My Kind of Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and I wish all mothers a wonderful day! I know there will be special outings, dinners, flowers and gifts flowing today.  I’m a mother myself and like most mothers I’ve done my share of standing up for my children and protecting them when I see they may be in harm’s way.

So in celebration of Mother’s Day, this is what I’m writing about on behalf of all the mothers, the unborn, the newborn, the babies, the toddlers, the young sprouts, the teens, the grown children and the elderly.

DON’T LET PSYCHIATRISTS ELECTROSHOCK CHILDREN!

cchr protest photo

Most people I have talked to think electroshock therapy is totally barbaric and unacceptable.

Most people I know would never want to put themselves, their family or their friends through the agony of electroshock therapy. But they aren’t worried about it because . . .

Most people think electroshock therapy is something that was done in the past, circa “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

In fact, electroshock therapy is one of the most brutal “treatments” ever inflicted on people in the name of mental health care and is still being done today on at least a million people a year including about 100,000 elderly, pregnant mothers and children in the United States. (Yes, I said pregnant mothers.)

And the psychiatric industry would like to do much, much more of it. In the United States the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is lobbying the FDA to allow use of electroshock on children, stating in their letter to the FDA that having ECT available is “especially meaningful in children and adolescents….”

They are claiming that if allowed to give ECT to pregnant women, newborns and the very young, the children will not grow up with mental health problems. Yeah. 450 volts through the brain. That’ll quiet ’em down. Maybe forever.

To push their agenda further along, the APA is holding their annual conference next week in San Diego, California to discuss ETC for children. They will be severely challenged by some of the country’s most dedicated human rights activists–members of the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) and those who stand with them in solidarity against such brutal torture.

What Can You Do About This?

Join CCHR’s Protest March demanding that ECT is BANNED in the United States. The March will be on Saturday May 20th starting at 11 a.m. in Horton Plaza, 4th and Broadway in San Diego. Contact CCHRofLA@gmail.com.

Sign the CCHR petition to ban ECT here and share it with everyone you know.

Learn more about it here. 

 

 

 

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Get Back on the Rails with Three Easy Tips

This holiday season I managed to NOT GAIN any weight from Thanksgiving through Christmas. Quite a good accomplishment I would say! And, it is a first! Yes, I indulged and enjoyed treats and special meals but I just didn’t make every moment of every day in December be an excuse to stuff my face with foods I normally don’t eat. In fact, I think this is the first year in a long time that I remained unstuffed and mostly uncompromised during the celebrations. (Patting myself on the back.)

Even so, I certainly did make and eat more than my share of  holiday indulgences. Did you?  Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

“Time to clean up my act!”

What with the cookies, pies, stuffing stuffed in squashes, potatoes, and numerous other carb-loaded meals that seems like it would be the first place to cut back, doesn’t it?

Well . . . yes and no.

This is the traditional post-holiday season for joining weight-loss programs, making fitness resolutions and promising beneficial dietary changes. But that doesn’t mean we should go to the other extreme and attempt to cut out entire major food groups or set impossible and un-maintainable goals for ourselves.

Our bodies work on a basis of homeostasis. (I’m a poet and don’t know it,) The body likes to maintain the status quo. So if you want to make changes, you’ve got to train your body to be able to adjust the way you want it to.

Three easy tips to get back on the rails

1. Whole Grains.  My best advice after all those flour products and simple carbohydrates is NOT TO ELIMINATE CARBS!   Instead, consistently use whole grains and just cut out or cut back on the refined and processed grains.

Whole grains means the entire grain, unbroken and un-made-into-flour, not cracked, not rolled, not processed into any other format than just a grain. Included are things like brown rice, millet, quinoa (really a seed, but that’s okay), barley, buckwheat, wheat berries, whole oats—you get the idea.

HATO MUGI SPRING STEW

 

Pearl Barley with Black Beans and Carrots

Not included would be any breads, pastries, pastas, pizza dough, baked goods etc that are made with refined grains such as white flour. Check it out! “Rye bread” ingredients might say there’s rye flour but also it could say “wheat flour.,” That doesn’t mean whole wheat and probably means white wheat which has already been stripped down before it is even made into flour.  I think most of you know what the difference is between whole unrefined grains and the other stuff.

For the most part—at least for a while—I recommend avoiding or greatly reducing bread, cereal and flour products made from whole grains that were nonetheless cracked or floured, pasta, noodles. Also potatoes.

