Filed under: Uncategorized
keeping in line with my detox mode, i attempted to go to nyc for father’s day last weekend and keep my healthy habits alive. needless to say, it wasn’t easy, but i did my best thanks to a little bit of planning and the huge whole foods that is downstairs from my dad’s apartment. of course, i treated myself to an amazing italian dinner at l’artusi on sunday night…i mean, you’ve got to live a little!
i thought i’d share this amazing chopped kale salad recipe given to me by one of my best friends. it’s fresh and simple and a perfect cooling dish to serve as an appetizer with fish or on its own for lunch.
one bunch of kale, finely chopped
8 tbsp cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp orange juice
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 chopped shallot cloves
5-6 oz chopped feta cheese
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
1/2 cup dried cranberries
celtic sea salt & ground pepper to taste
wash and chop kale. place in a large serving bowl. in a separate bowl, mix olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, chopped shallots. pour mixture over kale and toss. finally, add feta, cranberries, pinenuts, salt and pepper.
i made it!
sorry it’s taken me so long to post, i have had quite an adventure so far, and no time to get to an internet cafe.
my first couple of days in india were a whirlwind…by the time i arrived via train into dehradun i had been traveling for 38 hours. to my surprise, my coordinator told me upon deboarding the train that i was to spend my first week in india in a tiny village called Patti, up in the foothills of the himalayas. i knew i would be going there, but because it is so remote, i thought they would ease me into it. guess i thought wrong!
there were two other students, which made me very happy, since there was to be barely any electricity and absolutely nothing to do for the week outside of our clinic. i figured at least i could make some conversation.
the ride up to patti was unbelievable, four-wheeling it up these winding mountain roads. pretty scary, but thrilling nonetheless. we passed by many other villages along the way, which would end up being villages that the doctor, dr. paul, told us he visits each month. in total there are about 28 where he sets up clinic. they each consist of about 15-20 families, very tight-knit; primitive and rural. it looked like a movie set in another era.
we arrived in patti to find a small compound with screen doors which opened to little rooms with cots. there was a cook living there, a pharmacist, and the doctor, who comes in every week and leaves his family to treat patients in the villages. his clinic was attached to our compound and in the mornings, after being awoken with hot chai tea, we would go upstairs and watch him go to work. at night we would enjoy our dinner and listen to them play us music using only their voices, an indian flute and a bucket as a drum. it was actually quite beautiful.
the people were so warm, but culturally they were quite an extreme for me to witness. they have absolutely nothing, but somehow they make it look beautiful. the women in their bright colors and beautiful nose rings and bindis, and radiant skin! they seem happier than any people i think i’ve ever met. there is no such thing as materialism, only bare essentials and everyone, mostly the women, spend their days tending to crops, feeding their families, and doing the work of the village. apparently the men stay at home and relax most of the day!
watching dr. paul at work was extremely interesting. patients do not need appointments, they just walk in and sit down, not shy in front of anyone who is watching. it’s fascinating to see how they do not complain about ailments- they calmly state what is going on, and he doesn’t do invasive exams. most people have acute medical issues that he helps by giving them dietary advice, ayurvedic treatment, and sometimes an allopathic drug such as tylenol or an antibiotic.
everything is FREE. patients are not charged at all, which is the result of the money students pay CFHI to attend the program. it funds the medications and supplies needed to address the needs of all the villages.
one thing that was really amazing was the lack of drama in life. it is simple yet purposeful, no complaining because there is no other way. we all laughed so much up there and found a way to enjoy our time so completely, even without the comforts we are all used to.
the food that our cook made each day was some of the best indian food i’ve ever had. i felt so energized and satisfied eating in such a balanced way. it was all vegetarian and homemade, right down to the flour that came from the wheat grown outside my window. nothing is processed; it’s prepared in quite a primitive way. i found that none of my food allergies acted up because there are no preservatives or additives. the dairy i ate came straight from the free-grazing cows, and it was raw, unpasteurized- which is illegal in the US! the purity was appealing to my body. it was totally the way food should be.
every other day, we would leave our clinic and hike to surrounding villages, sometimes up to 2.5 hours each way, in order to bring them care. we were joined by one of dr. paul’s 9 health promoters. these are all women who he trains to carry out emergency care and first aid since he only visits heach village once a month. the women are also trained to teach their own communities about sexual education and preventative health. it is community organizing at the most basic level and so amazing to be a part of.
