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  1. Summertime: Love, Death, and the County Fair

    August 21, 2011 by Laura

    You’d think that summer would be the ideal time time to eat nothing but fruit and vegetables. Berries for breakfast, gazpacho for lunch, and a pound of leafy greens for dinner, right? Wrong. Beer, beer, and beer with grilled tri-tip. Need I say more?

    Here’s a re-cap of the summer:  Whoa, wait a minute. Is it crazy that summer is basically over? Is this fair? Summer is over, and I still don’t have any ripe tomatoes. This has been the coldest summer in Northern California history, I think. But I digress.

    Remember that “Biggest Loser” challenge I joined at work? I lost 9 pounds in 12 weeks, or 5% of my initial body weight. I would have won if I hadn’t been away on vacation for the weigh-in on August 1. Impressive, no? Very impressive when I tell you just how far I’ve fallen off the Nutritarian wagon. I’m sorry, new reader “Deb,” I hope I can help you keep your food integrity by being a horrible example. Don’t do this!!

    How was that vacation you wondered? Glad you asked. We loaded up the Subaru at 3 am to catch the  7:10 Jet Blue SFO-BOS. It was a cool morning, promising to be another perfectly temperate day in the Bay Area. We had been warned about the “Killer Heat Wave” lurking over the Rockies, but nothing could have prepared us for the oven formerly known as New England. Holy shit. Who knew that I would need to travel to coastal Maine to experience summer heat & humidity unlike anything outside of Bangkok. And because Maine is, well Maine, there are no air conditioners in the entire state. It is simply un-Yankee to own an air conditioner. It falls under the “make-do and do without” clause of the Yankee Manifesto. We wilted.

    We arrived starving in Boston on a Thursday afternoon, and the first thing Dale reminded me of was Bertucci’s pizza. If you’ve never heard of Bertucci’s, it’s a Boston chain restaurant that arguably has the best chain restaurant pizza in the US. They earned a special place in our heart when they once messed up our order, and then sent us off with a free pizza. Free pizza is the best pizza of all. We didn’t go to Bertucci’s because by the time we got going, we were so tired we could no longer form three syllable words. We were grunting things like,”Exit here for sandwich.”

    We said,  “Exit here for sandwich” as we approached the “Topsfield” exit. We figured that Topsfield was a town with it’s own exit, and as such would have a grocery store. Nope. Town of Topsfield was as quainty-quaint-quaint as a New England town could be, with a bunting-festooned gazebo, big ol’ Congregationalist church there in the middle, shops with nice little wooden signs, but damn if we could find a grocery store. Hardware store, yes; martial arts school, check; laundromat, ay yuh. Finally we asked a sensibly-dressed New England type if there was someplace to buy food, “Is there a grocery store here? Where do people who live here buy their food?” Apparently this is top secret information in Topsfield, because she gave me a nice smile, a blank stare, and pointed at a forlorn looking sub shop(pe). So, we ate forlorn subs on our way up to Maine.

    And that was the start of the non-Nutritarian portion of my summer, which has continued up to this point. Excuse me, while I pour myself another drink.

    From a dietary standpoint, Maine was not a disaster. Yes, I ate lobster, but I managed to eat a lot of salads and greens. The high point was the garden salad I enjoyed with my old college classmate Becca. There is nothing like lunch with an old friend and a beer in the middle of the week, while the kids are playing with the hose. Blissful, really. The low point was the argument I had with someone over whether to continue to leave the deli sandwiches out in the 95 degree weather or not. This took place during the memorial gathering for my aforementioned sister-in-law, Diane.  I said “no,” and threw out a tray that had already been out for hour. Thrifty Yankee Woman looked aghast and suggested we “bring them inside and cool them off.” Lack of air conditioning and refrigerator space notwithstanding, “cooling off” rapidly dividing bacteria does not help. I won the argument and dumped a bunch of sandwiches, but not in time to save my mother-in-law from a bout of salmonella.

