Tuesday, December 29, 2009
My yoga teacher always has a well thought out "word of the week." This week it is resolution. For me sitting with nothing to think about except my breath and getting my spine to extend provides an opportunity to tune in to Clare's words and absorb their meaning; not always profound but often food for thought.
Did you ever realize that the world resolution has the word SOLUTION in it? I never gave it a thought. But now I will. Clare says that we already have the solutions but need to put them into practice. And that's what yoga and life are all about - practice without having to be perfect.
Many of you know that I prefer to set goals rather than make resolutions, which might change now that I realize the solution in resolutions. Rather than toss them to the wayside, perhaps making only one resolution and a good plan for following it would suffice for most of us.
At this time of year, I like to look back on the past year and see what happened, absorb it, spit out what I don't need to hang on to and move on. The present is a gift that you give to yourself so stay focused on now and make a plan for the future.
Here's a link to a piece that I wrote on setting goals. I am still formulating what I have in mind for my personal goals for 2010. Since I am a work in progress (and hope that we all are), I don't have to have these done by January 1st but I do recommend writing down your goals and looking at them periodically. Once a month works for me.
I hope that your goals will include taking care of yourself because money can't buy health. If you need help doing it, check in with me. My goal is to inspire you so that you can inspire other people.
Happy New Year.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
I cooked the squash and here is my report. The squash was easy enough to cut and the color was a lot like a butternut. I couldn't tell much about its texture until it was thoroughly cooked. And when it was, it was soft and perfect for soup. It did not have the intense sweetness or dense texture of my favorite squash which is the delicata. I am sure that I prefer a number of other squash over Aunt Thelma's Sweet Potato Pie squash. And when I make Sweet Potato pie, I prefer having sweet potatoes in it. It's one of two dessert recipes in my cookbook, The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment.
Since I also really like squash soup, this squash was just fine. I liked the size of it but I'm not likely to buy one again. Good thing that I have a few delicata squash put away for future use.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
I just returned from attending the American Dietetic Association (ADA) conference in Denver, referred to as FNCE (Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo). I hadn't attended in 15 years. But I am now the secretary of the Vegetarian Practice Group of the ADA, and that means that I take minutes at board meetings, in person and on the phone. The funniest part is that sometimes I have a hard time reading my own notes. But it all works out.
The highlight of the conference was hearing and meeting Dr. Michael Roizen, who has co-authored the YOU books with Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Oprah doctor. I am not someone awed by celebrity, it doesn't do much for me and I've met enough of them to realize that they are "real" people, just like we are. But I am wowed by brilliance. And I rate Dr. Roizen near the top of my list (which includes Paul Stamets and Paul Simon among others) as a particularly brilliant guy.
His talk was brought to us by the Walnut people and I thank them, not only because I like walnuts but because Dr. Roizen was inspiring and believes with all his heart and mind that changing your eating can change your life. Amen. (Featured in this photo with me is Martha DeCampos, of the Vegetarian Practice Group, and lots of onlookers.)
Additionally, in the 15 years since I last attended this conference, a number of organic companies have begun attending including Amy's Kitchen, Numi Tea, Alvarado Street Bakery, Sunshine Burger, Mary's Gone Crackers, Dr. Kracker and more. I applaud them all for showing up and sharing what they do to educate dietitians. (If you're reading this and your company attended please let me know.)
I also went to a great talk on why the Registered Dietitian (RD) ought to be promoting organic foods. WOW. It's about time.My previous trips included a jaunt to San Diego where I did cooking demonstrations for 2 different WIC (Women, Infants and Children) offices about eating deliciously by cooking whole foods in a pressure cooker.
And right before that, I was in San Francisco attending BlogHer Food with 300 other food bloggers, too many to mention here, except for my wonderful roommate Cheryl Sternman Rule of 5 Second Rule. who is an all around top-notch person and great writer. Read one of her recent posts, Regret ,and you'll see why I love her writing, wit, humor and photography skills. She bakes a bit too much for me but thankfully I live far enough away that I am not taunted and tormented by her baking projects. She also includes some healthier recipes for balance. Thanks Cheryl.
