The Cantaloupe Strawberry Pie Experiment

I was innocently thinking about an organic cantaloupe that was sitting in the refrigerator and wondering when I will get around to eating it.  I had some beautiful organic strawberries too.  And I have a husband who, in his quest to eat less sugar, enjoys a nice dessert without it.

My usual pattern when it comes to creating food dishes or meals is that I think about color. Cantaloupe and strawberries would look beautiful together!

And that was how I came up with the idea of strawberry cantaloupe pie which I’ve never made or heard of before. Time to experiment!

CANTALOUPE PIE

 

Make a single pie crust and pre-bake it.  Mine was 1 1/2 cups of organic whole wheat pastry flour and 2 pinches of sea salt. Combine that. Cut in some oil–about 1/3 cup and then some water until you’ve got a flaky dough consistency. Roll it out, arrange it in the pie plate and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes. Let that cool.

Cantaloupe and strawberry pie filling

1 organic cantaloupe

10-12 beautiful organic strawberries cut in half

pinch of sea salt

2 1/2 tablespoons agar flakes

2 tablespoons kuzu

1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk

1/2 lemon

  1. Peel and cut the cantaloupe in chunks and blend this without extra water until it is thick and smooth. My Vita-Mix did a great job for me, but you can use a regular blender.
  2. In a small sauce pan, slowly heat the almond milk and agar. It will need to simmer several minutes until the agar is completely dissolved, so don’t use high heat or the mixture will boil off too much.
  3. Add the blended cantaloupe. [This is where I had some trepidation. I wasn’t sure what would happen to the beautiful sherbet-orange color of the cantaloupe when I subjected it to heat. Would it turn an ugly brown? Would it lose its flavor?]
  4. Dissolve the kuzu powder in a little bit of water and add to the cantaloupe mixture. Stir continuously until the mixture, which up to now had a milky look, changes. When the kuzu is totally cooked into the mixture it will become less milky and thicken.
  5. Add a small squeeze of lemon juice to brighten up the filling.
  6. Arrange the half strawberries in the bottom of the cooled pie crust and pour in the cantaloupe filling. Chill until firm. Garnish with fresh sliced strawberries.

The verdict:  Nice texture. Naturally sweet. Sweetness will depend on how sweet the fruit is.  Almond milk flavor takes over a little too much, even though there was only a small amount of it. Note to self–next time try rice milk or coconut milk.

ONE SLICE

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Umami for you, umami for me

We’ve been flirting with springtime for several weeks here in New Mexico. I’ve been lightening up the menu since early February, accented by the occasional heavier stew or soup when needed.

 

Now we are about to touch upon some much warmer days and I know that May will usher in a long and lovely hot summer. But no matter how hot is gets, I am a dedicated, all-season soup lover!

The secret to great soup is the broth.

 

A warm weather soup can be more challenging than autumn’s squash bisque or winter’s hearty bean and root veggie soup.  A summer soup calls for a broth that is both light and deeply flavorful. A successful soup broth will rend a delightful soup.

Umami for you, umami for me.

 

I have heard this word “umami” a lot in the past few years and decided to check out what it really is. Believe it or not, there is a website called “The Umami Information Center” which was enlightening. Seems the Japanese word “umami” has to do with the taste imparted by glutamate.

I react to that piece of information as if they said a bad word.  Glutamate?  As in Mono Sodium Glutamate?  No way I’m using that in my food!

Turns out glutamate is naturally occurring in many foods which can be used in cooking to create the coveted Umami flavor.  Some of the foods on the list I absolutely knew were umami-rich. Others, I hadn’t thought of before.

“Wow!” I thought, “This is enough to keep me souping in my kitchen all summer long!”

Without a doubt, the best umami, the best food, the best meal comes from your own kitchen. Even if you are a novice.

 

Okay I will get to the soup recipe. I promise! But I’ve gotta take a little side trip here.  I’m going to make a umami-rich broth made with real food ingredients and condiments. It is not difficult and it can even be considered economical because one way to get a highly-flavored soup broth is to save the cooking water from boiling or steaming other veggies and voila! you have umami.  Or, you can consciously decide to create umami from specific foods that you choose just for your soup recipe.