Some other foods that can help satisfy a craving for refined carbs are beans and squashes.

2. No sugar.   No sugar including honey, definitely no agave syrup (it is like high fructose corn syrup in how it affects your body), brown sugar, molasses, cane-anything and any products that contain these. But does that mean going from Sweets City to desolation? Absolutely not! You can get your whole grains and satisfy your sweet tooth by using whole grain sweeteners such as brown rice syrup and barely malt. These are complex carbohydrates and can be eaten in moderation without throwing your body off. See what I recommended in my top ten Christmas gift for cooks list.

FRESH COLLARDS

 

Collard Greens

3. Eat those veggies!   We all know we should eat veggies, but how much do we really need? I would say as much as you can manage but no less than 40-50% of your food volume. At least while you’re cleaning up your act. And every day this should include dark leafy greens like kale, collards, turnip greens, broccoli rabe, etc.

BEAUTIFUL WARM BRUSSELS SPROT SALAD

 

Warm Brussels Sprouts Salad

Even if you get some of your veggies in a smoothie, that is better than nothing.

 

This is by no means a complete rundown on what to eat to be healthy. There is so much more and so many great books and advices that you can read and follow.

These are, however, my top three tips on getting back into balance after a month-long holiday season of indulgences. This is what I’m doing and I’ll let you know how it goes.,

I’d love to hear what you are doing and how it is working for you!

 

Not Just Brownies Any More

Stoner Lasagna. I'm sorry but "stoner" is not a description to be proud of.

Stoner Lasagna. Nothing to be proud of.

Since it is the holiday season, what better time to return to my blogging after a three-month hiatus? After all, ’tis the season for all kinds of festive foods, holiday cheer and good wishes to my readers.

Yes, but that is not why I decided to write today. You can call me a Scrooge or a Humbug and I won’t mind. I came back here to have a little non-Christmasy rant about something.

I came across an Associated Press article about Executive Chef Chris Lanter who owns a French restaurant named “Cache” in Aspen, Colorado. Lanter was demonstrating to a group of “marijuana aficionados” how to prepare foods with marijuana in it. How to deglaze a pan with pot-infused brandy. How to “pair” marijuana with fine foods.

GIVE ME A BREAK!

Pot foodie:  “Excuse me Chef, but is it okay to pair Northern Lights with fish?”

A hip Chef: “Yes that is a lovely combination. And if you find you don’t like it, just take a few more hits and you won’t care!”

This is not new in Colorado ever since they passed a law legalizing this drug. The pot industry there is said to include “a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug.”

REALLY?  FROZEN DINNERS?

Kid to big brother: “I’m hungry and Mom’s not home from work yet.”

Big brother: “Don’t worry. I’ve got this frozen lasagna in the microwave and you can have some.”

Kid: “What’s that funny smell?

Big brother: “Who cares you doofus. Just eat it!”

Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he's going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his "cuisine" in his chic restaurant.

Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he’s going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his “cuisine” in his chic restaurant at the vast detriment to our society, especially our youth.

What really irks me is the way this whole thing is being positioned.  Chef Lanter is “acclaimed.” His eager audience paid $250 to see his pot demonstration and attend a special weekend celebration in Aspen.  Lanter’s French restaurant Cache is described as “tony.”

WELL LA DEE %^$#*& ING DA!

There is an ongoing public relations campaign to make consumption of marijuana acceptable. One must understand that there are vested interests and when you see a story about illicit drug use becoming okay to do, you are looking at someone’s PR campaign. All you have to do is follow the money.

Most people—even pot users—are not rock-solid certain that usng and consuming marijuana is a good idea because we all know it is a drug, it lessens our awareness, makes us introverted, and can be addictive and it has other undesirable side effects.

Or do we?  [No wait. It’s an ingredient, right? Like an herb? It’s natural and organic. It has to be safe because the government is legalizing it. I heard it’s even medicinal, dude! Look–here it is in this cookbook. How bad can it be?]

One wise person said to me, “It’s not just a ‘gateway drug.’ Let’s face it. It’s a full-blown addictive drug with damaging side effects all by itself.”

Justifications for legalizing this illicit drug are plentiful. In the meantime, the PR Spin goes round and round and has even targeted those of us who love food and cooking. What a frivolous excuse for a covert enterprise.