Watch for an upcoming post on making tofu at home with Rachael of La Fuji Mama. I have already started so you'll see it sometime soon, as well as an update and highlights of my travels.
My travels are over, unless, of course, you invite me to come visit you somewhere, although I much prefer the time and space of writing at home. But if you've got an empty beach house in Mexico with an internet connection, let's talk.
And for those of you wondering, I am obviously alive and doing well. I always love to hear your comments.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Sunday, August 09, 2009
These products, and much more, are all available from Gourmet Shopping Network .
If I didn't live in such a nutty place and wanted to be sure that I had great products, I would order often from Braga Farms, supporting a small organic farm that has high standards. If you are in the market for great tasting nuts and some dried fruit, check them out.
Friday, August 07, 2009
When the squash is prolific, you always need another way to serve it. This dish is especially easy and delicious. Even people who say they don’t like squash usually find it irresistible.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon reduced sodium tamari
4 summer squash of any kind, cut lengthwise into quarters
1 large onion, cut into rings
3 tablespoons chopped herbs, such as cilantro, Thai basil or parsley
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon grated ginger
Chopped cilantro or other herb, for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste
Combine olive oil, sesame oil, vinegar, tamari and half the garlic and ginger in a bowl or zippered bag. Mix in squash, onion and herbs. Let marinate at least 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Place veggies on a screen on your grill over hot coals or gas or inside on a grill pan. Grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Turn carefully and grill for another 3-4 minutes on the other side. Reserve the marinade. Once the squash is grilled, cut it into bite-sized pieces. Mix with cooked onion rings, reserved marinade and remaining ginger and garlic. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve as is, or cool to room temperature.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ubuntu also has a yoga studio upstairs. I think that a perfect day for me would be staying at the eco-friendly Gaia Hotel and Spa in American Canyon, taking a yoga class and eating lunch at Ubuntu, and sometime later getting a spa treatment. Something to consider.
Monday, July 06, 2009
Tuesday, June 30, 2009
FF: I would love some suggestions for “fake meat” products as an foray into vegetarian eating. What are some of your recommendations?
TheVQ: Having just been on Culinate, at the Table Talk Meatless chat with @Kimodonnel from The Washington Post's A Mighty Appetite, here are some suggestions that we discussed: Boca Burgers (my meat-eating husband likes these), Field Roast sausages and roast, Tofurky brats and Italian sausages, as well as Gimme Lean and Lightlife products.
Many people like using the Morningstar Farms products but they seem overly processed to me. I try to stay away from eating soy protein isolate, and prefer items based on beans and grains. But many people new to the veg world go for the meatier tasting items which often contain more processed soy. There are also all the soy hot dog products that kids often like. And once you get them in the bun with stuff on them, it's hard to tell they are not meat (but what do I know about that?).
My husband used to like Yves Veggie Pepperoni so much that he called it turkey pepperoni. As an aside, I will tell you that on his own my husband decided that pepperoni is gross and no longer eats it. I consider that progress.
FF: I see you have a cookbook devoted to pressure cooking, and your blog bio says you are a pressure cooking advocate. Can you talk about your passion about pressure cooking and what you recommend for someone who has never used a pressure cooker?
The VQ: First, let me clarify that my cookbook The Veggie Queen: Vegetables Get the Royal Treatment is about vegetables throughout the year, and has a chapter on pressure cooking. I have a DVD on pressure cooking, Pressure Cooking: A Fresh Look, Delicious Dishes in Minutes that comes with a recipe booklet. What follows is my pressure cooking story.
I fell in love with pressure cooking when my son was about 2 or 3. I didn’t have a lot of time yet I wanted to feed him nutritious foods. He was a vegetarian, mostly vegan, from birth. He loved lentils, especially as soup. The first item that I perfected in the pressure cooker was Shane’s Fabulous Lentil Soup which has both red and green lentils. It takes about 20 minutes from start to finish, including prepping the ingredients. Using my pressure cooker made me feel like a great mother. So I learned to cook other things in it. Shane also loved beans, especially black and garbanzo beans. They take 6 and 12 minutes, respectively, after they’ve been presoaked. I would always make extra and freeze them.