Either way, the point is–cooking for yourself with real food in your own kitchen wins flavor-wise and health-wise every single time over buying soup in the store (natural food store or not) or ordering it in a restaurant. Forty plus years of savoring my own cooking versus even the best dishes in the best restaurants has taught me that.

Lemon Fennel Soup

 

Making the umami-rich broth:

2 quarts spring water

4-6 inch piece of kombu seaweed

1 head of nappa cabbage (sometimes called Chinese cabbage)

Naturally brewed soy sauce (“Nama” brand is far and away the best flavor and the most umamiful.)

  1. Quickly clean the dried kombu by brushing it off with a clean, damp paper towel or vegetable brush. Place the kombu in the bottom of a large pot and add all the water. Bring this to a boil.
  2. Meanwhile wash a head of nappa cabbage, cut it in half and again in quarters. The core may be cut out and separately sliced fine. Cut the cabbage into 1-inch pieces. If you don’t want to use all the cabbage at once, just use the amount you will probably eat.  The cabbage itself will not wind up in the soup. It will be served separately as a lightly boiled salad.
  3. Put the cabbage in the boiling water and cook for just about a minute or until the green parts become bright green. This may take less than a minute!  Immediately remove the cabbage into a colander to cool.
  4. Continue allowing the broth to simmer with the kombu for about 15 minutes, then remove the kombu. (Save the kombu for another use or to slice up and add to another dish.
  5. Strain the soup broth so there are no solids in it.
  6. You now have a light, flavorful broth that delivers umami flavor.

 

Putting the soup together

1 large fennel bulb

1 shallot

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 lemon

chili flakes (optional)

  1. Wash the fennel and separate the bulb from the rest. Save the feathery fronds for garnish.  Thinly slice the fennel, about 1/4 inch slices.
  2. Slice the shallot
  3. Heat a pan of your choice (I use cast iron) and add the sesame oil.
  4. When the oil is hot add the shallots with a pinch of salt and saute until they soften.
  5. Add the fennel slices and another pinch of salt and continue sauteing until the fennel is well-cooked.
  6. Put the sautéed fennel and shallot into the soup  broth. Season lightly with soy sauce, add and let it all simmer a few minutes.
  7. Just before serving, zest your lemon and add to the soup.  I use a zester that produces thin little slices of zest. In that case I’m going to add about 2 Tablespoons of this.  If you are zesting your lemon with a microplane that produces grated zest, you may want to use less. Experiment with this!
  8. Serve the soup garnished with fennel fronds and a few drops of lemon juice.

 

Some more soup broth tips:

Keep in mind that some veggies, like carrots, have a very definite flavor and color.  Others, such as white daikon radish taste very different when cooked than when raw. Think  with the flavors to get the broth you want. Sometimes you just want lots of flavor and it doesn’t matter too much what you use. If you make a vegetable soup, you can add all kinds of things together. But if you are going for a more delicate taste like the fennel soup, then choose ingredients for the broth that will enhance but not interfere with your finished product.

Sauteing vegetables helps bring out their flavor and sweetness. Decide, however, what oil you will use based on the flavors of that oil. At first I was going to use toasted sesame oil to saute the fennel and shallots but that would definitely have brought in a flavor that might have taken over too much.

Dried vegetables, such as dried shiitake mushrooms have a concentrated flavor that provides a lot of umami, even though you will reconstitute them by soaking first. See more about shiitake and kombu in my 2013 post, “Rejuvenation and Dashi.”

Apparently tomatoes are considered to yield a very high level of umami.  Hmm, sun-dried tomatoes. Gotta play with that!

 

Christmas 2014 Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

HOLIDAY GIFTSSometimes it’s hard to know what that crazy cook in your life would really like for Christmas. And because of that, since we too are crazy cooks, sometimes we don’t always get our heart’s desire either!

Last year for Christmas one of my sons gave me something truly adventurous to try in the kitchen—a Molecular Gastronomy Kit. That’s a mouthful all by itself. It is a selection of natural texturing agents that can be used to deconstruct any dish or cocktail using molecular techniques. Still don’t get it?  Me either until I tried it out. Lots of fun and adventure here.

