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  1. A Pancake Recipe

    April 14, 2011 by Laura

    I thought I’d lighten the mood a little.

    Weekend mornings are for pancakes around here. For years I’ve been using a pancake recipe from my very tattered old copy of The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown. It’s very simple, straightforward, and easily modified. Below is the original recipe, re-typed in its entirety, and some modifications I’ve made to further up the ANDI. All annoying formatting and syntax is faithfully reproduced from the original.

    47) Whole Wheat Pancakes
    Are entirely exceptional, especially served with jam-marbled sour cream and eggs poached with love.
    (Serve 6 perhaps)
    2c whole wheat (pastry) flour
    1 T baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1 T brown sugar or honey
    3 eggs, separated
    2 c milk
    1/2 c oil
    Sift flour with baking powder, salt and sugar. If using honey, add it to the milk and oil. Beat milk and oil into the yolks.
    Combine yolks, milk and oil with dry ingredients until just blended; then fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Cook on greased griddle or frying pan. May be made any size.
    VARIATIONS:
    May be made without separating eggs.
    May also be made with fruit puree: apple, apricot, peach, pear, in place of milk or
    Add fruit chunks, or
    Slip in some tahini, nuts, sesame or sunflower seeds, or
    Use some corn meal or rolled oats, barley flour or buck wheat (1/2 c).
    For waffles use only 1 1/4 c milk.

     

    First of all, I can’t condone the sour cream and eggs and still maintain my Nutri-integrity. But it does sound good, and if you’re so inclined, I’m sure it’s delicious. My modifications: I have never separated the eggs, and they’re still great. I have substituted 1/2 cup cornmeal for an equal amount of flour, and that’s very good, especially when you drop blueberries in while they cook. Latest nifty tricks: 1 T oil instead of 1/2 cup; 3 tablespoon ground flax seeds combined and allowed to sit with 9 tablespoons hot water in place of the eggs. This really works. I also used soy and hazelnut milk in place of the dairy. And I used maple syrup instead of the sugar, because I miss Vermont. These are very nearly fail-proof and the recipe makes a lot of normal sized pancakes.

    Next, an okra recipe!

     


  2. Habits

    April 14, 2011 by Laura

    Lately I’ve had that “old habits die hard” feeling. I find myself snacking more. I’m not snacking on anything especially unhealthy, but just mindlessly munching on almonds or apples or those “Mary’s Gone Crackers” crackers. Those are really good, by the way. The Nutritarian Way is to eliminate snacking as much as possible and rest the digestive tract between meals. It’s hard. Also, it’s baseball season, which is beer and grill season in my world. I have not had a beer since January. I really love beer…

    Back in February I joined the Y. I thought I should have lost 10 pounds just for joining and remain disappointed that it doesn’t work that way. I like the Y because the facilities are decent, the childcare inexpensive, and the members are a genuine cross section of the community. I frequently run into other RNs, physicians, people who work at the stores where I shop, parents of Amos’s classmates. I went today to do my 30 minutes on the treadmill (not a habit, yet), and I’m glad I went. Just when I was starting to think, “Well, I’ve proven my point, I’m going to eat some chips,” my visit reinvigorated my commitment to Health.

    Ok, I have gained weight in my life. At times quite a bit. But today I saw several people who were really, really fat. And this is not a judgment about their character, they were fat. Among them was a mom and her two ENORMOUS sons. They were 12 years old at most and HUGE. Have I impressed upon you the LARGENESS of these boys? A very graphic word I can think of: CORPULENT. Think  Jabba the Hut. Ok, get this: one was eating Jack in the Box and the other Mickey D’s.

    Now, if I were a judgmental sort (which we’ll assume for the moment that I’m not), I would have thought something like, “WTF is wrong with you???” But regarding my estimation of this woman’s situation, there are a few mitigating factors. First, I’m highly trained in Interdisciplinary Cognitive Arts. Which is to say that I went to a fancy-schmancy liberal arts college (several, actually!) where we learned to approach a situation from multiple angles. So here’s my thought process:

    This woman works at the Y. I’m thinking this is not a high-paying job. She’s got two boys approaching adolescence, the caloric demands of whom are no doubt intimidating. Parenting alone? Statistically speaking it’s a safe bet, but even if she’s married/partnered, I’m going to guess said partner is not the one who is primarily responsible for meal prep. I’m trying to paint the picture of a working-poor, exhausted, single mom, get it? I have all the time in the world (not really) and professional food service training, and even I don’t like prepping kale. What I’m trying to say is that it takes A LOT of work against The System to maintain a truly healthy diet. Healthy calories are hard, easy calories are crap. And not that cheap.