If you are new to pressure cooking, or just want to see it, take a look at my pressure cooking website to see my video clip from my DVD. You’ll see how easy it is to use. Did I also mention that using a pressure cooker helps preserve some nutrients, and that the food looks and tastes great? You can also read my pressure cooking blog or see me on You Tube at TheVQ.
I think that using a pressure cooker is perfect for a family to make cooking fast, easy and delicious. Food tastes and looks better than in a crock pot, and you can wait until late in the afternoon and decide what to have for dinner on a whim, and actually get it on the table on time. I highly recommend it.
I hope that I’ve answered your questions. If anyone has questions, please feel free to comment here and I will get back to you.
Thanks for this great conversation.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Debbie, although you only posed one real question about how I manage to incorporate and maintain yummy meals during winter when “fresh” items are scarce or really expensive, I also see that you asked about vegetarian proteins.
I will start with the protein and give you a list of possible vegetarian protein sources which include tofu (here's my Tofu Italiano), tempeh (not well loved by many non-vegetarians but can work crumbled in foods), seitan, which is wheat gluten and all about the texture, not the taste because it has very little, if any, and beans. Then there are, of course, all the other legumes which include peas, split peas and lentils. There is obviously a large number of food items to choose from. You can also include nuts and seeds as a complement but not as the main protein source as they have a lot of fat.
If you like grains, you can cook some possibly new-to-you grains such as quinoa and then combine them with seasonings (or herbs) and beans in the food processor and turn them into burgers. I brush mine with oil and bake them until done.
Now, on to your question about the winter and vegetables. You are correct that there are fewer vegetables in winter, which is why it’s great that you asked this question now. Summer’s abundance is a great time to stock up for winter. For most vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, green beans or peas, blanching the vegetables (giving them a quick dunk in boiling water) and then patting them dry, and packing them in usable amounts in freezer bags works great. You can also freeze the on cookie sheets so that the vegetables are individual and freeze them in the bags. You can then pull out what you need.
Even though I live in Northern California, which is close to a winter vegetable paradise, I rely on a lot of root crops and cabbage then. It’s what you are supposed to eat, according to nature. The cooking is about learning how to be creative with rutabaga, sweet potatoes, celery root, turnips, potatoes, and how to combine them with seasonings in unique ways that make them taste great.
My friend Katie, who lives on the Upper Peninsula in Michigan, has a greenhouse and manages to keep kale going in there all winter. I suspect that you may have local or semi-local farmers who have managed to do the same. Kale, collards and Swiss chard often can make it in the mild parts of winter, if there are any.
BTW, you can tell that I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with frozen vegetables. I buy as much in season as I can but there are times when that becomes far too challenging and that’s when I turn to my freezer or use my canned tomatoes.
Here’s how I describe the seasons: Winter is roots, spring is shoots and summer and early fall are fruits. Greens exist all year in various forms. Eating food that’s local and in-season helps us attune to the local climate and generally what our bodies need.
What kind of questions do you have about products? I didn't mention any "fake meat" products and sometimes these make for a helpful transition from meat eating.
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Debbie asks me how I suggest that a typical steak-loving, non-vegetarian transition to a more healthful way of eating?
Debbie, I consider this one of my specialties because I recommend that you include more vegetables every day. Then along with that, more other healthful plant foods that might be out of the realm of "normal" such as substituting quinoa or brown rice for white rice or potatoes.