    We went from memorial week in Maine to wedding weekend in Philadelphia, Land of the Cheese Steak. Yes I ate one. I ate it at the baseball stadium where we watched the Giants beat the Phils. Go Giants! I think that was the last game they won… Oh right, my brother’s wedding. The event that started this whole blog in the first place. Ok, for sticking with me all this time, here it is, The Beige Dress:

    Not too bad, eh? A strategically placed bouquet and everybody’s happy. To give you some idea of how far I’ve come, here is a picture of me from September 2010 with a strategically placed baby.

    Those pants are way too big now. And that is my “Kooky Festival Lady” hat. You’ll have to go up to Strawberry if you want to catch its next airing.

    Anyway, the wedding was lovely.The wedding would have been perfect had my aforementioned father not DIED the night before. Sorry to drop it on you like that. It was a poignant day to be sure. I would post pictures of my brother and his beautiful bride, but they are both naturally tall, thin, and great looking, so forget it.

    So, there was much drinking and caking and snacking during all these travels and travails. When we arrived back in perfectly temperate Northern California, I was delighted to discover that I had gained not an ounce. Hooray! Sadly, the 10 day holiday set my garden way back. It looks absolutely feral.

    We had very little down time between the back east trip and Cur-ville, our annual party for our closest friends and everyone else on Earth. But I had just enough time to start taking on the summer party season with real determination, because between the trip and Cur-ville was the Sonoma County Fair!!

    I love county fairs. How far did I fall? More beer, fresh mini-donuts with caramel sauce, the biggest plate of spaghetti I have ever seen from Art Ibleto’s, and perhaps something like a deep -fried, bacon-wrapped, twinkie on a stick. No, not really. There was no stick.

    Anyhoot, it’s pretty much been pahty, pahty, pahty since then, with things really ramping up this week. It was Dale’s birthday last week, our anniversary the next day, and my birthday is next week. Last night we went out to the coast for a date (!) and I had duck confit & creme brulee. I probably took a year off my life with dinner alone — hopefully a crappy year. Now I need recipes for an excruciatingly healthy birthday cake. Anyone?



  2. Day 1 results

    June 29, 2011 by Laura

    It’s funny how one day I can be feeling all svelte and self-congratulatory, having lost a bunch of weight, and the next day, with no physical change, can decide that I feel fat. What a crock of shit the mind is. I’m feeling back on track now.

    First of all, that Banana Surprise Breakfast, or whatever it’s called, is fantastic. I kid you not, it is really good. I didn’t have pomegranate juice, so I subbed soy milk. I make it every day now. Other gastronomic re-discovery: Collard leaves as tortillas. Cut the spine out of the raw collard leaf; spread almond butter (I’m thinking of you, Elie Perez) on the leaf, sliced banana on that & roll ‘er up. Surprisingly tasty, and it builds hippie cred.

    So I’m down 4, count ’em, 4 pounds from when I re-started. Wasting away, really… sigh.

    Interestingly, people have commented on how “skinny” I am now. Granted I’ve lost a bunch of weight, but the scale doesn’t say “skinny;” my BMI doesn’t say “skinny;” and my clothes are not size skinny. When I say I have 15 more pounds to go (actually 11 now), I get that sort of sideways, bewildered dog look, as if I’d just said I was planning to vote for Michelle Bachman. And then comes the “What? No, you don’t have to lose more weight!” Like that’s so silly! And then there are the ones who ask,”Are you still doing that crazy vegetable diet?” Sorry I mentioned it.

    I think we’ve forgotten what healthy looks like. More and more–and this is the crux of the whole Nutritarian argument– what’s normal is not what’s healthy. I mean, I was a pretty normal college student. If I’d continued to behave like a normal college student into my forties, I’d be a normal ICU patient.

    So I wondered what “normal” is these days. I found on the CDC web site that the average measurements for an adult woman in the US are 5’3.8″ and 164.7 pounds. I plugged these measurements into the handy dandy BMI calculator and lo and behold, average is solidly overweight. And although I am below average weight, I am still in the overweight camp. Fat camp?