on our hikes, we would meet women and school children who hiked those roads sometimes multiple times a day, carrying baskets on their heads and often wearing no shoes. when we arrived in the villages we would set up a table with medications and the doctor would just start seeing patients right in front of everyone. they were so kind to us, and the kids were adorable. they prepared chai for us, and invited us into their homes.
as i stated above, people there do not really seek health care for chronic diseases most of the time- diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, colitis- or even cancer. they don’t suffer from primarily western ailments. it will be interesting to see how that changes just 45 minutes down into the city when i start working with doctors in dehradun.
they have many fast food chains down there and processed garbage available, and they seem far from understanding caloric and nutritional content. i’m sure a lot of them think it’s amazing to taste western food, as bad for you as it may be. good job globalization!
i am kidding, but in all seriousness, up in those villages people are living into their hundreds and they are feeling pretty good! it’s all simple and fresh and there is less suffering. there is a reason they don’t have a need for an ER, as they don’t live in a way where invasive treatments are necessary. everyone performs manual labor, they are strong and moderate in their lifestyle. they eat just enough, they don’t smoke, and they rarely drink.
and the things they do need, devoted people like dr. paul provide for them, and that’s just the way it is. very practical.
it was an amazing experience, more rewarding than i could ever put into words. i am back in the city now, and in an hour i begin with dr. nanda, a homeopathic doctor in dehradun, and from there a reiki/ayurveda master, and a women’s health doctor. this rotation continues throughout the week, so i’ll be sure to keep you posted.
they said: we are afraid.
come to the edge, he said.
he pushed them…and they flew.
ayurveda- translated as “the science of life,” this is native indian traditional medicine. all over the rest of the world it is considered alternative, but in india, it is still in the mainstream. ayurveda has many methods, including massage, meditation, and yoga, and is based on the metaphysics of earth, air, fire, water, and ether, which compose the human body (and the universe). the body is just a microcosm of the entire universe, and the same rule is paramount: when the body is healthy, it is in harmony, and thus it is naturally self-correcting, just like the universe. the focus of ayurveda is really about balance between mind, body, and spirit. this is accomplished through everything from diet and skincare to physical exercise and meditation regimes. they also use a lot of herbs and vegetable products. i think it is a beautiful way of looking at the world.
naturopathy- naturopathic medicine is an entire medical system of healing and beliefs which has developed over time in different cultures all over the world. it focuses on the body’s natural ability to heal itself. it believes in a minimal approach to surgery and drugs and actually has its modern origins in europe, although the ideas that belong to this school of thought really began with hippocrates in ancient greece. there is a big focus on preventative medicine and stress reduction, and is not invasive. it is about removing the cause of the illness, not the symptoms, and providing the least risk to the patient. it encourages patients to take responsibility for their own health. naturopathic medicine includes modalities such as: acupuncture, kinesiology, colon therapy, homeopathy, reflexology, meditation, and iridology, to name a few.
homeopathy- The term homeopathy comes from the Greek words homeo, meaning similar, and pathos, meaning suffering or disease. Homeopathy seeks to stimulate the body’s ability to heal itself by giving very small doses of highly diluted substances. This therapeutic method was developed in Germany at the end of the 18th century. It believes that disease can be cured in a sick person by a substance that produces similar symptoms to the disease in healthy people, and that the lower the dose of medicine and the more it is diluted, the greater effectiveness it has. homeopathic treatments are individualized and the remedies they use come from plants, minerals, or animals. nothing synthetic. this form of medicine came to india in 1810 and in the 1900s was widely recognized by the government as being a preferable option for medical care.
reiki- reiki is a japanese healing technique used for stress reduction. it is administered solely with a person’s hands and is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and is what causes us to be alive. if one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. reiki ability is passed on from teachers to students, but one does not have to learn this intellectually. it is about being able to tap into an unlimited supply of life force energy, and everyone is capable of this. reiki has been found to be effective in many illnesses as a complement to treatments, and it holds harmony and balance in high regard, just as the other forms of medicine that i listed above.
if you haven’t already watched it, i urge you to take a look at jamie oliver’s show, food revolution, fridays on abc.
to most of us evolved human beings, what he is doing makes perfect sense, but as you can see by the obstacles that he must overcome in order to change the way we eat- not everyone has been enlightened yet. we are being presented with the possibility to raise a generation of children who will grow up with a sense that it is more fun to eat legumes than lunchables. this will in turn affect the way they live their lives and raise their own families.
this is one of the most important conversations going on in our country, as our mental and physical health is truly at stake. although alice waters and many others have been pioneers of this movement for quite some time, jamie is the first person to take the podium from a level that is wide-reaching and capable of getting through to millions of americans who don’t understand the often elite world of local food and organic agriculture. whether we want to believe it or not, we are a nation whose education comes mostly in the form of advertisements. so, while the whole country is constantly glued to their television sets, i can only hope that they will turn it to abc on fridays at 9pm and listen to this important message.
the madness cannot continue and it’s so crucial that everyone get behind the cause.
please check out his site and sign the petition to support the food revolution.