    I’m not going on about their lack of personal responsibility because these people were at the YMCA. They want to be healthy. They may even know the basics of what it takes to be healthy. They may even think they are healthy. They may not know why they are so big. I know this, because I’ve been there (well, not physically, but psychologically). And being HUGE is not that unusual anymore. It’s the New Normal.

    I’m ranting about this because I am genuinely afraid that my kid is going to come home from 9th grade one day and tell me one of his classmates dropped dead from a heart attack. This is not a far-fetched idea. But I’m not going to go on a childhood obesity tangent here. I’m going to go on a Recommended Reading tangent:

    The End of Overeating by David Kessler, MD a fascinating read by the former head of the FDA about the forces conspiring to sell us cheap calories.

    Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath. This is a very accessible book on how to change habits. It’s geared toward corporate settings, but also contains useful information on personal habit formation. Interesting to anyone wanting to change long held habits, but especially interesting if you want to make workplace changes.

    This morning at 4am, Dale told me I had to take the bag of tortilla chips to work with me and give them away.

     


  3. Get with the program?

    April 4, 2011 by Laura

    Whoa, nothing gets me going faster than seeing “0 views” when I check my stats counter. Look! Over here! A new post!

    Sorry I haven’t posted, I’ve been too busy losing weight. I have lost about 21 pounds in 10 weeks. I am down 2-3 pants sizes. One of my friends came in to work yesterday and actually didn’t recognize me (from the back).

    Recently two of my friends told me they had embarked on the Nutritarian path (my words) along with me. Nothing could be more gratifying than knowing I am making an impact! Oh, I mean, “nothing could be more gratifying than knowing that people I care about are taking their health seriously.” Nothing.

    If you are thinking about following my example (and you should—you should also send me money and start referring to me as “O Svelte One”) here’s what you need to know:

    1. You really ought to at least read one of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s books. They spell it all out.

    2. The first week to 10 days are not easy if you rely on bread, dairy, salt, sugar and animal products for a substantial portion of your calories (and who doesn’t?).

    3. You will lose weight like crazy, your skin will glow and you’ll feel better.

    4. You will want to write a blog to explain your eating habits to everyone.

    5. You don’t have to become a vegan or vegetarian.

    Yesterday, I was explaining to a different co-worker how I was losing weight, and she said,”What a boring diet!” Ok, look, how exciting is your diet? I mean, beforehand my diet was not that exciting: Roast chicken, brown rice, broccoli, repeat. Snack: bread with cheese. I don’t think most of us have especially tantalizing day to day eating habits. And furthermore (I shake my fist at you), furthermore, why are you looking to food for excitement?? Food is nourishment, not entertainment. Or something like that. I’m not sure I believe that entirely, but I am working up some kind of hypothesis. Something like “the more entertaining food is, the less healthy it is likely to be.” Case and point here and here.

    It is interesting to note how much of our identity is wrapped up in our food choices. My ego is/was really tied up in my consumption of cheeses, breads, charcuterie, delicious adult beverages… If you find yourself worrying what other people will think of you if you start eating healthy foods, it’s time to re-examine your relationship with food.  If you find yourself with people who judge you harshly, mock you, or discourage you from trying to take care of yourself, it’s time to re-examine your relationships with people.

    I am trying not to get all soapboxy, but I can’t help myself. After all, it’s my blog.

     


  4. OPP (Other People’s Plates)

    March 24, 2011 by Laura

    Now that I’m on a health kick, I really notice what other people are eating. Last night we went out on a date (!) to hear some live music (!!), and the guy sitting next to us was having steak and potatoes and gravy. He was a big guy. It was when he got the ice cream for dessert that I went into one of those critical care nurse reveries of him becoming diaphoretic and clutching his chest, and me needing to yell, “YOU! Call 9-1-1 and get the AED!!” and then going through the whole CPR thing. As it turned out he survived the show. I can’t tell you how relieved I was. Nothing can ruin a date like an MI.