    Oh, another thing is that I’ve become super judgmental. Just kidding, I’ve always been super judgmental. Now I’m judgmental and slightly contemptuous. A winning combination, to be sure. I now think fake food is a sign of low IQ. You want to offer me Coffee-mate? I’m going to assume your parents were related.

    Holy shit, look at this fun FAQ about Coffee-Mate:


    COFFEE-MATE Liquid and Powder products are non-dairy and are Kosher according to the Orthodox Union (as indicated by the “O.U.” symbol). As a courtesy, we place a “D” next to the kosher symbol (O.U.) to alert those who adhere to strict religious practices. COFFEE-MATE contains an ingredient called sodium caseinate, which is a milk derivative, though it’s classified as a non-dairy product. How is this so? When sodium caseinate is processed, it is so materially altered that both dairy scientists and government regulators no longer regard it as a true dairy substance. This is why sodium caseinate can be an ingredient in non-dairy products, according to FDA, regulation 21 CFR 101.4 (d). Sodium caseinate is also not a source of lactose.

    Oh my  God. What is wrong with people? IT”S NOT FOOD!!

    Ok, I have to go to bed now. Sweet dreams. Naturally sweet, that is.





  3. Vegan Pad Thai Serves As Red Meat In A Food Fight : NPR

    June 18, 2011 by Laura

    More from the entertainment sphere. Upper West Side divas duke it out in Trader Joe’s…


    Vegan Pad Thai Serves As Red Meat In A Food Fight : NPR.

  4. YouTube – Whole Foods Parking Lot – Music Video [HD]

    June 17, 2011 by Laura

    “Your the most annoying dude I’ve ever seen, Bra. Now would you please move, you’re right in front of the quinoa.” Classic.



    YouTube – Whole Foods Parking Lot – Music Video [HD].

  5. When Food Kills –

    June 12, 2011 by Laura

    When Food Kills –

    Nicholas Kristof’s essay in today’s NYT describes the problem of widespread antibiotic over-use in livestock, and the subsequent development of drug-resistant pathogens in the environment.

  6. Day 1 all over again

    June 10, 2011 by Laura

    Well, I’ve been away to deal with some family “issues” which themselves could be a whole other blog. I had most of this post written, and sadly it’s still relevant a month later. Here it is, finished. But after this I’m working on a righteous tirade on our food supply.

    When I started this endeavor, the scale said I was in the 170’s. I am now flirting with 140’s, but keep bouncing back to 151. Damn damn damn. So now I have to re-dedicate myself to this, because in addition to trying to be Excruciatingly Healthy, I have joined The Biggest Loser at work — a friendly competition with a small wager. One thing I am not is excruciatingly competitive. I tend to say, “The hell with it, I’m taking my checkers and going home. I don’t need the aggravation.” Don’t get me wrong, I like to win–who doesn’t? But I’m one of those, “Hey, good game, if it couldn’t be me, I’m glad it was you” types. Also, in a passive – aggressive move, I might just forfeit. You win. Smirk. Does that make me a quitter? hmmmm…

    What was I talking about?

    Right, so the scale is stuck at 150.8. Also, I notice the toxic hunger sensation creeping in, because I’ve been snacking on whole wheat pita & hummus in non-nutritarian proportions. This stuff is real, people. Suddenly, I’m thinking, “Oh my God I’m STARVING!!” Which I haven’t thought for a while. So with a fridge full of kale and chard and cheez, I’m going to start from Day 1 again.

    What was Day 1? It probably wasn’t the weird hamburger helper type meal I just made in an effort to empty the freezer of all ingredients that had taken up a long term lease on the shelf space. Let’s see, shall we? (Cue the blurry flashback effect here):

    Breakfast: Quick Banana Breakfast to Go

    Lunch: Raw Vegetables (broccoli, carrots, and red pepper), Russian Fig Dressing/Dip, Black Bean Lettuce Bundles, Melon

    Dinner: Quinoa Bean Salad, High Cruciferous Vegetable Stew, Apple Surprise or fresh fruit.