Filed under: Uncategorized
the past few months have been rather challenging in my life. people talk all the time about the cyclical nature of the universe and change as the only constant– i mean, i preach this stuff constantly, to myself and everyone around me. and, while i DO believe in all of it wholeheartedly, i also know that it is impossible not to fall prey to the pain and the weight of change, and everything it carries with it.
it’s like you wake up one day and all the cliches are truer than you ever thought possible. life has changed. someone is gone. the world as you know it is over. literally. the pain is very real, often beautifully so. you feel like you are living in a movie, a song. some days you can’t even get your legs to kick the covers off of the bed. other days it’s like nothing happened and you can throw back margaritas with your friends. but one thing is certain: you are a new person. and you can be an improved person too, if you are willing to let the gravity of your situation take you on the wild ride it is offering up to you. at least, this is what i have found in my small and very personal experience.
i don’t mean to drag on about my problems or my sorrows. we all have ‘em. and i remind myself constantly that i could always have it worse. but, i am hoping that in this time of deep loss and grief in my life, the people around me, who i love deeply, (and hopefully even some strangers) can bear witness to what i have been going through, and also see the freedom and joy that has accompanied all of this madness.
it is so easy to do the thing where we pretend nothing is wrong. it is so easy to push people away or dramatically beg for attention in some passive aggressive way. neither of which is healthy. and health, really, is what i believe to be the most vital key we have to living a fulfilling life and getting through its ups and downs. of course, when i say health, i mean it in the most holistic sense of the word: healthy mental states- having a positive outlook and finding a way to not just get through the day, but to enjoy it. laugh!! healthy bodies- treating ourselves with respect through nutritious food and getting our heart rates up. healthy relationships- giving the best of ourselves and also setting limits with our loved ones and most importantly, with ourselves.
no one’s lives are ever going to be perfect. things will happen that will throw us for a loop. we might even be in charge sometimes- maybe we find ourselves breaking up with someone we care about but know we’re not meant to be with, or taking on an exciting new job- yet still feeling like we are being led blindly and simply trusting our instincts to guide us to the next plateau. it is the state of our health (mental, physical, spiritual) that is going to make the difference in the kinds of decisions we make when we are at a crossroads in our life and have to decide whether to sink or swim.
the point of what i am saying is really just that, even in the darkest of hours in these painful past months, i have chosen to make as much peace with my life as possible through making decisions that are healthy for my mind, body, and soul. this can mean anything from staying in bed for days straight, going for an 8 mile hike, drinking a few cocktails, meditating, or even taking a spontaneous vacation with a friend. whatever it is, i am doing it. as long as i am listening to what my healthiest self needs. somehow, the formula hasn’t failed me. i still get depressed, i still cry and scream and feel deep loss in the core of my being. i want so badly to talk to my mom, have her to give me advice on all of the life changes i am making. i can’t even fathom how i have made it almost five months without talking to my lifelong best friend.
but i have something more important and valuable at the end of the day: i have myself. i am so grateful to be able to recognize this. in myself, i can hear my mother’s voice. i can hear the wisdom of of everyone and everything that has made up the tapestry of my life. the breadth of people and places with which i have connected as a result of this tragic time have been profound. it is like past, present, and future have fused into this amazing net of support that i constantly feel below me, but at the end of the day i am trusting myself to try to fly on my own.
i am so grateful for the life i have been blessed to have, and the amazing people and experiences that make it up. i have always tried to look at the world through a lens of optimism and hope, but it is as though i don’t have to try anymore. it is a waste of time. in living and being present every day, making healthy choices and relying on intuition, i find it hard to see the negative. tragic things happen every day- look at this disaster in haiti. in the grand scheme of things, i am one lucky girl. i am allowed to feel my feelings, but i find the best way to deal with them is to feel them, to laugh about them, and then to put them to use. no one is perfect, and it is a waste of energy to try to be. i find that once i gave up on that notion of perfection and decided to aim for doing the best i can with the cards i’ve been handed, that is when i felt like i was really starting to become myself.