    And maybe it’s none of my business, right? It’s not like he was smoking and blowing it my way. Besides, my nose is so stuffy I couldn’t smell the steak. Why would I care? Because he’s the guy I take care of after the CPR keeps him going long enough to get to the ICU. And he’s the guy driving up the cost of health care with his MI and subsequent years of compromised cardiovascular health. OK, that sounds really cynical. I don’t really look at my patients and think, “Oh great, there go my premiums!” I see my patients and their families as people who are suffering. What’s sadder, is that they often accept that suffering (and it is considerable) as their fate.

    Not all of the illness I see is avoidable, but much of it is. I tell you this, and simultaneously remind myself, because we have a tendency to blithely follow our habits as though we are powerless to do otherwise. I want to tell you that as long as you are on this side of the hospital bed, you are not powerless.

    Last week I had a patient who was in terrible pain because his left foot was dead; that is, no blood supply to it. His peripheral arteries were so blocked, that he was awaiting the amputation of his foot. Arterial disease is about inflammation, and smoking causes inflammation. When I reminded him of this, he told me to quit nagging. When I told him he still had one foot left to save, he rolled his eyes. He would rather lose his legs that lose the cigarettes. Sound crazy? I don’t know. I don’t know how to assimilate that in a way that does justice to an entire person, rather than just throwing around catchy phrases about personal responsibility. I like to believe that we’re all doing the best we can with what we’re given, while still believing that there’s always room to grow.

    What I do know is that our bodies are, in general, extremely resilient. We have built-in healing processes that we can enhance in myriad ways. The best methods do not require us to seek specialized practitioners, expensive  supplements, or exotic treatment plans. Eat right (and by “right” I mean tons of vegetables), exercise daily, enjoy quality time with people you like and have a hobby. The tricky thing here is that all of these require us to assume some measure of control over our own health and lives. We can’t look to the medication or the herb or the retreat or the trainer to save us from ourselves. We have to trust that we can provide for ourselves adequately. I presume that just about my entire audience is capable of this. If you grew up eating nothing but convenience store foods and have no idea what to do with broccoli well, welcome! I hope I can help.

    I hope we can all help each other, actually.

     


  5. The dual burden of being overweight and undernourished

    March 24, 2011 by Laura

    The dual burden of being overweight and undernourished.

    Editorial in the Seattle PI illustrating some of the larger social and economic forces affecting how we eat. Please discuss.

     


  6. Downward Trend

    March 23, 2011 by Laura

    Sometimes, it’s hard to take your own advice. Like when I tell myself, “Don’t let the numbers on the scale dictate your mood for the day.” That doesn’t always work out. On the days when I step on the scale, and it says I’m TWENTY POUNDS LIGHTER than I was a few months ago, you’re damn right I’m gonna be in pretty good mood. Woohoooooo! It’s doesn’t even matter that I have a wicked cold, my lips are all chapped up, and my knees hurt. So I’m not excruciatingly healthy, I’m thinner! Oh what? I’m getting off message? So sue me. No, it’s not twenty pounds from when I started eating like a cockatiel, but let’s say since Thanksgiving. And what is more satisfying than getting into new jeans? Getting into old ones. Oh yeah…

    It remains relatively easy for me to continue to eat healthy foods and eschew foods that I know I love, but are unhealthy. And I wonder why that is. I have often flipped open magazines to the inspiring stories of successful weight loss, you know, the ones with the before and after pictures of a woman who went from being a size 22w to being a personal trainer and triathlete. They all say, “If I could do it, anyone can.” I always wondered why I couldn’t. But I am here to tell you, if I can do this, anyone can. What I have come to believe is that being overweight is the same as being unhealthy. If you try to lose weight by cutting calories and substituting Splenda for sugar, it’s not going to happen. But if you embrace the beauty of vegetables and real food, and you acknowledge that sugar and butter and white flour are basically harmful, you will start to get healthier.

    To my foodie pro friends, here’s how I see it: You know how the food you make tastes, you don’t need to keep eating it every day. Imagine the mess I’d be in if I tried every pill I passed out. I just trust that they work. I’m serious. There was a time when steaks and cakes were luxuries to be eaten rarely and savored. Meanwhile, I can’t make you eat your vegetables, but I wish you would. I worry about you.