    Oh, man, really? I have strayed far.

    So the banana breakfast is this: 2 cups frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats, 1/3 cup pomegranate juice, 2 tablespoons dried currants, 2 tablespoons chopped walnuts, 1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds, 2 bananas sliced.

    Combine it all & heat in a microwave for 3 minutes. Serves 2.

    I don’t think I ever made this, so I am going to put it together tonight so it’s ready to go in the a.m. Wish me luck! Again!





  7. Quinoa and Chard Cakes – Recipes for Health –

    May 24, 2011 by Laura

    Quinoa and Chard Cakes – Recipes for Health –


    This recipe looked too good not to share. In order to “Nutrify” it, I would cut out some saute oil; use fat free Greek style yogurt; and add some flaxseed meal. If you use it, let me know how it is.

  8. Dear Beer and Pizza, I still love you.

    May 2, 2011 by Laura

    Last week sort of sucked. In the middle of the suckiness of it all, I decided that I didn’t want to cook or eat another goddamned leaf. I sent Dale out to the snooty market up the road for a wood-fired oven-baked wild mushroom and smoked mozzarella pizza (to be more accurate, I asked him nicely if he would please go pick up said pizza). Oh my god it was good, especially with my beloved Lagunitas IPA. I love pizza. I love beer. Oddly enough, I did not gain 15 pounds. I am however stuck at my current weight. I am blaming the pizza and beer, rather than my lack of exercise.

    Rather than go on about all the healthy things I’ve eaten lately, I’ll tell you all the devil-incarnate snacks I’ve managed to turn down: Boston cream pie, chocolate peanut butter cupcake, everything else in the Starbucks case, chicharrones, Aussie bites, more pizza, more beer. Not that I’ve been keeping track.

    I think the intrusion of sucky life events and maybe the Giants’ slump has left me feeling a little blah. I don’t really feel like cooking. I feel like lying on my back in the middle of the yard with a beer. Doesn’t that sound awesome?

    Also, it’s time to get the garden going, and every year I look out at the beds and feel overcome with gopher anxiety. I literally dread putting seeds in the ground. If you have ever watched an entire cornstalk disappear into a hole or looked at a completely wilted chard plant that was perfectly perky 3 hours earlier, then you know what I’m talking about. I feel like I am consigning these poor innocent starts to death by rapacious rodent.

    So, I am trying to figure out what to cook for dinner tonight. It’s going to have to include spinach, because I bought too much last week. Salmon? Quinoa? Take out?

    Spinach pizza?




  9. How to get more greens

    April 26, 2011 by Laura

    Kale, collards, turnip and mustard (ANDI 1000)

    The way I prepare these greens most often is as follows:

    For kale & collards, cut the spine out of the leaf and chop the leaf up. For the turnip and mustard greens, I just cut off the stem if it’s woody. Wash and cut the greens or make life very easy and buy a blend of “braising greens” from Trader Joe’s or the produce department.

    In a saute pan, heat a bit of olive oil and saute some crushed or minced garlic until it’s fragrant. Don’t let it burn. Add the greens and toss them around the pan to coat with oil and garlic. They’ll wilt and shrink quite bit. At this point I like to add some chicken or vegetable stock and braise the greens for 15  or 20 minutes. I am not a raw foodie. I like my greens cooked. I also add hot pepper flakes and lemon juice.

    If you want something heartier, you can add more stock, a can of diced tomatoes, and can of white beans, and some shredded Parmesan ( a little just before you serve the stew).

    Also, for the truly devoted, raw collard leaves can be used like wraps instead of tortillas.

    Spinach (ANDI 739)

    I buy washed baby spinach by the ton. I throw handfuls in smoothies, wilt it for omelets, stuff it in pitas with hummus. I mix it in with salads, but I am not a fan of the straight-up spinach salad.

    –more to come when the kids go to sleep again.