so, in the spirit of embracing this newer, grown up version of myself, i am finally embarking on the trip i have wanted to take for so long- i am going to india this may. i will be learning traditional medicine in small villages in the himalayas and working in rural clinics with physicians who combine ayurvedic and allopathic medicine. living with families and in ashrams, doing yoga and learning a new language. this is not something i would have ever been brave enough to do had i not been forced to start this new phase. i know this experience will be yet another that will change my life for the better and hopefully allow me to help change other people’s lives as well.
i will leave you with a poem i have found myself coming back to time and time again. in zero circle, rumi invites us to look at the uncertainty of our lives with awe and wonder. while we would often like to structure our lives with a definitive yes or no, to protect ourselves from pain and will joy into our hearts, most of us know we can’t win that way. our best bet is to embrace what we know to be true all along: that nothing in life works out the way we plan it. once we really feel this to the core, we are able to stand in amazement at the unknown; to be inspired to be as kind and beautiful as we can, because, to put it simply, that is really all we have.
Be helpless, dumbfounded,
Unable to say yes or no.
Then a stretcher will come from grace
to gather us up.
We are too dull-eyed to see that beauty.
If we say we can, we’re lying.
If we say No, we don’t see it,
That No will behead us
And shut tight our window onto spirit.
So let us rather not be sure of anything,
Beside ourselves, and only that, so
Miraculous beings come running to help.
Crazed, lying in a zero circle, mute,
We shall be saying finally,
With tremendous eloquence, Lead us.
When we have totally surrendered to that beauty,
We shall be a mighty kindness.
Filed under: Uncategorized
it’s been a while since i’ve posted, due to many reasons which i wont bore you with here, but in any case, i’m back and ready to start 2010 off on a healthy foot.
it seems like everywhere i look these days, people are talking about detoxes, elimination diets, and cleanses. one of the major trends taking over the grocery aisles seems to be the movement towards gluten-free…well, everything.
although everyone is using the term “gluten-free,” it seems as though most people don’t really know what it means, what the benefits are, and why people are removing gluten from their diets.
gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. many people get confused about which foods actually contain gluten and which do not. there are many new breads that have come out, including sprouted grain, which people mistake for being gluten-free. spelt and kamut, two grains that are alternatives to wheat, DO actually contain gluten. oats, however, have been a subject of some controversy. they themselves have not been found to contain gluten, but they are often processed in plants which allow for their contamination with gluten-based foods. this is a case where you’d want to check the label and make sure they are from a gluten-free plant.
gluten also comes in other forms, especially as an additive to thicken and/or sweeten many processed foods, where it is disguised as modified food starch, malt flavoring, or glucose syrup, to name a few. it is very important to be a food detective and always scour labels.
there are a few reasons why people avoid gluten, the most obvious being a diagnosis of celiac disease. celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder of the small intestine. there are a wide variety of symptoms that occur from this chronic syndrome, and none of them are fun. they can range from stomach issues, to fatigue, to skin problems, migraines…the list goes on. like many other diseases, celiac disease is chronic and often misdiagnosed because the symptoms are not always alarming but extremely disruptive. the disease is caused by a reaction to a protein in gluten called gliadin. the immune system has an inflammatory response to gliadin in the small intestine, which blunts the villi in the intestine. because the villi are responsible for the absorption of nutrients, you can guess what happens next…the body cannot properly absorb the nutrients it needs and this results in a myriad of symptoms which greatly affects a person’s quality of life.
celiac disease is no fun, and there is only one remedy for it: cut out gluten from one’s diet. as more people have realized that gluten is the cause of their discomfort, gluten-free products have begun to make it onto more and more mainstream shelves. what others are starting to notice, however, is that celiacs are not the only people who can benefit from a gluten-free diet. it makes sense, really, as eating gluten-free requires that one eats less processed food and more simple fruits, vegetables, and meat products. additionally, one can have a sensitivity to gluten and not have celiac disease. i would recommend to anyone that suffers from any ailment to eliminate gluten (i’d throw dairy in the mix too) for three weeks and see how they feel. you start to notice that the body naturally rejects gluten once you add it back into your diet, which is a red flag that it was not meant to digest it in the first place. after all, inflammation is the root of all disease and ailments (in my humble opinion, and a subject we can come back to) and gluten is known to irritate the intestine in a manner that causes inflammation.
