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Archive for May, 2010

melissa’s bimonthly potluck picks

bi•month•ly (adjective) – occurring or produced twice a month or every two months: a bimonthly blog post.

pot•luck (noun) – used in reference to a situation in which one must take a chance that whatever is available will prove to be acceptable: melissa’s bimonthly potluck picks.

Rather than a single-subject blog post, how about a few short, random samplings arbitrarily chosen depending on my mood? Instead of foto-Friday or meatless-Monday, I’ll do bimonthly potluck picks. That way I’m not committed to anything specific. Or often, for that matter. There’s no way I could commit to a weekly feature.

Every other week? Maybe. Every other month? Probably.

I love the ambiguous dictionary description of bimonthly. The indefinite and broad interpretation is perfect for someone like me who has no idea when my next blog post will occur or what it will be about.

Here we go — my first bimonthly potluck picks blog post. Hang on, I might wander into weird and icky territory.

Pick #1
advanced placement label reading

Castoreum extract is a food additive found in some processed foods. It’s been used as a flavor ingredient for the past 80 years and both FEMA (Flavor and Extract Manufacturer’s Association) and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) regard castoreum as “generally regarded as safe” (GRAS). I avoid processed foods, but I imagine I’ve probably eaten castoreum at some point in my life. Here’s the truth behind the label. According to Webster’s Dictionary, castoreum is (cue retching sounds) a peculiar bitter orange-brown substance, with strong, penetrating odor, found in two sacs between the anus and external genitals of the beaver.

Enough said. Avoid processed foods.

Pick #2
Celiac Awareness Month

Last year the House of Representatives, with the Senate concurring, named May as National Celiac Awareness Month. Hmmm? And all these years I’ve been throwing my celiac soirées in October (former National Celiac Awareness Month). Increased awareness and Congressional support for advocacy and education regarding celiac disease is good, the month really doesn’t matter.

On second thought, I have celiac disease and May is my birthday month (emphasis on the whole month). Perfect reason for a May Congressional declaration and a gluten-free party. Or gala. I prefer birthday galas. Big, glittery galas with lots of presents.

Pick #3
Misnamed solar plexus

Following up on Celiac Awareness Month, I’d like to share something I learned many years ago in my cadaver lab. You’ve heard the term solar plexus, right? Well, it’s not called the solar plexus, it’s the CELIAC plexus. A plexus is a intricate network of nerves or vessels in the body. The following was taken directly from my Principles of Anatomy and Physiology textbook: The celiac plexus is found at the last thoracic and first lumbar vertebrae. It is the largest autonomic plexus and surrounds the celiac and superior mesenteric arteries. It contains two large celiac ganglia and a dense network of autonomic axons. Secondary plexuses that arise from the celiac plexus are distributed to the liver, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, spleen, kidneys, medulla (inner region) of the adrenal gland, testes, and ovaries.

Doesn’t that sound like this celiac plexus thingy-ma-bob has an important role? Like maybe keeping us alive?

Then how come so many people in the healthcare profession (including doctors) have never even heard of the word celiac? Just wondering.

Pick #4
Best plant-based sources of calcium

Those of us who don’t eat dairy products (or in limited amounts) can get our calcium from plant-based sources. Here are some of my favorite high-calcium, non-dairy foods.
pinto beans (1 cup cooked), 82 mg calcium
chickpeas (1 cup cooked), 77 mg
sesame seeds (2 tablespoons), 176 mg
bok choy (1/2 cup cooked), 79 mg
collard greens (1/2 cup cooked), 178 mg
kale (1/2 cup cooked), 90 mg
dried figs (5 figs), 137 mg
blackstrap molasses (1 tablespoon), 172 mg

How was that? Is this worth repeating on a bimonthly (whatever that might mean) basis?

Peace, love and potluck picks!
P.S. As for pick #1, I’ll be sure to include something equally disgusting next time.

homemade vegetable soup stock

Having a jar of homemade stock available is at the top of my list of “essentials” when it comes to healthy cooking. I use stock for everything from sautéing greens and making rice to adding moisture to my veggie burger mix. It’s also a great way to use up bits and pieces of veggies that probably wouldn’t have a life of their own if not mixed together for stock. These are the stragglers that are one step ahead of the compost pile. Rather than using them to make dirt, use them to make stock.

