and Omega-3 capsules each day. That's the formula that is working for him. He also strives to eat at least 9 servings of vegetables and fruit daily, which he does often but not always.

His other self-care technique is using the neti pot daily with a special sinus salt that contains essential oils. And when it feels as if something is about to get him, he uses Sinus Buster with echinacea which is an intense but amazing product.

In addition to any of these things, I also suggest washing your hands more often than you think that you need to at this time of year. And take a few minutes each day for some relaxation and breathing.

I could go on and on about self-care techniques that might work but for now, I'm just happy to my husband has made a connection between what he puts in his mouth and his health.

Million Pound Match-Up Vegetables -- Frozen vs. Fresh

Rebecca Scritchfield at Balanced Health and Nutrition wrote about using frozen veggies as a way to get more of them in your diet. I think this is a great idea because many people buy fresh vegetables and never get around to using them. I do encourage you to buy them without sauces or salty seasonings, and organically grown when possible.

With a bag or box of frozen spinach in the freezer, you can whip up many different dishes -- from spinach quiche to spinach pesto with pasta.

Most frozen vegetables are picked fresh and flash frozen so they are often fresher than veggies that have been shipped a long distance and then warehoused for up to a week. Of course, buying in-season vegetables from a local grower is ideal but how many of you live in an ideal world? The goal is to eat vegetables, and lots of them every day. I say, do what it takes to reach that goal.

Read Rebecca's complete post: .

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Michael Pollan and In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto

One of my claims to fame is that I went to school in New York with Michael Pollan from 1st grade on through high school. We shared many classes and rode the same bus to and from school for years. I am a bit surprised that he's become the voice for food but not at all surprised that he can write -- he always could.

A recent article about Pollan mentioned that he's a journalist and tired of talking about food, or at least his family is tired of hearing about it.

His latest book In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto just came out. I haven't yet read it and I might not get around to it. I heard him in an interview on KPFA radio yesterday and how he sums up the book is in this haiku:
Eat food
Not too Much
Mostly plants
He and I are in complete agreement on this.
I promote a plant-based diet, and recommend that people choose good food and real food for the rest of their diet. Once again, we agree.
Where we differ is in our comments about dietitians, of which I am one. He says that dietitians are not promoting food but only nutrients. NOT TRUE, at least not for me. And in fact, there is a whole group of dietitians who are into food and culinary -- we are all about the food and eating. Suffice it to say that most of what we recommend is healthy eating but more importantly delicious eating. So, forget fake foods, go for the real stuff and learn how to cook it.
Now, if I could only figure out how to sell as many books as Michael Pollan. I, for one, hope that he moves onto some other subject. I read that he's writing a book about orchids and it's just fine with me.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Best Minestrone He Ever Had

I convinced someone (we'll call her A.) to get a pressure cooker. It was rather easy to do that kind of convincing. She'd seen her mother use a pressure cooker almost every day she told me. With 11 kids, she had to do something quick to get food on the table. I can't even imagine the scene but I guess that it worked.

The first time that she told me about her pressure cooker use she said, "I fear that I'm turning into my mother." But I don't really think so.

This morning when I ran into A. she told me that she'd made minestrone and her husband told her, "It's the best minestrone that I've ever had." She added, "I don't think that he likes minestrone."

But judging from my husband's reaction to my New Year's Soup with barley, black eyed peas and sweet potatoes, I'd have to say that her soup success is because it's easy to make great soup in the pressure cooker. My husband really liked my soup, much to my surprise. I just wish that I could remember what I put in it.

The truth is that unless I am working on a recipe for reproduction for a class, an article or a book, I just like to experiment and cook. Writing it down defeats the creativity of the process for me. But in order to satisfy others, sometimes I take the time to record my steps so that a recipe can be reproduced. Often, though, when I am getting dinner on the table, I just cook.

So I am going to keep encouraging you to get a pressure cooker and get cooking. Then you can eat delicious fast food every day.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Can You Cook Brown Rice? and Trader Joe's

I shop at Trader Joe's for very specific items, many of which I could probably live without. One that I certainly will never buy is frozen brown rice. But while I was traveling one time, my husband shopped at TJs (that fact really surprised me) and bought frozen white rice for our particular child since my husband really doesn't cook and he rarely needs to.

There is a guy who works at TJs who works in the frozen food aisle. He knows me as the woman who is looking for the vegan items. He may actually know that I go by the name The Veggie Queen but he hasn't said so. There are others who work there that know that but...

Anyway, we had a discussion just the other day about how he felt lucky to work in the frozen aisle as he knows the area well. Jokingly, I said, "So when someone asks for the frozen whatever you know where they are." He said, "That's right. And if a product is out of stock, I know that, too."

"I bet that sometimes you can even tell them why the item isn't there," I added. Then he told me that the brown rice was out of stock. I think that he knew that it wouldn't affect me. We then had a discussion about what the world is coming to when people can't or don't take the time to make brown rice.

My suggestion was that when the brown rice is out of stock, they post a recipe right above where you'd normally find it in the freezer, along with a suggestion to go to the aisle where they sell rice and learn how to cook it. Cooking rice really isn't difficult, especially if you can boil water.

I know that a lot of people have rice cookers, and if you eat a lot of rice or don't want to take chances, then it may be a great appliance for you. You can even get one that is all stainless steel.

But if you want to cook brown rice on top of the stove in a pan, put 2 cups water into a pot and bring it to a boil. Stir in 1 cup of rice, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and reduce the heat so that the water is just simmering. Let cook for 40 minutes without removing the lid or stirring. Take off the heat and let it sit for 5 more minutes, undisturbed. Then remove the lid, and stir in a pinch of salt, if you want to. You should have perfect rice.

Alternatively, you can cook brown rice in the pressure cooker by cooking at pressure for 22 minutes, and letting the pressure come down naturally.

And if you make extra rice, you can put it into containers or zippered bags and put them in the freezer. Then it won't matter if Trader Joe's frozen brown rice is out of stock.

Particular Child Leads Me to Pressure Cooker Learning

My son loves rice -- white rice, not the brown, black or red kind that I eat regularly. I've been busy writing an article on The Glycemic Index and there is a big difference between jasmine rice which is high GI and basmati rice which is lower GI. So, if my kid is going to eat white rice, then I want it to be basmati.

So, I went to the store and bought basmati rice in bulk. I cooked it the way that I do with other white rice in my pressure cooker which is 1 cup rice and about 1 cup water with a touch of salt. Bring it to pressure and let it cook for 3 minutes at high pressure. Let the pressure come down and you've got great rice. But this time, that didn't happen. The rice was too wet.

My son asked me to cook it more. So I heated it again while I watched the rice stick on the bottom of my cooker. The rice did get drier but it still wasn't quite right.

So, I wondered what I might do, other than resort to buying the higher GI jasmine rice which is the kind that I had last cooked (before I got more tuned into GI). I searched the internet and found a clue as I watched someone making rice in the pressure cooker on You Tube. Try soaking the rice.

I soaked the rice for 1 hour and then drained it. Then I got my cooker really hot and then added the rice, water and salt. I cooked the rice for 3 minutes and 30 seconds. When the pressure came down I opened the pot. I discovered that I had
perfectly cooked rice.

So, now I've discovered at least one benefit in having a particular (otherwise known as picky) child. He pushes me to learn more and better. And I am all for that.