here is a list of starchy foods that are acceptable for a gluten-free diet:
rice, corn, potatoes, amaranth, arrowroot, quinoa, millet, sweet potato…to name a few. buckwheat is actually gluten-free itself, but one must be careful to make sure they don’t purchase buckwheat flour mixed with wheat flour. flours made from almonds, soybeans, and other nuts are also acceptable as well. many of these grains are also used to create pastas, breads, and other foods that mimic the products we’ve all grown up on that include gluten. these days it’s easy to find these products in any grocery store, and many of these simple grains include protein, which is a great bonus.
if you are eating in a healthy restaurant that includes alternative meat products, one thing you should know is that seitan includes gluten. seitan is a processed wheat product that is made to taste like chicken. tofu and tempeh both derive from soy, and are gluten-free. however i prefer tempeh to tofu, as its nutritional value trumps tofu due to the fermentation process and the fact that the whole bean stays in tact after processing.
one of my favorite gluten-free cooking blogs is http://www.elanaspantry.com, which was recommended to me by a friend. i have found that it is so easy to cut gluten out of everything, including dessert!
although i do think it is ultimately a positive thing to remove gluten from the diet, i also want to remind you that replacing a wheat product with a majorly processed sweet treat that is gluten-free is not necessarily the point. the benefits of eating gluten-free really come from a move towards eating more pure foods and less processed foods. once in a while a babycakes cupcake is not a bad thing at all, and better than one filled with artificial coloring, corn syrup, and dairy. BUT, if the goal is to feel good and be healthy, i’d say stick to the obvious: more veggies, more simple, whole grains, fewer animal products, and less sugar. at then end of the day, a pure and simple diet yields the biggest and best results.
below is a gluten-free recipe i made during cold ny winter mornings. it is packed with protein and so easy to make. much better than a microwave instant quaker breakfast, and better for your energy and health!
hot quinoa breakfast cereal
1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 cup apples, thinly sliced
1/3 cup raisins
1/2 tsp cinnamon
almond or rice milk
in a medium-sized bowl, soak the quinoa in cold water for 5 minutes.
drain and rinse under cold running water.
in a medium saucepan, combine the soaked quinoa and water and bring to a boil.
reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
add apples, raisins and cinnamon.
simmer until water is absorbed.
serve with almond or rice milk and sweeten to taste with agave syrup.
Filed under: Uncategorized
so many people are aware of how imperative it is to eat healthy, but often they walk into the market and are inundated with different labels that make choosing the best foods a quite confusing experience. organic? natural? biodynamic? local? fair-trade? non-GMO?? let’s break down what these things really mean and what’s essential to keep in mind as you’re perusing the aisles with the intention of making the best choices for your health, the environment, and your personal value system.
- ORGANIC refers to the way that foods are grown and processed. in order for a food to receive a “Certified Organic” label, the food must be grown through a farming system that is able to maintain the soil without the use of pesticides, fertilizers, or genetically engineered ingredients. organic foods are minimally processed and water and air quality is protected, food tastes richer and more flavorful, and the impact of production on the environment is minimal. while it is always better to buy organic, be aware that the USDA has developed a system of labeling that differentiates between different levels of organic food. only some products are labeled “100% organic.” if the label only reads “Organic” or “USDA Organic,” then that only ensures that 95% of the product is organic. (USDA will only use their logo if the product is at least 95%). If a product has at least 70% organic ingredients, it can be labeled “Made with Organic Ingredients.”
- foods labeled NATURAL does NOT mean that they are in line with USDA organic standards. essentially “natural” is a marketing term, limited to meat and poultry items, and there is no real regulation system associated with it. it is limited for use on meat and poultry products. while these are all allowed to be printed on labels, don’t confuse them with “organic.” Foods labeled natural may not contain any artificial flavorings, color ingredients, chemical preservatives, and they must be only “minimally processed,” which the USDA defines as a process that does not fundamentally alter the raw product. Yet while the USDA can hold accountable a company making this claim, no verification system is in place.
- LOCAL food is becoming increasingly popular as more and more people are concerned with going green. Eating foods produced close to you is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and support your local economy. Additionally the flavor and energy in local foods is heightened, which makes it more nutrient-dense. Put simply, the food has less travel time and less of an opportunity to go through processes that change its composition and expose it to toxins. Of course, eating local means forgoing tropical fruits and veggies and ones that are not in season in your area.