Here’s how.

what you need (this is a launching pad, use whatever you have on hand)
Place random veggie parts and pieces in a large, deep stock pot. Full the pot half-full with chopped veggies. Add some garlic, fresh or dried herbs (parsley, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, bay leaves), salt, 2 to 4 whole peppercorns and some dried mushrooms. The mushrooms are optional, but they do add a nice earthy flavor and substance to the stock. You can also add chopped jalapeno or red pepper flakes if you want stock with a kick. Cover with cold, filtered water, bring to a boil, turn heat down, put a lid on it and simmer for about 1 to 2 hours. Cool and strain. I often pick through the strained veggies and purée a few favorites to add a touch of thickness to the stock.

Veggie stock will keep in the fridge for about 4 or 5 days and in the freezer for 2 to 3 months. I freeze it in small batches, so I can pull out a container and use it for a couple of days to sauté vegetables or heat up already cooked rice or quinoa. I’m a fan of olive oil or coconut oil for sautéing, but using broth is low fat and low calorie. Plus it adds a nice, rich flavor to whatever you’re cooking.

* I keep a glass jar in the fridge for non-compostable (the elite stuff) veggie remnants during CSA season. I go through veggies so quickly that saving the better cast-aside pieces for making stock works well. Slightly past their prime is fine, bordering on old age is not good.

Peace, love and veggie remnants!

far-out food revolution

Okay, so I’m a hippie-girl at heart. I’ve got flowers in my hair, organic kale in my garden and I’m ready for a revolution. A new, old-school food revolution. Jamie started it and Diane at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang is helping him spread it across the blogosphere. At last count there were well over a half a million people who had signed Jamie’s pledge to shift from processed food to whole, fresh food. I’d say he’s got his revolution going!

Diane has put together her own version of this revolution — 30 days, 30 different food blogs, 30 ways to eat real food. Check here for details. Today’s my day to share tips for eating healthy and finding delight in thriving on wholesome food. Check out my guest post (8 steps to “revolutionary” transformation and maybe even enlightenment) at The W.H.O.L.E. Gang.

“Be at least as interested in what goes on inside you as what happens outside. If you get the inside right, the outside will fall into place.”
— Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Leek and Potato Soup from Jamie’s Food Revolution Cookbook
I was inspired by the recipe, rather than ruled by it, so I added beet greens.

serves 6-8

what you need
2 carrots / 2 celery stalks / 2 small onions / 1 pound leeks / 2 cloves garlic / 1 & 3/4 quarts chicken or vegetable broth, preferably organic / 1 pound potatoes / olive oil / sea salt and freshly ground pepper / maybe some greens (my addition)

what you do
Peel and roughly chop the carrots. Slice the celery. Peel anc roughly chop the onions. Cut the ends off the leeks, quarter them lengthways, wash them under running water, and cut them into ¼ inch slices. Peel and mince garlic. Put the broth in a sauce pan and heat until boiling. Place a large saucepan on medium/high heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add all your chopped and sliced ingredients and mix together with a wooden spoon. Cook for around 10 minutes with the lid askew, until the carrots have softened, but are still holding their shape, and the onion and leeks are lightly golden. Peel the potatoes and cut them into ¼ inch dice. Add the boiling broth to the vegetables. Add your potatoes. Give the soup a good stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer with the lid on.

to serve your soup
Remove the pot from the heat. Season with salt and pepper. Serve like this or pulse until smooth using an immersion blender. Tip with some crumbled cheese or roasted sunflower seeds if you’d like.

* I added washed and chopped beet greens at the end and simmered the soup for another few minutes to cook the greens.

nutrition notes on fresh, whole, organic foods used in the recipe
Leeks are related to onions and garlic and have anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Leeks also contain a protective flavonol (with an “o” – chemically different from flavanols with an “a”) called kaempferol, which is anti-carcenogenic. Research (the real thing) indicates that leeks provide antioxidant protection and may have some wonderful cancer-fighting properties.
Potatoes are a healthy low calorie, nutrient-dense food if they haven’t been soaked in oil (think French fries) or smothered in sour cream and bacon bits. They’re high in vitamin B6, which is being studied for its ability to activate tumor-suppression genes. Rich in antioxidants, folic acid, fiber, and other health promoting substances, potatoes also have a detoxifying effect on the body. Choose organic as potatoes are part of the Environmental Working Group’s dirty dozen (highest in pesticides).
Beet greens are low calorie, nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory. They’re packed with vitamins A, C, and K and are rich in magnesium, potassium, manganese, iron and calcium. Don’t throw the greens away, add them to soups or sauté them like you would spinach or other greens. Seriously, beet greens are what Hippocrates was talking about when he said, “let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”

Go forth and start your own personal food revolution!

springtime renewal & detox guidelines

Spring is the season of awakening, time to crawl out from under the weight of winter and transition into summer. It’s a perfect time to move away from heavy foods to lighter fare and commit to a mild cleanse to refresh, renew and revitalize. My form of detoxifying is simple and easy (except for that no wine, no coffee thing). Nothing extreme, nothing weird, nothing expensive – just a chance to focus on nourishing foods and get rid of the bad habits that periodically creep back in.