Let me share the story about my husband who wasn't a huge meat-and-potatoes guy but he's also no vegetarian. I started giving him better salads, switching from iceberg lettuce to romaine. Then I included a mix of darker lettuces. I didn't do this all at once but over a month or so. He now loves the salad mix (minus the weeds, as he still doesn't like the bitter stuff such as arugula or dandelionand eats at least 3 to 4 cups of it each night. On his own, he asked me to pack him a container of fruit at lunch and a container of vegetables. So, he makes sure that he gets the recommended 9 servings each day, at least during the week. Once you're eating all that produce, and make sure that it's as fresh and local as you can get it, so it tastes best, you are likely to eat less of the other things. Or at least that's the hope.
You can also go the Meatless Mondays route, making sure that at least one day a week you skip the meat. Once you get a few good recipes under your belt, it may be easier to incorporate more vegetarian meals.
Confirmed meat-eaters often like dishes such as chili, which you can make in many meatless variations with a variety of different beans.
When I attend potlucks or other functions, I bring a dish that I want to eat which is often colorful and filled with vegetables. It might be something like a quinoa salad, sweet and sour summer squash or hummus and vegetables, soup or stew, depending upon the event and the meal. Fresh and vibrant vegetables are almost always a hit.
Unless there is meat in every dish, I find things to eat. But nothing bugs a vegetarian more than people hiding meat in dishes that could easily be meat-free such as a vegetable-based soup made with chicken or beef broth.
Some of my family's staples at holiday meals such as Curried Squash Soup, Roasted Root Vegetables and Fruited Wild Rice started out as what I made for me but now everyone eats them.
I think that you mentioned the key word: transition. Most people need to make changes over time to be most successful, especially with a big dietary change such as eliminating meat and other animal products. Get a few good cookbooks (guess this is when I plug The Veggie Queen cookbook) or look online at my website or other blog posts. I also have have colleagues and fellow bloggers who do great work. See my list on the sidebar here.
And, Debbie, keep making those salads but see how you might make them interesting without the cheese by adding little tidbits such as dried fruit, nuts, olives, capers or avocado. It's all a process and I encourage you to give it a try especially because it's good for the whole family. Children mimic what you do and if you want your kids to have a great start on health, it's through what they eat.
Now, my questions for you: what do you think really stops you from eating or trying more vegetarian foods? Is it the perceived time that it takes, or buying the stuff? Or maybe you think that your husband won't like it. I'd love to hear.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
The title of this post however is dedicated to my father who just passed away last week. Those were his words, and with that in mind, I'd like to share a little bit about my Dad, Bernie.
Bernie loved to eat, and when you look at photos of him over the years, you can tell when he really liked to eat food that was not very good for him, as he looked heavy. When he was in his 50s, he likely had a silent heart attack, confirmed later by doctors. He wanted to know what to do so my sister sent him Dr. Dean Ornish's first book on reversing heart disease.
My father was a voracious reader and a bit of a fanatic, so he followed Ornish's advice for quite some time. After doing so when he went back to the doctor, he'd managed to regrow capillaries to his heart. My Dad was also into exercise and used the Nordic Track like a madman for many years.
He'd often ask me for advice regarding what to eat and saw how I followed a vegetarian diet and leaned in that direction.
Luckily as he got older, he slowed down just a bit on the exercise and got a dog, a Boston terrier named Sweetie, that he walked daily until just a few months ago. He also mowed the lawn often, which was a lot of work on more than an acre of property.
After the Ornish plan, my Dad ate pretty well, including lots of fresh food, made by my mother who likes to cook and has a garden. A few years ago, I sent my father a copy of The China Study by Colin Campbell. He then adopted a vegan diet, and said that he felt better than ever. And that might have been true for awhile.
Last year he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. If his doctors had been paying attention, they would have likely caught the cancer earlier as my Dad's PSA level was elevated. He also had GI problems, caused by a hospital stay, and likely needed Vitamin B12 shots but didn't receive those either.
The moral of this story is as Sandy Lewis, MD, the cardiologist from Portland, who shared the Super Shuttle to the Denver airport as I left to go to the funeral, said, "No one gets out alive."
So, I encourage you to treat each day as if it could be your last. Find something to be grateful for, appreciate the people around you, and enjoy fresh food, clean air (if you've got it), nature, your pets, your work, and life in general. There are no bad days, just some are better than others. They all give perspective and a frame of reference.