I will never be that kind of “chic” or “tony.”

I will never be that stupid and uninformed.

Here’s a link to some very good and accurate information about marijuana. The entire website is really, really excellent and I suggest it for yourself to be informed and of course for our children so they don’t grow up thinking marijuana-laced steak au poivre is fine dining. They need to know what it REALLY is.

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.

 

Food Recalls (Or, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”)

Food recalls can be really scary sometimes, especially if you think you may have the item in your kitchen or pantry or even worse, you may have eaten the suspect product! I haven’t written a lot about food recalls myself, but today I am going to do it if only so you can benefit from my experience.

A recent recall I read about was about 4,000 pounds of beef recalled due to “incomplete processing.”  That just leaves so much repulsion to the imagination that I can’t begin to express it. Downright lurid, that is.

Unfortunately I recall eating a lot of beef in my younger years. For instance my Dad grilled steak every Saturday night for dinner. The accompanying family fun and observing how proud Dad was to provide his family with prime grade-A beef made this seem like a good thing. All that delicious grilled fat with slightly crispy edges! The way the marbling made it taste!

Well, for the first few chews anyway. After that there is really no taste to speak of and I would swallow the rest. Talk about “incomplete processing!” I’ve observed that’s what most people do when eating beef or meat. The first few chews pull out the fat and added flavoring (BBQ sauce, chemical-laden tenderizer, marinade, spice rub, A-1, etc.) and the rest is tasteless and chewy and why bother to continue chewing?

Eventually I found out what happens to un-chewed foods such as meat and beef when you swallow it! Your stomach doesn’t have teeth  ya know!  Yes protein can be broken down but how big a chunk of un-chewed beef do you think your stomach is going to handle and how long does it take?

Not sure of the size limit, but I’m sure the food has to be pretty small to really get digested. As for the time it takes, beef and meat take L O N G and typically putrify before digestion has a chance to be completed.

Luckily our bodies are very survival-oriented and can stow that undigested food out of the way. Well, not exactly out of the way. Ever wonder what that overhanging gut is packing? Not just “fat.” It’s undigested food. And if the undigested food stays there long enough, it gets about as hard and solid and black as the macadam they pave your road with. Not exaggerating. Get out the jackhammer.

How’s that for lurid food recall?  “I recall eating too much meat and ending up with a parking lot paved gut!:”

To add insult to injury, there is the matter of meats such as beef creating an unhealthy acidic condition in your body. There is also the fact that eating a lot of meat easily creates an imbalance that often leads to craving sugar and sweets. No wonder the best part of my childhood Saturday night grilled sirloin dinner was roasting marshmallows over the still-hot grill after we ate!

You know when most people grill steak and other meats outside? In the summertime when the weather is hot and we don’t want to cook inside the house. You know what food can make your body produce heat like there’s no tomorrow? Meat and especially beef.

I mentioned this to someone just yesterday and he responded that he has noticed when he eats meat he sweats more.

Now we all know that everyone has not decided to give up meat. Beef is still “What’s for dinner” for a lot of people. What to do? It is not easy maintaining balance and health while eating beef and other meats but it is easy to start controlling and counteracting the negative effects.

  1. (Obvious if you read this post) Chew your food until it is liquid. This is an old, traditional maxim that people used to know. Know now that it still holds true. Chewing is your first digestive action and is extremely important even if the flavor of your steak has waned.
  2. Cooked food does not have live enzymes to help digest it. So follow this advice too: “Don’t dine without enzymes!”
  3. Portion your meat serving so you are eating twice as many leafy greens plus other vegetables as meat. And the smaller the portion of meat, the better. Do you really need a 12-oz New York strip or would a few slices of very high-quality beef strips in a large veggie salad give you the flavor and satisfy the craving?
  4. Quality counts. It is well-known that animals raised for food production such as beef cattle are fed with GMO feed, antibiotics and hormones. At least buy organic. If organic seems expensive, wait until you find out how expensive those medical bills will be when your heavy and unbalanced, undigested meat eating habits catch up with you!

For more information on making the transition to a healthier diet, contact me directly. (See sidebar)

Marketing Word Games

Have you seen this?  so delicious PAINT sugar free cocunut milk

 

It’s just a little tricky thing some of the alternative milk companies are doing.

The label on the front says “No Sugar Added.” You might think you’re getting something without sweetener.

