Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Of course this inquiry has many answers depending on who you are, your specific needs, and a host of other factors. But what I'm finding is this question is generally a plea in disguise. Most of the people I run into are so confused by the mass-information found thoroughout the media they are desperate for someone, someone they trust, to give them the answer.
Eat grain! No, don't eat grain! Eat meat! No, don't eat meat! Eat local rather than organic! Eat organic rather than local! Juice! Don't juice! Only eat certain foods in combination with other certain foods! Take vitamins! Don't take vitamins! Drink a lot of water! Don't drink too much water! Eat raw! Cook your foods! Drink green smoothies! No, don't drink green smoothies! Vaccinate! No, don't vaccinate! Go out! Eat in! Eat whatever the heck you want! Don't eat ANYTHING!
My head is spinning. You?
This onslaught of contradicting information can be crippling. It's such an unfortunate by-product of the info-mania we live in today and I'm thinking it has robbed [well that and the golden arches] many of us of the ability to think critically. The media and over-zealous dieticians / doctors / nutritionists [yes, they are out there] have convinced us that we need their help, their direction, their books and websites and blogs and trainings. Their clothes and blenders and cars and hair styles and personalities. Okay, a bit of an exaggeration [maybe] but I think you know what I mean.
The food system has so sweetly stepped in to rescue us from this barage. "Don't worry, I'll take care of dinner [and breakfast, and lunch, and snacks, and coffee break, and midnight snacks...]. I have the answer and it comes in a box with instructions for microwaving and scooping and crunching."
Somehow, we've bought into this and taken the plunge, shedding the intuition and mindfulness necessary to tune into our own bodies, needs, and the needs of our families on the way.
But deep down, underneath all this noise, is a small voice that urges us to do the right thing for our bodies, for our children, and for the world. It is cheering us on saying "You already have the answer! Your body is designed to know what you need!"
This is all great Tina, real inspiring. But I'm still confused. What is the "right" thing? Where do I start? Is there a diet that works? How do I know what to eat? What to feed my kids?
I get it. I'm a tactile, visual, "give me a plan" person too.
First a little secret the food industry and all those diet-crazed people don't want me to tell you.
One diet doesn't fit all.
Really, at some level we all know this. How can one-size-fit-all when our bodies are designed so uniquely? We want to believe there is one solution, one pill, one diet, one life style. We try to convince ourselves "This will be the one that works!", so we hop from one diet to the next until, once again, we are completely let down and out some more money.
But we keep searching because, come on, there must be some diet out there that will actually make us thinner, better looking, more employable, date-able, marry-able, happier, and content. Essentially make our lives easier.
And let's be serious, most of us enjoy a little easy.
But where's the fun in that? Where's the growth and journey and excitement and challenge and accomplishment and health in easy and same-ness and boring?
I enjoy the choices I have, the way my body changes from day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season. I love that my body screamed for meat when I was pregnant and begged for beans and greens following the birth of my child. I look forward to the craving for fresh-picked food when spring comes to call and the warmth of soups when winter closes in. It begins to feel a bit sacred - like food is bigger than the next bite or meal or diet. Almost like my food choices really, really matter. And if they matter, then they have meaning. And if they have meaning, then food is special and holy and good.
And that's exciting.
So. A plan.
Well, to begin, disregard any book or advertisement or person telling you they have the answer for everyone. Smile, clear your shelves or wish them well, and run the other way.
After you've made some space for your own voice and thoughts and preferences, set the intention to learn.
Learn to cook, learn about new foods, learn new recipes, new flavors, new restaurants [yes, new restaurants], new drinks, new ways to eat and gather and decorate the table, new routines, even new people.
Clear your mind of all your preconceived ideas of the "right" thing to do and start with a blank slate. You know the answers you just haven't been given the space to think about them. Remove the shoulds and have-tos and give yourself a moment to enjoy the freedom of choice and adventure.
[SOME TIPS ON FOOD]
1) Start with what you already like and go from there. If you like Mac N' Cheese, try making it from scratch. Once you've done that, add some veggies or different flavors or try a different recipe. If you like burgers, try a turkey burger or a veggie burger or find some pasture-raised, organic beef. It doesn't matter what you start with but start somewhere.
2) Eat mostly plants. Yes plants. If you can pick it or dig it up, most likely it will fall in the fruit or vegetable category. This doesn't mean canned fruits or veggies or cakes with fruit topping or pies or take-out Chinese food. This means fresh fruits and vegetables. From a farm not a factory.
3) Make friends with a farmer or two. Farmer's Markets are in full swing and are not only the most happenin' place to be on a Saturday morning [obviously] but are also a place to find great produce, in season, at awesome prices.