When I'd ask my Dad how things were going, he'd usually say, "It's better than the alternative." When he stopped saying anything like that, I knew what was in store. The end isn't usually easy, so in the words of Jennifer Stone of KPFA radio, "Go easy. And if you can't go easy, go as easy as you can."
Bernie reminded his 3 daughters that life is not a popularity contest but that kindness, generosity and sharing wisdom all count. And I hope that what I've shared with you today has an impact in some way.
Smile, enjoy, live well -- it's the best revenge.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
It was luckily a slow market day due to overcast weather, which made it easier to peruse the stalls and traverse the aisles. We have reached spring abundance and I was able to get everything on my list and more. (I did this by showing up about a half hour before our 9 am meeting just to be on the safe side and snagging some locally grown organic strawberries and asparagus.) I didn't have garlic scapes (the curly part of green garlic that will eventually form a flower), baby artichokes or squash blossoms on the list but we had those. And in addition to a bunch of spring kale (a different variety than the regular curly-type), we were also able to get broccoli rabe for our greens sauteed with garlic. The Spring Surprise Saute had a great mix of spring onions, leeks, asparagus, sugar snap peas and a variety of summer squash, which just appeared in the past week. I would have added cilantro to the mix but didn't want to get into who loves and who hates cilantro.
The menu for the day included Creamy Asparagus Soup (which in my book is Creamy Spinach Soup but I say that you can use the formula for almost any vegetable and asparagus is a favorite), Salad with Balsamic Strawberry Dressing (this is a take off of my Sweet Summer Super Salad), Marinated and Baked Tempeh, Quinoa Pilaf with Mushrooms, and the previously mentioned Greens with Garlic and Spring Surprise Saute. I had so much fun leading the group through the cooking. Miraculously, as we were finishing up the dishes and plating, the sun came out and the group headed outside for an amazing lunch. J. loved the tempeh which was a big surprise and S. loved the quinoa, as she'd never had it before.
Taking a group to the market meant that I couldn't really shop for myself so yesterday I went to Sebastopol ready for my weekly vegetable foray. When I saw the Laguna Vegetable stand with their amazingly sweet carrots, I knew that it was going to be an amazing day there. They also had sugar snap peas and young white Tokyo turnips, with great looking tops which I had the young man remove immediately and put into the bag. BIG TIP HERE: You want to remove the tops of all root vegetables right away as they breathe through the tops. Both roots and leaves will stay fresher this way. Everything else looked great, too, but I was moving on.
I stopped to speak to Paul of Paul's Smoked Salmon for a bit. He's a great guy and we have some good laughs together even about serious subjects such as his mother's recent passing. I love people who have a sense of humor, and he's one of them.
As I walked through the market, I got to say hello to people I know and chat with people that I've never met. It's a warm and friendly place. I guess that it's because everyone is happy to be outside, even if it's not sunny, buying produce, flowers and local goods. This is a huge departure from what it must feel like to buy vegetables at the local supermarket, which I try to avoid.
I ended up buying beautiful long beets (about which they didn't know the variety) but didn't want the greens and asked them to give them to pass them along to someone who wants them. I hadn't even left the stand when a woman walked up and asked how much for beet greens. She was handed the bag of my greens. FREE. Now, that is sheer joy, in my book.
I had more than one conversation with a farmer about stores that carry local produce and the small degree to which it really happens. I said that we need to rethink the system and figure out something that works better for all. (I still love my idea of teaching gardening and cooking to all, for FREE. If you know of any companies who might want to throw money at this, just let me know.) Regional food supplies are a good way to start changing things. Maybe each neighborhood has a community garden or group of growers or who knows what?
Dan Kahane (of Graton Greens, or at least that's what I think that his farm is called) and I were about talking about the motto, "reduce, reuse and recycle", and how we might want to add rethink. I told him that means that we have to get more people thinking in the first place. I know you are, and hope that you will work on continuing the conversation with those that you know. Each one of us has the ability to influence change.