So let’s get shopping! There isn’t much time left. Most everything can be purchased online to make gift giving easier for us last-minute people. Luckily “cyber Monday” has become “cyber Everyday ‘Til Christmas!” There are lots of sales yet to be found.

Top Ten Gifts for An Adventurous Cooking Life

10. Cookie Cutters from cookiecutter.com. Yes they have a lot of cookie cutters including for Christmas but also for all the other holidays AND you can have a custom designed cookie cutter made! Now that’s a cool idea! Shipping is free for all orders over $50.

9.  Suzanne’s Specialties brown rice syrup. Traditional rice syrup plus flavored syrup such as chocolate, maple, raspberry and more!  High quality, no sugar, complex carb sweetener with flair. Maybe your favorite health-conscious cook will make you some cookies! You can get a mix and match pack of 4 or 12 of these through Christina Pirello’s website, Christina Cooks. (Yes, I confess, I just bought a four-pack for myself the other day.)  The pricing is good and includes shipping. About $30.

8. Winter Forest Soaps and Lotions from Williams Sonoma. I usually don’t go in much for scented things but this one made with essential oils, Winter Forest, really captures my imagination and it is delightful! It comes in a dish soap, a counter cleaner and a hand lotion. My Hubbin’ gets this for me almost every year!  $12-$42.

7.  The R-Evolution Molecular Gastronomy Kit. This is the one I described. There are several places to order this from and here’s one—Cookswarehouse  About $60.

6. Teavana Perfect Tea Maker. I saw this demonstrated at my local Teavana store and I have asked Santa for one (Pleeeease!) If you love loose leaf teas you know that they can be messy and it’s easy to waste the tea. You can put the tea in an unbleached tea bag, But it is not so easy to reuse the tea for a second cup. If you try to use the tea loose in the tea pot, you have to strain it out and the clean up is tedious as well as wasteful. This little glass teamaker comes in two sizes and is very reasonably priced. Teavana does have a website.  $20.

5. Vitamix on QVC. I always wanted a Vitamix and two years ago I saw it on a great sale on the QVC on TV. They ship it to you when you order and you can make payments. This turned out to be a less painful way for me to purchase—and immediately receive—my Vitamix which I love love love. So if you’re favorite cook has this expensive piece of equipment at the top of his or her list, I highly recommend getting on the QVC website and watching for those holiday sales and easy payments. It is very well worthwhile.  $500.

4.  Back by popular demand! Flavored high-quality balsamic vinegars from Oleaceae. No limit to what an adventurous chef can come up with using these! Cocktails, dessert sauces, dressings and marinades all from vinegar?  Yes! Unfortunately it is too late to get a delivery by Christmas but don’t let that stop you! These are incredible gifts even if late. $20 a bottle.

3. DIY photographic light box. If your chef is also a food blogger, maybe you’ve seen how frustrating it can be to take decent photos of food! Believe me it is really hard to get a good result unless you can control the environment your photographing in—especially the light! What could be more thoughtful than a hand made gift that takes about 20 minutes to make and uses only a few common and inexpensive materials? (Etsy entrepreneurs would also love this.) Learn how to make a light box here.  $10 or so and a little of your time.

2. Personalized Chef gear from Chefwear.  I once got a personalized chef hat and chef pants for Christmas and wore them and wore them. What a fun way to acknowledge the chef in your life! They even have them in kids’ sizes!  $10.95-$32 plus personalized embroidery.

and the number one fabulous gift for the chef in your life . . . . .

1. Every chef enjoys a night off from the kitchen. Or a long weekend. Or even a week! But if your fave chef is very health and natural food conscious, you probably know that he or she has a hard time finding ANY restaurant or resort that serves meals that are up to their own standards. I can tell you that around my city, I’m the best chef I know and I enjoy my cooking better than any I can buy in any restaurant. What’s a hard-working chef to do?

How about a Healthy Cruise!!!!? Now you’re talkin’!  This is the one to take.

Holistic Holiday at Sea March 12-15, 2015  Features macrobiotics, vegan, T. Collin Campbell, seminars, excursions and cruise ship entertainment and amenities. $3,000 – $8,000 or so per couple.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!