4) Purchase organic if you can but don't sweat it if you can't. The important thing is to get fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet. A non-organic vegetable is always better than a Big Mac. Buy local, in season produce whenever you can - it'll taste better and save you some cash.
5) Don't buy or eat products you see on TV. You don't see a lot of real farmers sporting their wares across the media. Generally it's packaged, chem-filled, franken-food annoyingly popping up every ten minutes interrupting your show.
6) Make a plan. If you plan out your meals for the week, in general you will feel less stressed about food because, hey!, you've thought ahead and have a plan!
7) Double the recipe and make friends with the freezer. I almost always make more than I need, jar the leftovers, throw on a label, and stash in the freezer. This allows me the freedom to not cook, and not rely on take-out, on those days.
8) Look at the ingredients list on any packaged foods. If there are words that take more than a second to comprehend put it back. If you have no idea what any of the words are, run.
9) Do your best to pay attention to how foods affect you. A food diary is a great way to do this but if that seems overwhelming at first, begin by noticing each time you have a headache or stomache or inflamed muscles. Ask yourself, "Is there something I ate that could have given me this headache or feeling of being bloated? Have I drank enough water today? Did I eat something out of the ordinary? Am I eating something too much or not enough of something?" The more you ask these questions, the more you will become aware of the food-health relationship in your own body.
Now the most important tip of all,
10) Enjoy your food! Don't eat food just because it's "healthy" or you think you should. This is not sustainable and one of the primary reasons most diets fail. Hunger does not equate to success and blah does not mean it must be working. The more you enjoy your food the greater respect you will have for it. The more you look forward to your meals the greater the chances you will slow down and enjoy each bite. The more fun you have making your food the more likely you are to return to the kitchen to do it again, and again, and again.
So may you find ways to take food seriously but not too seriously. May you find choices that meet your needs and the needs of your family and care for them well through those choices. May you find yourself taking a step towards healthy habits and celebrate that step without thinking about the next one.
Above all, may you find that food is fun and a gift and exciting and something to be enjoyed. Every day. Over and over again.
Friday, July 12, 2013
I hesitate to publish this recipe for one simple reason - my husband loves it. I consider it a big win when the hubs actually prefers my homemade to the box and I just hate to reveal to him my secrets. You know, the whole mind over matter thing.
So, dear spouse of mine, if you are reading this I respectfully ask that you close out of this window and walk away. It's better for us both if you just don't know.
As for the rest of you, my hope is that this recipe changes your life in the best possible way. It is about as "whatever is in the house, make it your own, anything goes" as it comes. My guess is ninety percent of you have some combination of these ingredients in the house at all times. This is why I've dubbed it my "that kind of day" go-to meal. I'm able to hide a veggie or two [or four] into it, throw some fruit on the side [breaking all food combination rules but it's just been that kind of day I really am having a hard time caring - you know what I mean, you've been there] and, bam!, a nutritious meal.
So, give yourself a break if it's been a long day. Turn on some music, squeeze some fresh juice, whip up a smoothie, snag some kombucha, or a glass of your favorite wine and enjoy a minute or two to just be. Take a deep breath, smile [no seriously, smile - it really works!], and know that in a few minutes you'll be sinking your teeth into an awesome bite of pancake goodness.
Special Note: I've noted quite a few different variations. Grab whatever is in your cupboards, pantry and refrigerator and make it your own! I typically double this recipe - breakfast for tomorrow? Check.
1/2 c. millet, quinoa, rice, lentil, or bean flour [or any combination of these]
3/4 c. buckwheat, sorghum, or oat flour [or any combination of these]
4 T. ground flax or chia seeds [I like 2 T. of each]
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. any other spice [nutmeg, cardamom, ginger, fennel, all spice, orange or lemon zest, etc.]
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 T. honey, maple syrup, or date paste
3/4 c. fruit or vegetable puree [any fruit sauce; any fruit or vegetable or combination of both blended: apples, bananas, pears, plums, berries, zucchini, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, etc.]
1 1/2 c. water + 1/4 c. flaxseeds [or any nut or seed milk - if you choose a different milk than flax, add a few extra tablespoons of flax or chia seeds to the mix]
2 T. lemon juice or apple cider vinegar
2 T. molasses [optional]
large handful of chopped fruit, berries, nuts or seeds [optional
Combine all of the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.
Place all wet ingredients in a blender on high until mixture is smooth and well blended. Slowly pour the wet mixture into the dry, mixing constantly. When everything has been fully incorporated, gently fold into the batter any add-in ingredients.