I am now going to cook something for a block party this afternoon. Still wondering which of these vegetables I want to use: beets, asparagus, turnips, English peas, sugar snap peas, torpedo onions, garlic scapes, green garlic, summer squash, red romaine lettuce, salad mix and cilantro. I also have organic strawberries, cherries, peaches and nectarines. It may just turn out to be Spring Surprise Salad today. Only time will tell.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I'll take this post to report about some interesting eating spots while away. Next post will be about this weekend and my farmer's market trips so stay tuned for that. (I assure you that it won't take as long to appear as this one did.)
Traveling is always interesting for me because I never know what's going to happen in terms of eating. As you know, I often bring my own food (read my earlier blog post), but sometimes life is too busy to arrange much of anything. That happened this most recent trip. And much to my surprise and delight, at the international terminal of SFO there are 17 Bay Area restaurants, that were chosen from more than 200, that offer their food at their restaurant (versus inflated airport) prices. And at least 3 of them have healthier vegan fare: Harbor Village (Chinese) and Osho (Japanese) which are before you go through security and another one whose name I have forgotten but that has Middle Eastern fare including hummus and dolmas. I'd already eaten my seaweed salad and miso soup from Osho by then so I wasn't interested in more food.
When we arrived on Long Island, after our trip from JFK, we headed straight to Bagelmaster bagels in Syosset, which has been there for longer than I can remember (which means a long time). It's changed hands over the years but still has great NY bagels.
Most of you probably know that I rarely eat white flour products but I am sure that a bagel now and then won't kill me, even if they are twice the size that they were when I was growing up. But now they have something better than a bagel -- it's called something like a Flatzl -- a whole wheat or maybe multigrain flat bagel with sunflower seeds on it or with everything on it. Yummy and delicious eaten plain. Unfortunately, I did not get to go back to take some home with me.
Luckily, while we were in Woodbury, we got to stop by Gabby's Bagelatessen and meet owner Larry Ross. Either he was bored or we were very different from his regular customers because he engaged with us right away and made me an incredible chopped salad from his salad bar. You choose your ingredients and Larry chops it and mixes it up for you with your choice of dressing. The small salad he made for me was actually too much for me to eat in one sitting -- now, that is amazing. as I can really pack away the salad. The place is a typical NY bagel deli, with good coffee, according to my husband, and Larry has quite the story -- self-made man who started out as a butcher while a teen. He now owns the shopping center in Woodbury, NY. Amazing. He seemed like a super nice guy.
From the days of my youth, is On Parade diner where we had a completely unnecessary dessert one night as something to do to get out of the house. My husband said that he had the worse ice cream sundae ever. Everything seemed pricey and not especially great. I don't recommend it. It may be nostalgic for me but not enough to make it worth going.
My husband is a pizza lover and I think that maybe he had his fill but I'm not sure. He had pizza from Umberto's in Huntington and from Frank's in Woodbury. I liked Frank's because they had a deep dish roasted vegetable pizza without cheese, in slices and ready to go. Vegans, don't you wish that your local pizza place had this? I certainly do. And to sweeten the deal, the slice cost about $2.50. Where I live, this same slice would have been $4. The only thing that could have made it better would have been a light, not too doughy, whole grain crust. But it was more than satisfactory.
The best meal of all was for my mother's BD. I'd post photos but I forgot my camera and one of my sisters didn't bother to take hers out of her purse. We should have at least photographed the food at Honu Kitchen in Huntington. It is an eclectic and nice decorated, small plate restaurant but I have to say that their small plates aren't that small. We were a party of 7 and they recommend that you order 3 plates per person. We tried but couldn't achieve that.