- common animal products in health food stores are often labeled “CAGE-FREE,” “NO HORMONES ADMINISTERED,” “RAISED WITHOUT ANTIBIOTICS,” “FREE RANGE,” are all kind of obvious but it is important to understand that none of these, like the “natural” label, are regulated. “Cage-free” implies that hens are uncaged, but this does not mean that they can go outdoors. ” Meat products can be labeled “Raised Without Antibiotics,” but again, there is no formal certification for this, and there is no approved label that reads “Antibiotic Free.” Thus, I don’t think we can be sure there are no antibiotics in any meat product. Additionally, “No Hormones Administered” is permitted on labels, (the USDA bans hormone use on pigs and poultry), but it DOES allow hormone injections in beef. And…once again, this is another claim that the farm can make without actually giving proof. “Free Range” and “Free Roaming” implies that birds and animals are able to roam outdoors, but this is unregulated as well.
- CERTIFIED HUMANE RAISED AND HANDLED implies that animals raised for food products (including dairy) are treated in a humane way and not injected with hormones and antibiotics. Although this is not regulated by the USDA, it IS regulated by something called Humane Farm Animal Care. There are several environmental and slaugthering standards that must be upheld, and in order for a farm to be certified, they have to be inspected.
- BIODYNAMIC is a method of organic farming that was developed by Rudolph Steiner (creator of Waldorf Schools). Its philosophy views the farm as a living entity. Animals and plants naturally sustain the farm themselves by feeding off the land and creating natural, organic compost. It is a gentle process and even the soil is regarded as a living organism (as it should be!). Biodynamic wine grapes are becoming more common, and they have been found to contain higher nutrient counts than conventionally grown or even organic grapes. The biodynamic method is not mainstream at all – partially due to the fact that it is not yet suited for mainstream mass production- and also because it is (sadly) a little “out there” for people who don’t look at the energy and love that our food products are made with as being important.
- non-GMO is a label popping up more and more these days and GMOs are the topic of a heated debate surrounding food safety and public health. GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism. All plants and animals are made of cells, which scientists use to alter the genetic state of their products in order to maximize economic benefit. They do this through making it possible for foods to do things like produce their own pesticides- a big money saver since farmers don’t have to spray their crops. Of course, you can imagine how toxic this makes the product, and how many unnatural side effects occur in GM products that we don’t even know about yet. At this point, foods can be labeled as non-GMO, but this is unregulated (are you sensing the pattern??). However, almost more importantly, foods that contain GMOs are all around us, and there is currently no system in place that requires that fact to appear on labels. I suppose it could be assumed that most packaged “food” (if you want to call it that) contains GMOs unless stated otherwise, but this is not exactly effective in my opinion in informing the public of what they are actually purchasing. Many organizations are pushing for the USDA to ban GMOs completely, as they have already done in Europe. Currently commercialized GM crops in the U.S. include soy (89%), cotton (83%), canola (80%), corn (61%), and some others. Of course, we must take into account how many products we use that include soy and corn especially (just about every artificial ingredient in processed food) as well as the clothing and house products that are made with some of these ingredients.
- FAIR TRADE is a label placed on thousands of products these days ranging from tea and coffee to sugar to fruit, as well as some cotton and plants, to name a few. It is essentially a social movement which aims to promote sustainability and help producers in developing countries by making sure that exporting their products is economically fair to them, while also being environmentally and socially fair. fair trade products result in proper payment by buyers who cover the cost of sustainable production and enable producers to have control in the trading process. of course, it seems like this should be the obvious and natural way things go, but alas, exploitation and other skewed values have gotten in the way of our ability to see things like this clearly.
There is a lot of information out there (way beyond what I’ve delved into) about each of these topics, but the above is an overview of what you are looking at when you see these labels. Ultimately, the best way to shop is to be aware of what manufacturers are trying to sell you, what kind of impact these products have on your mental and physical health, your home, and your environment, and to make the best choices with what is available. Always go for local if you can, and consider joining a CSA (community supported agriculture) group which are almost always organic and often biodynamic. It is a great way to purchase seasonal food from local farms at a smaller cost than you’d pay at a farmer’s market. It also allows you a chance to try fruits and veggies you would not normally try, which could result in some awesome cooking experiments, especially because the flavors are so rich. You can go visit Local Harvest to find out more about getting involved.