     

     

     


  7. Full of beans

    March 19, 2011 by Laura

    As a Nutritarian, I am committed to eating one serving of beans or legumes daily. Here is why, according to Dr. Fuhrman’s website:

    “Beans’ unique composition makes them a dietary wonder. Beans are rich in fiber and resistant starch and are not easily broken down by enzymes in the small intestine. They pass into the large intestine where bacteria ferment them into short chain fatty acids such as butyrate.6 Butyrate protects against colon cancer in many different ways:

    • Butyrate halts cancer cell growth and causes cancer cell death.7 

    • Butyrate increases the expression of detoxifying enzymes and limits DNA damage due to oxidative stress.8

    • Butyrate inhibits tumors from acquiring a blood supply.7

    • Butyrate has anti-inflammatory affects.7″

     

    So there. I love beans. And before we go any further, let’s get this out of the way, okay?

    They both work. ‘Nuff said.

    Tonight I made a vegetarian bean soup with a blend of about 10 varieties of beans. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss the ham. It’s not that the soup was lacking anything, I am just very partial to bean soup with ham. Ham, however, does not pass the “Will this make me healthier?” test. Here is the recipe for my delicious, ham-less, bean soup:

    Makes a lot, use a big pot.

    Dice and saute in a small amount of olive oil the following:

    • 1 yellow onion
    • 1 or 2 ribs of celery
    • 1 or 2 carrots
    • 1 red bell pepper
    • 3 cloves garlic

    when they are soft and fragrant, add:

    • 1 Tablespoon ground cumin
    • 3 cups of assorted beans and lentils
    • 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
    • 2 cups of tomato sauce (I used some I’d made a few days ago)
    • 12 cups of water or stock
    • bay leaf or 2
    • thyme

    Bring to a boil then turn down and simmer for 3 hours or until the beans are soft. Add some fresh parsley, and correct the seasonings with salt & pepper.

    Serve with crusty bread and bacon fat.

    And beer.

    Oh, sorry, that was my evil twin.


  8. Parsnip Soup with Leeks and Parsley Recipe | Simply Recipes

    March 17, 2011 by Laura

    Parsnip Soup with Leeks and Parsley Recipe | Simply Recipes.

    The food blog Simply Recipes is one I’ve been following for a few years. Indeed, it is simple, with beautiful photos and well worked recipes. Elise, the blogger, is a Bay Area resident, so her recipes resonate here. Elise is a classic foodie, apparently eating whatever she wants without regretting a calorie. Her recipes are delicious, but nowadays I often have to modify them to accomodate my current nutritional requirements. Here’s a recipe for parsnip soup that I plan to make today, minus the butter and some of the salt and oil, of course. Perfect for St. Patrick’s day.


  9. Vitamix Mania

    March 16, 2011 by Laura

    Last week I strolled innocently enough into my local Costco. You know, just another mom needing 900 baby wipes and a case of San Pellegrino. Little did I know, I had a date with destiny. It was Vitamix demo day in Santa Rosa, and I was the target demographic. How did they know? They actually held up a panel of the Whole Foods grocery bag with the Top 10 ANDI foods printed on it. At first I made some feeble, “I’ll have to check with my husband before I make this kind of purchase,” statement. Yeah, right. I did a couple of laps to try to shake off the small appliance lust.

    But the hum of the 2+ Peak HP motor was like a siren. After passing up the samples of Louisiana Hot Links, I again found myself at the booth where Michael and Diane of raw-raw-raw.com were fixing up a “live foods” smoothie for the crowd. Across the aisle, a larger crowd was elbowing for caramel popcorn. Two aisles down, Melva was just taking the Dino Bites out of the counter top oven. They were no match for the green goodness flowing from the easy-to-clean BPA-free Eastman Tritan co-polyester container. “Okay, just put one in the cart, quick! Before I come to my senses.” On the drive home, I think I heard it singing to me.

    Oh, just what is a Vitamix? Only the most totally freaking awesome food preparation device ever made. What?! Don’t you call it a “blender.” A blender makes stupid frozen cocktails. A Vitamix makes “perfectly smooth whole food juice and smoothies, steaming hot soup from fresh produce, and low-fat frozen treats.” Take that and stick it in your Osterizer. Oh, you can’t, because the Osterizer couldn’t handle it. Lalala.

    I think I’ve used it 40 times in 5 days. I’m in love with it. I walk in the kitchen and it purrs.