No. You’re not. You’re getting something that doesn’t have sugar but does have some kind of other sweetener added that you may or may not want.

They used to just say “unsweetened” and that was that. But now there is “unsweetened” and this other, “No sugar” label.  They are definitely not the same.

To be fair, there is nothing on this label that tries overtly to make you think there is no sweetener at all in this product. But I know food shoppers and I know that many of us don’t actually read every label and if we do, we might not get all the ingredients that we aren’t familiar with defined for us before we buy and consume them.

I just bought a box of So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk. That was after first picking up and reading the one that said “Sugar Free.” The sweeteners were “Reb A,” which is a stevia extract and “Monk fruit” which is a small, exotic Asian fruit that one writer called the “latest darling of the alternative sweetener world.”

Monk fruit sweetener, however is usually mixed with other things such as erythritol, a sweet substance extracted from certain lichens and algae, along with molasses and sugar. Another monk fruit sweetener recently marketed also contains corn-derived dextrose.

Right off the bat when I see one of those words ending in “ose” I know that it is a simple sugar that can wreak havoc with our bodies just like any refined sugar does. I personally stay away from foods with any “-ose” ingredients and that has been a very workable way to avoid unhealthy sweeteners.

Then there’s the matter of “corn-derived,” which should raise another red flag if you’re interested in avoiding genetically modified foods. Corn, unless it specifically says “organic,” is most likely GMO. The exception is when you buy corn at a farmers market, can talk to the farmer himself and he says he doesn’t grow GMO crops and you trust his integrity. But then you aren’t buying a corn-derived extract from him, so he can’t help you with the monk fruit sweetener problem.

I don’t know which type of monk fruit sweetener the folks at Turtle Mountain (who manufacture the So Delicious line) used. But I know that I’ll avoid it altogether and stick with the “So Delicious Unsweetened” which I like very much.

The moral of the story is 1) Read your labels thoroughly, and 2) Understand what the ingredients actually are before trusting you should consume them.

 

 

It’s Breakfast Time!

SCRAMBLED TOFU BREAKFAST

Good Morning!

A big part of The Healthy Cooking Game is that in order to play like the pros, you need to start finding out what foods do for you.  cooking game logo

Huh?  What foods do? Don’t they get somewhat chewed up and digested and, voila! You don’t need any more for a little while?

Yes. Yes, that’s right in the most basic sense. But there’s so much more to know! Take breakfast for instance. If you eat eggs, do you know what they do for you?

The Incredible Edible Egg website says an egg has about 6.2 grams of protein, 4.8 grams of fat (1.6 of that is saturated), 186 grams of cholesterol and a few vitamins and minerals. But the nutritional data is not the only thing I’m talking about.

Eggs are a very concentrated food. After all, a fertilized egg is the beginning of an entire chicken. Technically speaking, you could consider an egg to be a whole food for that reason. When a food is so concentrated with fat and protein, it takes much longer to digest and in order for your body to really break it down to become useful, you’ve got to be able to balance that egg with things that help with that breakdown and assimilation. (Cruelly, bacon, hash browns and pancakes with butter and syrup just don’t do the trick.)

I would think that in order to create BALANCE with an egg, you would eat at least 3-4 times the volume of dark leafy greens and other vegetables. You might want to know what veggies are really great for helping to break down that fat, too. Like shiitake mushrooms and daikon radish. Or that throwing in some ginger, onions and garlic could be helpful.

But are you sure you would want to eat that egg? Lately I’ve been very concientious about not eating foods that are genetically modified (GMO). You probably know that corn and corn products are big GMO foods unless they’re organic or officially labeled “non-GMO.”

Try going to the natural food store and finding eggs that you can be 100% certain have not come from chickens who were fed any GMO corn or other feed. You’ll see all kinds of “free-range,” “naturally fed,” and “from down on the farm.”  In order to be truly GMO-free, your egg has got to be organic and so does the chicken it came from and so does the food the chicken ate. They are there on the shelves too, for a price. You’ve really got to read that carton to be sure what you’re getting!

Why not skip all that worry and have your scramble and your balance?