Filed under: Uncategorized
usually, people think of chard as a winter vegetable. it is a leafy green that comes in different varieties- swiss, red, rhubarb, rainbow. it can be a bit bitter, so i like it sauteed or braised and paired with something sweet to counteract the bitterness. the leaves can be prepared like spinach, and the stalks apparently like asparagus, although i’ve never tried this. like other leafy veggies, chard needs to be properly cleaned before cooking with it. you should soak the leaves in water to clean them, instead of using a colander.
i have heard that chard was first found in the mediterranean region, and that aristotle actually wrote about red chard in the 4th century B.C. this does not come as a surprise, given the fact that the ancient greeks, and later the romans, portuguese and spaniards held chard in high esteem for its medicinal properties. the veggie is considered modern in this sense, as it spread from west to east in the years after the greeks started using it and ended up a staple in countries like japan and china for its tolerance to high temperatures.
like most leafy greens, chard is also one of the most nutrient dense vegetables out there. not only does it have a ton of phytonutrients (which is obvious because of the different pigments that make up its rich colors), but it also is a great source of vitamin K (great for bone and lung health) and vitamin A. vitamin A is found in chard on account of its concentrated beta-carotene content. once inside the body, beta-carotene can be converted into vitamin A, so when you eat chard, it’s like getting both these beneficial nutrients at once. one cup of Swiss chard contains just 35 calories, but provides over 100% of the daily value for vitamin A. that’s certainly getting a bang for your buck. on top of these vitamins, chard is packed with vitamins B, C and E, iron, potassium, and magnesium, and it has a ton of fiber.
i was at the market the other day and came across this beautiful display of summery, rainbow chard and i couldn’t help myself. the red, gold, and white stems looked so gorgeous with the green leaves. i went home and found this incredible recipe on thekitchn.com that called for beets and goat cheese and it did not disappoint!
i served it with steamed bass, simply cooked with fennel, lemon, parsley, fleur du sel, and olive oil. To be honest, the chard was enough to eat on its own, but nothing is wrong with having a few days of leftovers!
Sautéed Rainbow Chard with Raw Beets and Goat Cheese
serves 4 to 6
3 or 4 medium-sized beets (we had one big and 4 or 5 inch-wide ones)
4 large handfuls of rainbow chard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces of goat cheese, crumbled
For the dressing:
2 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Peel the beets and either grate them on a box grater or in a food processor. You should have about two cups of shredded beets.
Separate and chop the thick stems of the chard. Heat the olive oil in a large stock pot on medium heat and cook the stems for about 5 minutes, until they are softened. Add the leaves of the chard, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, turning with tongs, until the leaves have wilted and cooked down. Transfer the chard to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
Make the dressing. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Season with salt and pepper, then stream in the olive oil while whisking vigorously.
Combine the chard and the beets and toss with the vinaigrette (depending on how much chard you have and how saturated you want your greens, you may have some vinaigrette left over). Top with crumbled goat cheese.
i just had to take the time today to discuss my love for and slight obsession with avocados. do any of you feel the same way? i just think they are literally the most perfect food. they are beautiful, versatile, complex and yet simple…they enhance the flavor of foods or can be eaten as the main focus of a meal in so many unique ways.
the health benefits of avocados are immense, as they are loaded with nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients:
- they are good for your heart, as they are filled with vitamin E and monounsaturated fat (the good fat).
- they have been shown to lower cholesterol, as they are high in beta-sirosterol.
- they are high in folate, which reduces stroke.
- they are especially known to be high in vitamins and minerals which prevent oral, prostate, and breast cancer.
- research has even shown that they help you absorb nutrients in other foods that you eat with them!
for me, the best part about avocados is the many ways that you can creatively use them in meals- from breakfast, to lunch, to dinner, to dessert (seriously!). many people enjoy an avocado with their eggs in the morning, with sushi, as an addition to salads or sandwiches, and of course in guacamole. i love to use them as an alternative to butter or mayo on basically any recipe that calls for it, and as a replacement for cheese. i eat it plain on ezekiel toast most days for lunch with lemon juice, himalayan salt, and red pepper. a sandwich like this has a perfect balance of good fats, protein, and whole grains- tons of nutrition and is surprisingly low in calories. it also fills you up and prevents lots of snacking.
a couple of tips for making sure your avocado is ripe: squeeze it gently with your whole hand. it should yield just a little bit under pressure. if it is rock hard, it is not yet ripe, but one way to speed up the ripening process is to put the avocado into a brown paper bag with an apple. the ethylene gas from the apple will do its magic on the avocado and it will be perfect in a day or so. keep avocados stored at room temperature before cutting them open, and once you use some of it, place the rest in a container with lemon juice sprinkled on top so it doesn’t go brown.
aside from the more conventional ways to enjoy avocados, i wanted to give you a couple of cooling summer avocado recipes that just require a blender and will definitely get you hooked on this fabulous fruit if you aren’t already.