My dictionary describes detoxification as, the metabolic process of removing toxic substances or neutralizing toxic properties from the body (normally a function of the liver); an application that is intended to relieve illness or injury.

Detoxifying cleanses are normally safe and very beneficial, but check with your health care professional first, especially if you’re pregnant, nursing or have a chronic disease.

Melissa’s spring cleanse/detox

1. Organic
Organic food is free of chemicals, pesticides, herbicides, hormones, antibiotics and is generally easier for the body to break down, absorb and assimilate. Some studies show organic foods to be higher in nutritional value, but what they lack is almost more important, especially while cleansing. The point of detoxifying is to get rid of the nasty stuff from your system, not add to it. We’re living in a different world than our ancestors did and are exposed to 40,000 – 50,000 chemicals that didn’t exist decades ago. The average American (eating the Standard American Diet, also known as the SAD diet) ingests around 120 pounds of additives per year. Choose organic, whole foods whenever possible.

2. Avoid
Eliminate all gluten-containing grains (whether you need to in normal life or not), dairy (with a few exceptions); most soy foods; sugar; caffeine; soda; alcohol; meat; all processed, packaged, and fast food. Cut back on starches (potatoes, yams, peas and beans) and nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant).

3. The base
Eat a combination of fresh organic vegetables, a good portion of them raw. Eat more vegetables than fruit and choose fresh fruit over dried (although unsulphered, unsweetened dried fruit is fine in moderation). Use olive oil for salad dressings, coconut oil for cooking and ghee for other uses (if you like ghee, which is clarified butter). Unfiltered raw honey or stevia can be used for occasional sweetening. Pastured organic eggs, naturally sweetened goat yogurt or kefir, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa and teff are fine in moderation. So are raw cheese, nuts and seeds (again, in moderation).

4. Rough it up
Eat lots of whole, high-fiber foods. Fiber in the form of raw veggies and fruit is instrumental in helping to move toxins out of the body. Fiber is high on my list of important substances, but add it slowly or you’ll explode (and it won’t be pretty). At the least, you’ll be feeling icky until you get used to the sweeping effects on your digestive system.

5. Flush it out
Drink lots of water while cleansing, especially since you’ll be increasing your fiber intake. Water, water, water! Divide your weight in half — that’s the amount of water in ounces you should drink daily. If you weigh 150 pounds, that’s 75 ounces of water per day, which is about nine or ten 8-ounce glasses.

6. Turn up the heat
Not in your house, but in your body. Exercise daily and sweat it out. I love yoga for detoxifying as it’s bendy and twisty and stimulates fluid movement in the body. It helps wring things out. Sweating and deep breathing helps eliminate toxins via the breath and skin. This is one of the most important components of detoxifying, healthy living and thriving – movement and developing a conscious mind/body connection. Skip the high-powered pounding on the stairmaster or the 80s-style aerobics classes and opt for yoga, walking, hiking, dancing or tai chi (choose less intense and more calming exercise). Most importantly, have fun and choose activities you enjoy and will do daily.

7. Eat less
According to my Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition book, if you live for 65 years or longer, you will have consumed more than 70,000 meals and disposed of 50 tons of food. FIFTY TONS OF FOOD?! Wow, that’s almost creepy. Actually, it is creepy. Okay, I will admit to eating more calories than I need a good part of the time, but spending a little less time at the trough makes us realize that we’ll not only survive, but we’ll be much healthier if we don’t super-size everything.

8. Just say no to stress
Stress can sabotage your good intentions, so emphasize rest, relaxation and positive emotions. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing help eliminate stress.

9. Sleep 7 to 9 hours per night
Uninterrupted, rejuvenating, high-quality sleep is essential for good health. Naps are also good, but try to get consistent and sound sleep at night. This is important on so many levels – from slowing the aging process to losing weight. For a detailed post on sleep, please check here. (This is a tough one for me as I don’t want to miss anything!)

Go forth and nourish your own personal garden (that would be your body, mind and spirit)!

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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