Scrambled Tofu

Serves Two

  • 8 oz of firm organic tofu (I prefer sprouted tofu—very digestible)
  • 1 large shallot, sliced thin
  • 1 cup of diced yellow summer squash
  • 1/2 cup of fresh chopped parsley
  • tumeric
  • red chili pepper flakes (optional)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Put about a tablespoon of olive oil into a heavy skillet and let it start heating up while adding the shallots. Add a pinch of sea salt here to bring out the flavor of the shallots. When the shallots are translucent and pretty soft (they will have a very sweet taste cooked this way) add your diced yellow squash and another pinch of salt and stir fry that for a minute or two.

Add the tumeric – about a half teaspoon. The tumeric will release a bright yellow color and you want that because when you add your tofu, it will become yellow too—just like scrambled eggs!

Take your tofu and squish it up with your hands so it looks like scrambled eggs and drop it into the pan. I love adding the chili pepper flakes at this point. Season the tofu with some sea salt. Stir the tofu around until it has become a lovely, “eggy” color.

Throw in the parsley at the end and turn off the heat. The parsley will cook a tiny bit with the heat already in the pan/food but will stay bright green. So pretty!

And what, hopefully you are asking, will scrambled tofu DO for me?

Four oz of tofu—such as one serving of this delicious recipe—contains about 10 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat and zero cholesterol! (Sorry egg people, you’re just not all that incredible.)  Tofu has many phytonutrients and known minerals and vitamins naturally occurring. Tofu is also highly digestible and won’t take hours like the egg will. (Note though, that soy beans are another crop that is pretty much across-the-board GMO unless it is certified organic.)

And the rest? Veggies including green parsley for additional vitamins and minerals and blood-cleansing chlorophyl. Plus fiber! Sea salt cooked in the food and not added on top of food at the table helps break down the food and make it taste sweeter and more delicious. Turmeric is well-known as a super hero in fighting inflammation. Plus it contributes a lovely yellow color! Chili pepper flakes are one of my favorite ways to get a little hot taste and help get the ol’ circulation going.

Talk about Breakfast of Champions!

 

The Healthy Cooking Game

In the healthy cooking game, there is no such thing as “running out of ideas for meals.” cooking game logo

When I look at the various ways people eat, one of the first things I notice is that when you include or base your meals on whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables, there is an infinity of things you can create. I myself have not eaten the exact same dinner twice in decades except for a few favorites that I intentionally repeat.

Seem like an exaggeration?  It’s not! I Googled “how many edible vegetables are there?” Most sites I found such as Ask.com and wiki.answers just said “thousands” as in—too many to count. One website points out that there are over 4,000 varieties of tomatoes alone.

The point is that you will never run out of interesting and unique combinations of grains, veggies, fruits and beans. (Ask.com says over 400,000 varieties of beans) You’ll never run out of new ways to put foods together!

Just for comparison I checked how many types of animals for eating there are. Couldn’t find a definitive answer or even an estimate. Did find a lot of places where the discussion was mainly cows, pigs and lambs chickens, turkeys, plus dog, horse, guinea pig, rabbit, squirrels, buffalo, elk, deer and I’m sure there are others. But the fact that I can pretty much list them out here should tell you something. There are quite a few more edible fish and sea life and that extends the list of choices much further.

The different preparations and cooking methods also have to be considered as do the use of seasonings, spices and herbs which change the taste and presentation of food. (By the way, when I say “cook,” I’m really saying “food preparation”: and I include raw and fermented foods in “cooking.”)

No matter what kinds of food you are eating—meats, no-meats, vegetarian, vegan, etc.—eating a wide variety of foods made different ways has never been easier.

In the cooking game, the freedoms we have are enormous. One freedom is that we have fast shipping of foods from any part of the world. If it is winter in your hemisphere, you can get summer fruits and veggies from the other hemisphere.  It’s right there in your food store.

SPONGE GOURDAfrican Sponge Gourd

The ability to procure foods from anywhere in the world seems so convenient.  Except that it makes it so easy to ignore an important condition for healthy cooking:

BALANCE

There’s a lot of ways to look at balance. In the healthy cooking game, it means that you are  choosing, preparing and eating food in the best possible way in order to fulfill your goals and purposes for eating.

Say what?

That is a very broad statement, I know. But the concept of “balanced diet” or “balanced cooking” covers every aspect of this part of health and living. Balance is something to achieve no matter what kind of food you choose to eat. I will talk about balance more but for now I’m talking about choosing which of the gazillions of possible foods, combinations, seasonings and cooking methods should you use for “balance?”