There were enough vegetarian and vegan dishes on the menu to satisfy everyone. The ones that I liked best were the mostly the sides: artichokes with garlic and garlic edamame (the waiter described them as taking a healthy food and making it not-so-good for you, and he was correct but OMG, so tasty). the salad with candied walnuts and goat cheese, I just tasted the salad part, was wonderful. My salad with greens, asparagus and sunflower seeds left me cold. The wild mushroom gnocchi didn't thrill me nor did the creamed spinach. But sipping on my Besito Margarita made everything look rosier.
The upholstered black and white curved banquette, brick walls, crystal chandeliers and large art on the bar walls which accounts for one-third of the restaurant space made it feel upscale but comfortable. The seating allowed us all to see and speak to one another. We went early so it wasn't crowded but I imagine that it can get crowded and potentially noisy.
I would go back there anytime for a plate of edamame, a cocktail and another side or two, such as sweet potato hash or fire roasted corn, and I'd be happy as a clam, well make that a carrot.I am thrilled to be back in California where it's spring and with it are all the spring vegetables that I so enjoy: asparagus, artichokes, peas of all types and more types of tender lettuce than I can list here. My favorite cooking is often my own.
Friday, May 08, 2009
My mother never forced me to finish a meal or clean my plate. When I was a very young, and naturally too-skinny, girl she would tell people, "She eats just fine and when she wants to." Mom was responsible for most of my good eating habits, and a few of the not-so-good ones, too. She used to take me to the bakery for a treat (remember those black and white cookies?) at least once a month as I recall. She let me walk to the candy store and buy whatever I could afford, which usually wasn't much. She never made much of a big deal about either activity.
But what my mom really did for me was just let me be the eater that I was, and offered meals with vegetables daily. My best meal memories actually have to do with another Mom, and that was my grandmother, my mother's Mom.
My Nana, as she was affectionately called, was an excellent cook. She loved cooking and really knew how. My grandfather had a heart attack in his mid-40s (he lived until he was 78) so she had him on a special diet based on the Kempner rice diet. She cooked "special" things for him. It was those “special” things that I looked forward to tasting when she'd come to visit us for dinner. I am sure that my Mom could have made the same food as my Nana but it was Nana's domain and she wouldn't let anyone else do it. She carried a little cooler filled with what I deemed “the good stuff.”
My grandfather’s food was perfect for me -- baked potatoes, special tomato sauce, vegetables and usually chicken or fish, which I didn’t ask to eat. It was only recently that I realized that I ate all the vegetables that Nana brought with her whether it was eggplant , broccoli or green beans. I ate plenty of vegetables at home, too, but Nana's always tasted better. Maybe it was the special love that she put in for my grandfather that made the food taste so good.
My very special memory of my Mom, who is alive and doing well, is in the summer when I was 4 years old. She bought, or maybe grew, English pod peas. I don't remember eating them before but when I tasted them, I loved them. I recall her giving me an entire bag to shell. I went to a neighbor’s house and while sitting on a swing, I was shelling peas and eating almost as many of the small, sweet rounds as made it into the bowl for my mother. She would add them to macaroni salad. (Yes, this was pre "pasta salad" days). I am sure that I ate macaroni salad because of the peas, and not the other way around.
After I left for college my mother tended a garden. One winter I came home and my mother cooked kale. I didn’t recall ever eating it before – maybe they didn’t sell it in the supermarket. The flavor of those sweet greens still lingers in my mind today ---one of the best vegetable eating experiences I’ve had, and lead to me eating kale and other greens often.
Food issues with my mother didn’t exist since she let me eat what I wanted when I wanted without ever thinking that it was strange. When I left home and packed on some extra pounds more than once, my mother didn’t say a word, likely knowing that I had the inner wisdom to eat what I liked, and regain equilibrium and return to my natural weight.
I find it fascinating that I have turned into the quintessential mother in my professional life as The Veggie Queen™. I repeat the Mother’s war cry: “Eat your vegetables every day” although I don’t say it quite that way.
So, I have my mother to thank for good eating habits: eating when I am hungry, never feeling as if I need to finish the food on my plate with a strong desire to eat my vegetables. And when I see my mother we can share a piece of pastry or chocolate, and that also feels like a natural part of healthy eating.