Let sit for a few minutes.
While batter sits, preheat oven to 200 degrees [F] and grab a glass baking dish. If you are using an electric skillet [one of the few times I do], heat the skillet to 315 - 325 degrees [you'll adjust the temperature as you go].
Pour 1/3 c. of the batter onto the warmed skillet. Batter should form a nice round but if not, gently spread it out with the back of a spoon or the measuring cup. Repeat 3 or 4 times, depending on the size of the pan.
Cover skillet and cook for about 5 minutes or until the face of the pancakes begin to look cooked. Remove skillet cover and flip the pancakes. Return cover and cook for an addition 3 - 5 minutes or until both sides of the pancakes are browned.
Place cooked pancakes in glass baking dish and warm in preheated oven. Repeat with remaining batter.
Once all of the pancakes are cooked and have had a few minutes in the oven, remove and serve immediately with ghee, real maple syrup [local if possible], and any toppings on choice.
Saturday, July 6, 2013
If there is one "weed" herb you need to make yourself comfortable with, even befriend, it's this one. Plantain is like the kale of the herb world. It can just about heal everything and is as nutritious as they come. Have a cut? Plantain. Have a burn? Plantain. Acne - plantain. Dry skin - plantain. Rash - plantain. Bite or sting - plantain. Bruise - plantain. Constipated - plantain. Need to detox? Plantain. Are you getting the picture?
Like dandelion, plantain can be found just about everywhere [except maybe the beach...]. Yards, park, pond side, roadside, hillside, concrete cracks, pasture, patios, gardens, city sidewalks, you name it. You've probably seen it a number of times, maybe even cussed it out on occasion. Although it is related to spinach [it's not only edible and amazingly nutritious but free!], it tends to masquerade as weed, keeping company with thistles, crabgrass, ragweed, and horse nettle. Really plantain should be elevated to "patron saint of the garden" status, or at least bestowed the title of "super herb". On hot days this herbs works wonderfully to cool the body from the inside out which is the most effective to eliminate heat. Essentially it's the perfect "emergency food".
Energy: bland, a bit bitter, cool
Use: Internal and External
For Infants / Children: Yes
Precautions: No know reactions or side effects
Key Nutrients: iron, vitamins A, C and K, B vitamins, fatty acids, protein
Medicinal Uses: detoxification and purification [is even used as a remedy for blood poisoning], liver stimulation [aids in poor digestion and nutrient assimilation], helps disperse too much heat in the body. It helps heal urinary tract infections, hepatitis, stings, bites, and wounds, skin issues [acne, rashes, dry skin, etc.]; cuts, scrapes and bruises.
[THE RECIPE: SAUTEED GREENS]
1 - 2 T. ghee, coconut oil or extra virgin olive oil [I highly recommend the ghee]
2 - 4 garlic scapes, chopped
1/2 c. freshly cut plantain leaves, rinsed and torn
1/2 c. freshly cut dandelion leaves, rinsed and torn
4 c. greens [ex. kale, chard, collards, mustard greens, arugula, and / or spinach]
large handful of herbs [ex. oregano, chives, parsley, and / or cilantro]
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
splash of fresh squeezed lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, or vinegar of choice [optional]
Heat the ghee or oil in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat until melted. Gently add garlic scapes and toss for 1 - 2 minutes. Add dandelion, plantain, and other greens to skillet. Continue to stir until greens have wilted and turned bright green. Turn off heat and season with salt, pepper, and vinegar [if using]. Toss with Tomato-Spiked Millet [recipe follows], quinoa, or Cauliflower "Rice" [I like to cook this in coconut oil].
[THE RECIPE: TOMATO-SPIKED MILLET]
1 1/2 c. millet, rinsed and drained
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 quart size jar of stewed tomatoes with juice [or roughly 3 - 4 cups of tomato puree], blended
large handful of fresh parsley and dill or herbs of choice, minced
Place millet in a fine mesh strainer and rinse until water runs clear. Drain and set aside. Pour oil into medium pot and warm over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent but not browned [about 5 - 7 minutes]. Add millet and toss frequently to roast for about 3 - 5 minutes [be careful not to burn the millet]. Gently pour in blended tomatoes, stir, and cover. Watch carefully and when liquid starts to bubble turn heat to low, cover, and let cook until all liquid has evaporated. When the millet is fully cooked, add parsley and stir.
Special Note: Remember, whenever you are introducing your body to something new, educate yourself on what you are eating / using [especially if you have health issues / concerns]. Many of the herbs found here will be safe for most but each of us has a different composition and will respond to foods and herbs in our own unique way.