 

 

The Queen’s Navee Beans

1024px-Pinaforeplaybill

“When I was a lad I served a term
As office boy to an Attorney’s firm.
I cleaned the windows and I swept the floor,
And I polished up the handle of the big front door.
I polished up that handle so carefullee
That now I am the Ruler of the Queen’s Navee!” — Sir Joseph

H.M.S. Pinafore by Gilbert and Sullivan

~~~~~~

No idea why they call these little white beans “Navy Beans.” Anyone have a guess? Unfortunately for the introduction of my blog here, these small white Great Northern beans, also called “pea beans,” got the name “Navy Beans” because they were a popular staple for the U.S. Navy in the 20th Century.

Small white great northern beans

That doesn’t stop me from singing Gilbert and Sullivan while making my Navy Bean Soup!!

One little trick in preparing these beans (or any beans for that matter) is that I use a bit of kombu seaweed in the bottom of the pot while cooking the beans. Kombu adds minerals which help you digest the beans without an unintended “musical accompaniment” to your chorus.

Lest you think that kombu seaweed is only Japanese, let me remind you that kombu grows in cold Atlantic waters too and seaweed was used to wrap and eat pickled herring in the northern British Isles. Blimey!

The Queen’s Navee Bean Soup

(Makes One Gallon – eat some, freeze some)

  • 2 cups of white navy beans, soaked in spring water
  • 1/2 cup of pearled barley also soaked in spring water (you can put both the beans and the barley in the same soaking water after they’re washed, of course)
  • 1 4-inch piece of kombu seaweed
  • 1 large diced onion
  • 2 large diced carrots
  • 3 diced ribs of celery
  • 1 cup of diced mushrooms
  • sea salt
  • parsley
  • black pepper

What you need to know for this soup is basic bean preparation from dried beans:

First sort through the dried beans and barley and take out any stones or mysterious pieces of stuff. It’s so tempting to skip this step but much better to take the time now than to go to the dentist after someone has chipped a tooth on a small stone left in your soup. At the very least, stones are painful to bite down on.

Thoroughly wash the beans and barley in cold water. Do this by putting the beans and barley in a big bowl and filling with water. Use your hands to swish the beans around and pour off the dirty water. I don’t recommend a colander or sieve because they don’t allow the dirt to float away efficiently. Do this at least twice until the water comes out clean.

Soak the kombu, beans and barley in spring water for at least 2-3 hours or as long as overnight.

Place the kombu in the bottom of a large soup pot and layer the beans and barley over it. Cover with spring water and bring it to a simmer.

Do not add any salt at this point. If you add salt now while the beans are uncooked, they will not soften. Salt is added when the beans are almost done. At that point the salt will help finish the beans and sweeten the dish. (Yes I said “sweeten.” That is what good sea salt, properly used will do!)

Continue cooking the beans in this layered fashion without stirring. When the water cooks down, add more cold water to cover again. Do this as often as needed but only when the water has cooked down to almost gone. Adding the cold water to the hot beans will drive the heat into the beans and help them get cooked inside. The result is fully cooked beans that are not mushy.

The beans should soften up in an hour or so but there are no rules about this. You just have to see when they’re done. When the beans are about 2/3 done, add the diced onion, celery, carrots and mushrooms and cook them in until tender.

NOW add sea salt – about 1/2 teaspoon or more if your taste demands it. NOW you can also stir the soup up. [Note: I almost never take the kombu seaweed out. It cooks into the soup and usually breaks down into bits. Or, you can remove it and cut it up and put it back in. No point in wasting this fabulous source of plant-based minerals and trace minerals!]

When the beans are fully cooked, add more water to make the right consistency for soup. Season with pepper and garnish with parsley.,

Serve with greens or a salad and some crusty bread. I sometimes will mix in sauerkraut (Yes! Try It!) or serve pickled vegetables or a semi-pickled pressed salad with a hearty soup like this. It’s a meal to keep anyone’s Navy hard at work and soon they’ll be calling you, “Sir.”

BEAN AND BARLEY SOUP WITH KALE, PRESSED SALAD AND CRUSTY BREAD

Navy Bean and Barley Soup, Lightly Boiled Kale with Toasted Sesame Salt (Gomasio), Pressed Salad Pickles and Ye Olde Crusty Bread

Strawberries, Figs and Pears . . . Oh My!

Now that I’ve taken more than a month off from blogging, I better get back to posting wouldn’t you say?