simple chilled avocado soup
- 1/2 firm-ripe California avocado
- 1 3/4 English cucumbers (1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 (8-ounce) container plain low-fat yogurt (1 cup)
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
- 1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh jalapeño chile with seeds
- 1 cup small ice cubes
peel and pit avocado. blend all the ingredients in blender until smooth. garnish with diced avocado and chopped chives (i add cayenne sometimes too).
avocado carob pudding
- 2 avocados
- ½ cup raw carob powder (or raw cocoa or raw chocolate powder)
- 1 cup dates (Medjools ideally)
- 1/4 cup water (or a little less…this is just to make sure it blends properly in the blender)
simply blend all ingredients until the mixture is smooth and creamy and no lumps. add more of any ingredient to taste (i love to add a bit more carob).
these treats are perfect as the weather gets warmer and you start craving cooling foods that fill you up and leave you refreshed. try them and tell me what you think!!
while i know i am probably way behind on this one, i had to share that i am reading the most incredible book. animal, vegetable, miracle is novelist barbara kingsolver’s account of the year she and her family moved to their appalachian farm from the tuscon desert and learned to live off of the land. the beauty of this book is that while we learn the details of what it takes to live in harmony with nature and the seasons, we discover that more than sacrifice and discipline, what it really takes is an understanding and appreciation- a LOVE, if you will- for the true value of real food and how that spills over into a love of family and friends and life itself.
i learned so many fascinating tidbits about everything from a five-color silverbeet (swiss chard with amazing rainbow colored stems and leaves), what it really takes to grow asparagus (three years to harvest, but a well-managed asparagus bed can keep producing for thirty years!), and even…turkey sex (let’s put it this way, because of what it takes lethargize them so they dont get rowdy in the coop and to fatten them up for our thanksgiving feasts, they are rendered incapable of reproducing and professionals have to step in- i’ll leave the rest to your imagination).
one of the best things about kingsolver’s book is that she enlisted her family – her brilliant husband, a professor of environmental studies, and her daugther, a college student who knows the value of eating greens on a deep level- to write essays among the meat of the story. these essays are essentially lectures on the true value of the story she is telling us. steven’s writing tackles larger sociologcial, political, ecological, and economic issues such as the price we pay for purchasing food grown in other countries. local food can be seen as snobby and elitist to so many people- i see this all the time. but in reality, beyond sacrificing quality by purchasing soy products from brazil while we are living in kentucky, we are not supporting the farmer in south america that we imagine out there in the fields. in fact, we supporting an international company that has cut down acres of rainforest to grow the soy, destroying indigenous populations.
camille, kingsolver’s daughter, eloquently shares with us anecdotes about growing up in a rather unconventional (although perhaps we have our definition skewed!) 21st century family. she shares recipes with us which exemplify how we can use so few ingredients and create incredible flavor, as long as those ingredients are organic, and humanely and properly raised.
the simplicity of the message of the book- you are what you eat- and how profound it feels to comprehend it (for so many people who i’ve spoken to that have read this), is proof to me that our society is in desperate need of getting back to our roots. of feeling that immense sense of connection to the deepest place inside our own nature. it is an inspiring, self-reflective place, yes. but more than that, it is a motivating place. in realizing our fundamental goodness- the potential we possess and that our natural environment possesses- a chord is struck within us, motivating us to actually use what we have and who we are as healthy, good people and do some actual GOOD in the world. letting go of ego, of our desire for the fastest, biggest, quickest “solution” to our problems, and just learning to think about our place on this earth within the model of a new paradigm (or perhaps ancient…they say everything comes back around again).
it’s time for real change. we are dying, literally. our bodies, our land, our culture…it is dying. every house on the block looks the same. we eat packaged foods that contain ingredients we can’t pronounce, made up by a person in a labcoat and which need extra chemicals just to produce a taste we could easily grow in our own backyards. we are dropping like flies because our bodies are so inflamed and covered in layers of fat, and yet we are still nutritionally starving. we believe in dogma but not in spirituality. we think we are decent people, but we don’t connect with and support one another. we take pills whose side effects result in having to take more pills, and yet we don’t even realize that perhaps the treatment actually lies in eating something green with our dinner, or maybe even in getting a hug from someone we love.
it’s time to start thinking about these things. we are compassionate and good and alive. our bodies deserve better, our earth deserves better, our culture deserves better, and our hearts deserve better. let’s stop starving and start living.