  10. Excruciatingly Weary

    April 26, 2011 by Laura

    I don’t mean to complain, but it’s been a heckuva week. My dad fell & broke his femur last week. This is for the second time in less than a year. Without going into too much detail, my dad is a generally unhealthy guy. Not in the way I usually describe–he’s not diabetic, obese, or suffering from heart or respiratory problems. All that is quite a miracle given that he has subsisted on Wendy’s (he seemed to have been on a first name basis with Dave), McDonald’s (probably knows the release dates of all the new sandwiches), and corned beef sandwiches. I can not ever recall him eating a vegetable, although he did teach me to make vegetable soup. So what does a sedentary life of processed animal consumption get you? In my dad’s case, kidney failure, which causes osteoporosis. Oy.

    With that in mind, I went back to the Eat Right America web site to see what it say about osteoporosis. Nutritarians eschew dairy products, which are touted as being an excellent source of dietary calcium. Here’s the Nutritarian take:

    Contrary to popular belief, you do not need dairy products to get sufficient calcium. Every natural food contains calcium. When you eat a healthy diet, rich in natural foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, it is impossible not to obtain sufficient calcium. In fact, the addition of more natural plant foods to the diet has been shown to have a powerful effect on increasing bone density and bone health. Researchers found that those who eat the most fruits and vegetables have denser bones. These researchers concluded that fruits and vegetables are not only rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium and other nutrients essential for bone health, but, because they are alkaline, not acid-producing, they do not induce urinary calcium loss. Green vegetables in particular have a powerful effect on reducing hip fractures, for they are rich not only in calcium but other nutrients as well, such a vitamin K, which is crucial for bone health.

    Green vegetables also have calcium absorption rates of over 50 percent, compared with about 32 percent for milk. And, since animal protein induces calcium excretion in the urine, compared to dairy, the calcium retention from vegetables is higher. All green vegetables are high in calcium.

    Despite the debate surrounding milk and osteoporosis and how much calcium is ideal, one thing is clear: adequate calcium is important for reducing the risk of osteoporosis. And when women supplement their diet with extra calcium, hip fractures do decrease. A combination supplement containing 800 IU of Vitamin D along with calcium has been shown to reduce both bone loss and hip fractures. 
Calcium should not be taken in excessive doses and I recommend that, if supplemented, calcium should be in the 400 – 600 mg range, not the 1000 – 2000 mg range. In conclusion, a modest increase in calcium via supplementation is appropriate for most people, but real food should supply a good percentage of your calcium intake to achieve the right balance of supportive nutrients to maximize bone health.

    Wait, here’s more from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine web site (bias: these are doctors who want you to be vegetarian):

    The loss of bone mineral probably results from a combination of genetics and dietary and lifestyle factors, particularly the intake of animal protein, salt, and possibly caffeine, along with tobacco use, physical inactivity, and lack of sun exposure.

    Animal protein tends to leach calcium from the bones, leading to its excretion in the urine. Animal proteins are high in sulfur-containing amino acids, especially cystine and methionine. Sulfur is converted to sulfate, which tends to acidify the blood. During the process of neutralizing this acid, bone dissolves into the bloodstream and filters through the kidneys into the urine. Meats and eggs contain two to five times more of these sulfur-containing amino acids than are found in plant foods.3

    International comparisons show a strong positive relationship between animal protein intake and fracture rates. Such comparisons generally do not take other lifestyle factors, such as exercise, into account. Nonetheless, their findings are supported by clinical studies showing that high protein intakes aggravate calcium losses. A 1994 report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that when animal proteins were eliminated from the diet, calcium losses were cut in half.4 Patients can easily get adequate protein from grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits.


    So yes, I am kidding myself when I think a lump of triple creme St. Andre is a calcium boost. Dammit.

    As far as my own eating habits are concerned, I’m still pretty veg-centric, although the grains are creeping up to a higher proportion than is recommended. It is just too easy to slather hummus on toast. Also, I am relying on eggs quite a bit, because I love them so. Still, I am down almost, almost 25 pounds. I even had to buy a new little black dress for an event the other night. Pics to follow soon, I promise.