My latest adventure in the kitchen is short and very sweet! My local store is featuring fresh organic figs and while I don’t eat figs very often, I was drawn to these with dessert in mind. I thought of pairing them with pears (forgive the clumsy quip) from my backyard tree. My pears were ripe and tender which was perfect with the figs. I have some wonderful “Cafe Espresso” Balsamic Vinegar in my refrigerator. Throw in a few bright strawberries and add a touch of mint and there you have a late summer dessert that will satisfy any sweet tooth.

Figs are pretty amazing looking, aren't they?

Figs are pretty amazing looking, aren’t they?

 

Figs and Pears with Savory Balsamic Sauce (one serving)

  • A half-dozen fresh, ripe organic figs
  • 1 organic pear
  • A few strawberries
  • 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar (You can add instant espresso powder for the “cafe” flavor, but I have seen espresso balsamic in several stores lately. Look in the gourmet section.)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of organic barley malt
  • pinch of sea salt
  • a dash of triple sec
  • Mint leaves

Wash the fruit thoroughly. Core the pears and slice anyway you want. Halve the figs and the strawberries.

In this combination, you want to adjust the fruits so they are pleasant and easy to eat together.  If your pears are very crisp, you can blanch them for just a few seconds in salted boiling water.  This has to be really really fast because you don’t want mushy fruit compote. You just want to take the edge off the crisp pears so they can be easily eaten in this dessert without losing the contrast between the softer fruit and the crisp pear.

In a small saucepan, bring your dark balsamic vinegar, barley malt and sea salt to a simmer and reduce the sauce to the desired thickness. Watch that you don’t over-boil the barley malt. If it gets very hot and boiled it will turn into a soft and then a hard candy texture.  Just simmer.

Assemble the fruit in bowls and put the sauce on them just before serving. Garnish with mint leaves.

Sweet as sweet can be!

Taming this fruit and sauce for photos was certainly a challenge!

Taming this fruit and sauce for photos was certainly a challenge!

What you don’t see . . .

What you don’t see on this blog are all the meals I make from day to day for myself and my husband.  So I thought I’d share a little of that with you.

I am no different from most of us in that from day to day, I do not always have time to make a full blown gourmet meal. Sometimes I am literally cooking on the run, throwing together whatever I’ve got and calling it done.

I always strive for deliciousness no matter what though, and sometimes I hit on something surprisingly tasty!

The other day, I was driving home from work—hadn’t done any food shopping—and came up with something based on what was in the pantry.

Can you say Mediterranean/Mexican?

This turned out to be a real taste sensation and we’re still savoring the last little bits.

MEDITERRANEAN LAYER CAKE PAINT

Maybe I could get away with calling this “Mediterranean Layer Cake.”  With Salsa.

Whole Wheat Couscous cooked in water and salt with diced carrots and organic corn kernels. Turn the couscous out onto a baking pan, flatten it out and let t cool. You’ll be able to serve it in neat squares.

Hummus can be store-bought or homemade. Mine was made in a hurry with a large can of organic cooked chickpeas, about 1/3 cup of tahini, juice of one large lemon and 3 cloves of garlic.

Here you see the couscouse layered with hummus and decorated with medium salsa. (So many many great salsa’s here in New Mexico!)

But in reality, this whole thing gets put into a bowl and gobbled up with a spoon or crammed into a food container and taken to work and then gobbled up with a spoon!

Sweet and Savory Apricot Salad

apricots in basket

Apricot Harvest!

Our first apricot harvest was quite a surprise. We just walked out back one morning and there they were, ready to be picked! Literally two days before they were not ready.

They turned out to be very good eating so I didn’t want to cook them. I opted for a simple fruit salad but with a little twist.

The apricots were washed, pitted and cut into halves. I added some blueberries and dressed them with a drizzle of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, chopped raw almonds and topped with coconut flakes. You could easily imagine an herb in there such as a touch of sage. A pinch of sea salt would enhance the sweetness, too.  I didn’t add salt this time because I didn’t want the salt to pull out more purple blueberry juice than I already had!

Fresh, light, sweet and slightly savory!

SWEET AND SAVORY APRICOT SALAD PAINT

Sweet and Savory Apricot Salad – not just for breakfast.

What’s Hiding in My Pancakes?

Wait just a minute!

What is hiding in my pancakes this morning?!

They look pretty normal. In fact they look pretty darned good. They tasted really good too. They had something extra—a taste, a texture, an additional je ne sais quoi!

HIDING IN PANCAKES PAINT