Think about how things were less than 100 years ago. We could not easily get foods from other parts of the world. We did not go to SUPER markets to shop. Most people had their own garden, access to locally grown foods only at their market, and what was there to purchase was also in season.

If you lived in Minnesota and it was January, you didn’t see fresh pineapple in the market or growing outside in your garden. And if you did get hold of some tropical foods and eat them in Minnesota during the winter, you would have a harder time staying warm. Because tropical fruits balance the hot climates in which it grows. They make one cooler!

Why would you start eating foods that for the most part are in season and grow in your area or climate and forego the flown-in rambutan from Queensland? Because foods that grow in your area and in season are already naturally balanced for your environment! How much easier could it be to know what foods are generally in good balance with your climate where you are living?

rambutan 2

Rambutan is a tropical fruit is native to Southeast Asia.

 

In the Healthy Cooking Game, we have the freedom of an international selection of foods at our fingertips and we have the challenge of balancing our food choices so we make the most of our ability to create the effect we desire with our meals.

More to follow.

Shocking Celebrity Sighting!

Today’s Daily Prompt asks:  Scour the news for an entirely uninteresting story. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that.

Have you seen MSN or Yahoo home pages where they shout various hot stories at you? There’s always some celebrity gossip available and usually none too flattering. These don’t interest me at all because I respect artists and I’m not into cabal.

The page I saw was this one:

“CELEBRITY TOOB:  3O FAIRLY SHOCKING PICTURES OF CELEBRITIES WITHOUT MAKEUP PHOTOS”

(Gotta love the redundancy here. You can tell this is high-class news reporting.) I looked these pix over and thought most of the celebs looked pretty darned okay without their glam on. Just as I was thinking they shouldn’t be too offended, I came upon picture #25. This was a celebrity I’ve known nearly all my life. One that is beloved the world over and has personally been a part of millions of lives!

I was shocked indeed! No need to tell you who she is—you’ll recognize her in an instant.

Celebrities_Without_Makeup_25

This is just wrong. Barbie deserves way more respect than this. But even so, Barbie looks amazeballs with or without her makeup, doesn’t she? (Perfect hair. How does she do it?)

Of course this connects to My Cooking Life. I was immediately reminded of something that happened just last night!

I was cruising around my natural food store late last night after work looking for some ready-to-eat dinner. I was going through the produce section on my way to the deli hot food when I spotted them.

I couldn’t believe it! Completely whole. No trimming. No preparation. No hiding their large, rough, blemished roots. One of the most famous, world-renowned celebrity ingredients in nearly every cuisine, cooking method and dietary program.

And I caught them incognito without a speck of glam!

CELERY ROOT PAINT

True culinary stars loved by all. Do you recognize them? I didn’t at first until I took a closer look.

CELERY ROOT CLOSE UP

“We’re not quite ready for our close-up, Mr. DeMille,” they exclaimed. “Don’t worry, Miss Celli, you’re gorgeous just as you are!” I answered.

I was so thrilled, I didn’t bother asking for an autograph. I swept these two off their shelf and brought them home with me. Imagine what these will look like when they’re all glammed up! Ahhh, the things you have to endure in show biz.

Stay tuned for that. . .

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Are You a “Meat and Potatoes” Type of Vegan?

I seem to be a “Meat and Potatoes” type of vegan!

I want to talk about a concept that is emerging in my own universe lately. The concept is “concentrated foods.” By that I mean, foods that are extremely nutrient dense and  packed with a large amount of macronutrients in a relatively small portion.  (Macronutrients: proteins, carbohydrates, fats)

I bring this up because despite eating very healthfully for nearly forty years—mostly vegan but a few of those years not so much—I have always struggled with my weight. It was because of this that as a young girl I began seeking to understand how the body works and what foods were best for it. I have written many times about those journeys so I won’t do that again here.

Suffice it to say that I learned a lot, became much more healthy as years went by, strengthened my immune system, found out how to use foods as medicine and overall became much more in control of things.

But darn it! It is still so very easy for me to put on too much weight!  I know many people who do not eat a Standard American Diet and who try their best to choose healthier more nutritious foods and even some who are vegetarians, vegans or macrobiotic who, like me, still struggle with this problem.