Note: After writing this post I took my dog for a walk, and realized that there is indeed another Mother to which I owe complete gratitude, and that is Mother Earth. For no matter how we treat her, she still continues to provide nourishment to millions of people. She knows how to nurture each plant to provide for each person, and it’s our job to listen and learn. For without Mother Earth, we and bounty wouldn't be here.
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If you like this post or have any comments about it, please enter them in the comments section below. I want to hear what you've got to say about your Mom, or other, experiences that have influenced your eating.
Saturday, May 02, 2009
I am sure that coconut has sustained people in tropical climates for thousands of years, if not longer. There is great debate about whether coconut oil or coconut, in general, is helpful or harmful when it comes to fat intake. Rather than enter that fray, I'd just like to say that I love the way that coconut tastes and the flavor that it adds to vegan dishes, especially the Thai and Indian types.
The good news for coconut lovers, like me, is that there are now many different forms in which you can buy your coconut from coconut milk beverage and yogurt by So Delicious, coconut cream, coconut milk -- lite and regular and coconut water. The latter is best if you are following a low- or fat-free diet.
If you do use the regular or lite coconut milk, here is tip that I want to share, after my sister discovered an unusable can of leftover coconut milk in my Mom's refrigerator -- if you do not use all your coconut milk, freeze what's left in ice cube trays or small containers in amounts from 2 tablespoons to 1/2 cup, which are amounts that you might use in a recipe.
I rarely use an entire can unless I am making a dish that serves at least 8 people. My choice most of the time these days is coconut water which provides coconut flavor and no fat. The dishes are not as rich but that's fine with me -- I am usually going for flavor, and that's what I call the "yum factor."
If you want more great info on freezing food, visit Mark Bittman's column in the New York Times.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Anyone born before World War II did not suffer the pesticide exposure in their youth the way that any post-War babies (now grown-up people) did. The group most likely affected by pesticides are the "baby boomers" as pesticide use was in full swing by the time that they were born.
The 1960s counter-culture wanted a return to more natural processes and it was the rebirth of organic (which it hadn't really been called before because most things were grown naturally). Babies born after that time to highly conscious mothers had the chance for less pesticide exposure but the truth is that we've all been poisoned by pesticides (and let's not forget herbicides, fungicides, and all other cides -- destined to kill something) in the air and water, if not in your food.
But it's not all doom and gloom. You can find out which foods are highest in pesticide residue and avoid them whenever possible. Read this article by The Organic Center to learn which vegetables to avoid.
Here's the list of domestic vegetables with the highest pesticide residues:
- Green beans
- sweet bell peppers
If you want to learn more you can also take a look at The Environmental Working Group's recently released guide to pesticides and download it to your phone or print it out. It contains the Dirty Dozen (includes many fruits, too, just in time for stone fruit season, so pay attention) and the Clean Fifteen.
I urge you to buy more organic foods when possible but especially the vegetables that eat regularly. What you do most often will have the largest impact on your health.
Happy shopping. And whenever possible support your local farmers, they need it, and you need them. Without farmers, we wouldn't need farms. And then what would we eat?
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Here's one of my earlier posts on sprouting.
Well, I am not the only veg RD who thinks that. In fact, Dina Aronson, RD, of the Vegan RD blog has a number of posts about sprouting, with photos. I just wrote about this in my most recent email newsletter. And I have my own photos but I will only post one here.
Until I was teaching yesterday, I hadn't realized that doctors were telling their patients to avoid eating and buying sprouts because they are dangerous. I'm surprised that they remembered that there were food safety outbreaks involving sprouts.
I do not believe that there is anything inherently wrong with sprouting or the seeds. I think that you have to use clean water and maintain hygiene. It's kind of like home canning. Most people get botulism from what they've canned themselves. But that's another story. For now, I'll stick to sprouts. To get the cute sprouter (the Sproutmaster Mini) that you see here, check out The Sprout House online.
Let me know how your sprouting is going by emailing me email@example.com or leaving a comment below.