What’s hiding in these pancakes? (Hints:  A full serving of veggies but you can’t see them even on the inside. Yellow and stringy but so tender there’s no telltale sign of it. Delicate in taste, but so subtle one might never know.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cup of cooked spaghetti squash mixed into organic, whole grain pancakes.

Inspiring and Refreshing Summer Cooking

It was love at first sight when I spied their cute little round white heads peaking out from a cluster of delicate verdant leaves.

All it really takes for me to get inspired is a single outstanding element and an entire meal results. And what better time than early summer to find that inspiration! These baby turnips ooze summer, light refreshment!

REFRESHING SUMMER LUNCHEON

Baby turnips and greens with summer squash dressed with fresh ginger and coconut white balsamic vinaigrette.  

 

Cooking method for turnip and greens salad starts with the tiny turnips cut in halves and dropped into salted boiling water until just bright and slightly tender then take them out. Next the sliced summer squash is dropped into the same water for just a few seconds and removed. Finally the greens, sliced, get dropped into the water and removed as soon as the color turns bright green—less than a minute!  Drain and let it cool.

The vinaigrette consists of freshly grated ginger, coconut white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt.

The rest of the meal soon followed: Easy BBQ tofu, leftover radish pickles and corn and quinoa medley.

BBQ TOFU

Barbecued Tofu made with quick-grab-what’s-available homemade BBQ Sauce.

Barbecue sauce has got to be tangy, slightly sweet, slightly (or more than slightly) hot and its got to be thick and finger-lickin’ good.  No measuring occurred here – just thrown together country barley miso, barley malt syrup, aged balsamic vinegar, chipotle pepper sauce, garlic and a little mirin. It came out real good! Tofu doesn’t have any flavor on its own so these firm tofu triangles were marinated in the sauce for half an hour and then the whole shebang got baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

QUINOA AND CORN

Quinoa, corn and scallion medley.

While my tofu was marinating I washed up a cup of quinoa. Quinoa has a coating of saponin on it and that stuff tastes very bitter. So wash the quinoa thoroughly before cooking. I use 1 1/2 cups of spring water for one cup of quinoa and once it’s brought to a boil, simmer until all the water is cooked away — 20-25 minutes.  I cooked mine with 2 crushed and sliced garlic cloves and a pinch or two of sea salt. At the end I added the corn which has got to be organic. The sliced scallions and some roasted chopped almonds were tossed in last along with a bit of olive oil.

And the radish pickles?  See this post. Only this time I didn’t include the radish greens.

A note on choosing your inspiring vegetable or fruit

The later we get into summer, of course, the less “baby” veggies we’re going to see because, well . . . those little sprouts sure do grow fast don’t they? You can go ahead and make this turnip salad with regular turnips and turnip greens no problem. It can be just as refreshing as long as you choose your veggies wisely and that’s what I want to talk to you about.

As you’re shopping or harvesting from your garden, know that bigger is not always better. Vegetables that are allowed to grow really big are less flavorful, have more seeds and can even be pithy. You might be impressed with that giant baseball bat of a zucchini, but the little skinny one is going to taste better and sweeter.

I don’t pick the biggest onion or the biggest of any veggie or fruit. I pick what is not overgrown and not harvested too late.  I can’t think of any example where it’s better not to do that.

Happy inspiration and Happy Cooking!

 

 

How to do the Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

How do you have your body trained?  Is it trained to be overweight? To want lots of bread, pasta and sweets?  What about what most people call, “comfort food,” which is generally soft, sometimes gooey, and often sweet?  Like Mac n’ Cheese or Pot Pie?

There is a term I learned in fifth grade science — “homeostasis.”  Dictionary.com defines it as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.”  That’s about right.

Did you ever go on some kind of diet, actually lose a lot of weight, and think you had it made only to find out that your body weight crept back up over time. My friend Kate reminded me of this just a few weeks ago.

It’s because of homeostasis.

Especially if you try to lose the weight fast and/or with dramatically different dietary choices.  Your body is trained to be a certain way and is not going to easily be persuaded to make and maintain a sudden big change.  So you get cravings and thoughts that you “need” to eat something you may have been trying to avoid.