So I started looking at the broad sketch of how I have approached food and spotted something very interesting. No matter what I was eating, what  program I was following, or dietary lifestyle I was living including all the years I was macrobiotic I have always gone for the dense, concentrated foods and eaten too much of them. That worked fine when I was a young, busy nursing mother with two other toddlers to chase after but that’s the only time that worked for me.

Mochi

Mochi (Photo credit: Nikki_Bees)

There are gradients of how concentrated foods can be. It’s just common sense.  For example:

  • Peanut butter – concentrated fat and some protein. Easy to slather a heap of this stuff onto each cracker, rice cake or slice of bread.
  • “Healthy” breads. Not knocking them, No Sireee. But have you weighed some of these lately? They can be concentrated, condensed slices, can’t they? A vegan Triple-Decker Club sandwich made with this bread could sink a ship!
  • Brown rice mochi – very concentrated whole grains (sticky, sweet brown rice mashed down into a concentrated form and then often fried.) But how many of those do you need at one time? Especially in an Udon Noodle Soup with Tofu Broth?
  • Almonds. Innocent, wonderful Almonds. A great snack! But you’re not running a marathon or working the farm each day, exactly how many of those do you need for your mid-afternoon pick-me-up?
  • Rice and beans – probably about in the middle of the scale. But the whole-grains-and-beans thing can indeed be overdone if it isn’t balanced with veggies and other necessary dietary components.
  • Vegetables – mostly light. But watch this—do you head for the winter squashes, potatoes and the heavier vegetables more than the leafy greens?
  • Oils – yup, they’re concentrated aren’t they? How many olives does it take to make a tablespoon of olive oil, I wonder? (Estimates are 20-40 olives depending on their type and size.) How many sesame seeds to make that teaspoon of toasted sesame oil that I love to cook my mochi in?
  • Fruits – mostly pretty light but what’s the difference between say a banana and an apple or between grapes and dried fruit? Dried fruit is concentrated and pack a lot in a small portion. That’s why it is so easy to overeat them.
  • Some of those avocado-based mousses I’ve been making—Do I eat the same size slice of that as I would an apple pie? Hmmmm, I think not!

Please, please, please! I am not saying any of these foods are bad or shouldn’t be eaten.

My point is simply this:  Even if virtually all the food you eat is organic, plant-based very nutritious and good for you, you can still eat too much of the concentrated foods and too little of the lighter ones. That’s all I’m saying. That is what I’m looking at.

Why do you think the bloggers posting all the casseroles, rich desserts and thick hearty soups and stews are so popular? Because that’s what we like and that’s what we probably all overindulge in if we’re honest with ourselves. Okay, I’ll cut you a break. I’ll say, “If I’m honest with myself!” I love these recipes and try out many of them at home. But if they use dense or nutrient-concentrated foods, it is so easy for me to over do it.

When I’m not paying attention, I go for the concentrated food and skimp on the lighter ones. I can so easily fall into being the “meat and potatoes” type in the world of vegan food.

It all has to do with the question of balance. I learned how to eat a balanced diet but it seems that over the years with changes in my body and my age and other things, I’ve lost my balance and now I know I need to find it again.

I don’t know why this is exactly—this indulgence in concentrated foods. I have heard and read many explanations that I don’t find all that helpful or workable. Do we really have to be semi-experts in hormones? I don’t think so. I could just as well say it’s “The American Way” as an explanation.  I just know that I’ve spotted for myself a major underlying concept about how I have chosen to eat all my life no matter what the cuisine was.

This is a concept I can work with. This is a good beginning.

So for now, my own decision has been to eat at least 50-60% vegetables daily. That is a guideline I have set up for myself and I’m not saying that is what you need or what you should do.

And, I’m going to follow up with many more posts showing recipes and how-to’s for vegetables. Let’s see what I come up with!!!

In the meantime I would really love to know what your experiences are with this. I’d like to know:

1) What do you see as being an ideal way for you—as an individual—to eat and is it easy for you to be that? (i.e. be vegetarian, be vegan, be omnivorous, etc.)

2) Do you follow some kind of diet or weight-loss plan or do you “wing it?”

3) Are you successful with what you do?

4) What exactly are your successful actions?

5) If you have a “downfall,” what is it?

6) Do you encounter a similar problem of overindulging in the more dense, concentrated foods and skimping on the lighter ones?

7) What would you like to know or learn most about including a bigger percentage of actual vegetables in your daily diet?

8) What vegetables would you like to have more recipes or preparation ideas for?