    What’s the best thing I’ve made with it? Hmmmm… I think the Raw Borscht. No, I’m serious. If you love beets like I do, you’ll want to make this:

    Raw Borscht (serves 2)

    Ingredients:

    • 1 large beet, peeled & cut into chunks
    • 1 large carrot washed & cut into chunks
    • 1-2 ribs celery cut up
    • 1/4 red onion or the white parts of 4 scallions chopped
    • 1/2 to 1 whole avocado
    • 1/2 cup raw cashews
    • small clove garlic
    • About 1 teaspoon of minced jalapeño
    • About 1 teaspoon of minced fresh ginger
    • juice of a lemon
    • splash apple cider or rice wine vinegar
    • 1 cup of water–I used San Pellegrino for a bit of effervescence
    • salt & pepper

    Put it all in your Vitamix and blend adding more water to achieve a smooth, creamy consistency. Garnish with dill & chopped cucumber or more avocado. I wish I had a picture, because it is the most beautiful magenta color. It’s quite tangy & warming, even though it’s a cold soup. Add ice to make it really cold, or blend it for 4-5 minutes to heat it up.

    When we were in Santa Cruz, we ate at Malabar Restaurant on Front Street. I can’t recommend the place highly enough. Truly, truly delicious-by-any-standard vegetarian fare. They had a raw borscht they made with Kombucha. I might try that next, even though Kombucha is up there with Vegemite on my list of dubious comestibles.

    Stay tuned for more Vitamix Magic…


  10. Why be healthy? (Updated)

    March 15, 2011 by Laura

    Ok, I promise after this post, I’ll move on to recipes, but I had to get this down on… LCD?

    In my first post, I addressed the question, “What am I doing?”  But I didn’t say why. I mentioned that I want to look good in my brother’s wedding, and that is motivating, but in the past I have had plenty of other equally compelling reasons to lose weight, and none of them ever resulted in permanent results. What’s different this time?

    For most of my life I have struggled with body image or weight or both. I have had periods of time being in great shape, but always feeling as though I could stand to lose a little more, or else feeling as though every morsel was potentially ruinous. I’ve lost weight by means that were far from healthy. As a teenager I thought, “I’d rather be dead than fat.” Cruel, no? I wish every minute that every teenage girl — and grown woman for that matter — spent worrying about what her body looked like could be given back to her for more useful pursuits. It’s a tragic waste of time and brain power.

    But we don’t get that time back. Nor does all the worrying, complaining and bargaining make us thinner or healthier. At a certain point, wanting to be thin is not a good enough reason. A friend of mine likes to say, “Nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.” I agree that being thin, and fitting into those jeans with the t-shirt tucked in, is enormously satisfying to those of us for whom it is elusive. But it can’t be enough. We get thin, we get un-thin again. Perhaps because in the end, vanity alone is not sustaining or sustainable.

    Dale amended the phrase to “Nothing tastes as good as being healthy feels.” I think a lot of us have forgotten what it means to feel truly healthy. I know I have. I usually think of myself as being in “very good” health. And yet, I have come to accept things like loss of strength and flexibility as par for the course. But lately, looking at my patients who are unbelievably sick at 60 or 50 years old, or a pack of thirteen year olds who are so big that any one of them would have been mercilessly teased for being “the fat kid” when I was in school (not that I think that’s okay), I see my own state of well being differently. Pursuing health and promoting my ability to enjoy living in my body is sustainable and sustaining. Nourishing, even, where trying to be being skinny is emotionally and physically draining.

    I owe much of this shift in attitude to my sister-in-law, Diane. Diane died in January at age 51 from breast cancer. We will probably never know why Diane had to get breast cancer. She was thin, athletic, and even funnier than me. Diane loved her life and hated being sick. She loved being in her body. She hiked, biked, walked, swam. In 2009, at 48 years old and two years after a mastectomy, she still rocked a bikini. When I visited with her in January, shortly before she died, she was very thin, and I was fat. It struck me that my body image problems were pretty meaningless. She had spent months trying to gain weight, trying to keep up her energy to do the things she loved, like going on walks. I had spent months complaining about not being able to lose the baby weight, all the while spending much of my time on my butt.

    Thus I continue on the path to being “excruciatingly healthy,” rather than just “thin.”