It works the other way around, too, if you trained your body to do something good or healthy.  For instance when I was younger, I worked out in a gym very regularly for many years. I was used to weight training and did it most of my adult life.  Then along came a period of time (years)  when I didn’t belong to a gym and didn’t work out at all. One day I got myself a new gym membership and signed up for a personal trainer to refresh my weight-training skills.

Almost from the beginning—once I got over being “sore” — it was as if my muscles remembered how it used to be. I got back into the workout routine incredibly fast and got very fast results. I was back to homeostasis.

I believe understanding the body’s need to maintain homeostasis is the key to making healthy changes. I do not support “fast” weight loss plans. I already know they will fail because they violate the survival drive of the body to maintain the status quo.

There are some times when someone needs to make very drastic and complete changes to their diet for health reasons. Such as they are trying to save their life! This takes extraordinary, long-term determination.

It is possible to make drastic, complete changes and do well with them even if you aren’t trying to save your own life. I’ve done it. I made a complete, turn-around, change-everything, 180 on my dietary habits when I started macrobiotics in the late ’70’s. How did I make that kind of change so successfully?  I moved into a house owned by two extremely experienced macrobiotic teachers, one of whom was a highly trained macrobiotic cook. She not only knew superb macrobiotic cooking—how to balance the diet, how to make the most delicious food in the world—she knew how to take one look at any one of us living there and understand what one ingredient or dish we needed if we were starting to crave our old ways or getting off balance in any way.

I ate her food/cooking every day for about two years while I learned to do it myself.  By the time I was done and living in my own house, my body had achieved a new training in how to “be” and what foods now represented “homeostasis.”

There are places you can go to learn how to cook this way, meaning the cooking, the balance, the understanding at a glance what food would help at any given time. There are schools and individual cooking teachers around the world who teach this.

So what do the rest of us do who aren’t going to live in someone else’s house and be fed every day while studying how to completely makeover our lifestyle?

Do the Hokey Pokey and, (you know the words)!

  • Consider finding a teacher who’s right for what you want to do and take a few cooking classes!  I taught cooking for over 35 years and have gotten many people off to a great start in pursuing healthier cooking and eating. For some people, taking ANY kind of cooking class would be good because many people are way, way too dependent on the short order cook at the fast food restaurant, or the factory production manager at the frozen food plant, or the good folks at the pizza delivery outlet. Go on! pick up a knife and a carrot and see what you can accomplish!
  • Do read up. Books and blogs are full of all kinds of food and dietary advice. I know—this is difficult because there is so much out there. How do you know what’s right? (I’d love to say, “gut feelings.”  Is that a funny joke?) A lot of the advice out there is pure nonsense but one thing I do know is that whatever route you take, YOU have to be interested. YOU have to decide it sounds good.  YOU have to invest your time and attention in something that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t turn out to be so great, you can always change your direction!
  • There are some really basic things that should be present no matter what kind of dietary advice you decide to try.
  1. Quality of food is extremely important. It should be organic and not have any genetically modified ingredients in it. (Non-GMO)
  2. Do not try to eliminate a whole major food group such as “carbohydrates.” That’s ridiculous because just about everything has carbohydrates just like nearly all food has protein to a greater or lesser degree. Worried about so-called “carbs?” Educate yourself to know the difference between a whole grain and a doughnut. All “carbs” are not the same and not bad.
  3. Until you learn how to balance your meals for optimum benefit, think “Variety.” Variety of colors, cooking styles, veggies, fruits, whatever it is. Variety will actually take you a long way toward your goal to eat healthier.
  4. Chew. Whatever it is you’ve decided to eat, whether right or wrong, it has got to be chewed very, very well. More info on that in my previous post.

Realize that unless you have an emergency health condition requiring immediate, drastic and extraordinary change, the healthy changes you decide to make amount to re-training your body so it becomes accustomed to a new state of homeostasis that can be maintained.