Category Archives: food

clean living — will it help my allergies?

IMG_6990

It’s spring in Albuquerque, and the way I know this, besides hearing the birds sing in the morning and watching the trees bud with white flowers, is that my allergies are getting the best of me. I started up my nasal spray and eye drops, but now, every night before I go to sleep I need to shower to get the pollen out of my hair and change my pillow case. I was reading to CM the other night on the couch, and I nuzzled my nose into his thick hair, and then I had a fit of sneezing, which made me sad. I should always be able to snuggle my 4 year old.

I’ve read that eating clean and removing chemicals from your house can help with allergies (as well as digestive issues and chronic pain). During my recipe searches, I stumbled across this cookbook by Amie Valpone. There’s a section about beauty and cleaning products called “10 never-use ingredients” — including parabens, amines and sulfates — so I’ve been going through my products this morning, seeing what it might help to change.

IMG_6992-2

I’m ready to try new shampoo (though I’ve been using Aveda for a decade) and get rid of my shaving cream. I can keep my sunscreen and lotion. I’ll probably try a new laundry detergent. I plan to dust more often. It’s a tedious process examining my beauty products and cleaning products for toxicity, but if it can help, even a little, with snuggling my boys, it’s worth it.

I’m also working on reducing gluten, sugar and dairy in my diet (it seems to be helping my energy levels, though I don’t plan to give up coffee or all sugar, let’s be honest).  I never thought I’d like chia pudding, but this recipe for Creamy Chia Pudding is surprisingly delicious — and filling. I’m also putting cashew cream on strawberries. Next, I’ll try the french toast (made with gluten-free oats) and the pumpkin enchiladas. If you want to read more, here’s Valpone’s website. Happy eating and cleaning, everyone!

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under food, health, Uncategorized

recovering from ailments with tonics, broths and good spirits

DSC_8220

Our house has been filled with the sounds of dry coughs, CM looking at me blankly and saying, “Speak up, please, I can’t hear you,” and CP wailing when I put eye drops in his eyes. Both boys are recovering from pink eye and ear infections — and so am I. Well, I was spared the pink eye. The three of us are working our way through our prescribed antibiotics (CM is the winner, he’s done). Our pediatrician said she doesn’t like putting babies on amoxicillin, “so you know I think it’s pretty bad if he needs it.” Oh, it’s a jolly place here in the desert.

photo-26

So, inspired by my new cookbook At Home In The Whole Foods Kitchen by Amy Chaplin, I made homemade vegetable broth for soups; I juiced the last of our pomegranates (it wasn’t a strong season, but man CM loves pomegranate juice — I wish I had more to give him); I made almond butter and almond milk for kicks (also, almond butter at our local grocery store goes for $15 a pop?!).

DSC_8054

DSC_8136

And today I wandered through the aisles in the Asian store, looking for miso and seaweed. I bought kombu and wakame and made my first batch of miso soup tonight. There is something about trying new foods — and making warming soups in the fall — that soothes me and my soul. I think about nourishing my boys and wonder what they’ll remember about cooking together and if they’ll have any favorite meals.

The weather has been beautiful here despite the coughs and exhaustion. The leaves on our backyard trees are turning yellow and the skies are blue and the mountains are beckoning me in a fierce way.

photo-27

Before I came down with Round 2 of my cold, I ran my first 5K in years — a local race — and I caught the race bug again. I’m ready to sign up for a 10K in Death Valley in January. It felt so good to run and feel my heart pump and feel competitive even though I wasn’t racing. I called my friend S. that afternoon and told her I finally felt like myself again — a run, time with my book (Brooklyn by Colm Toibin), time to call her.

And everything else is coming together. Work feels easier and easier. CP crawled for the first time this weekend. And he’s sleeping beautifully. And CM is in an insanely sweet phase — I want to bottle him up and never forget this phase. I can’t believe he’s almost three.

So even though being sick is not fun, never fun, we’re getting through it well — and I’m looking forward to getting back outdoors, hitting the pavement running and making more and more soups and pies and holiday treats that make our house smell warm and inviting — and healing.

Leave a comment

Filed under food

peaches, bunk-beds and heat

It’s starting to get hot in the desert. The kind of hot where I don’t want any of my skin exposed to the unforgiving sun. The kind of hot where when you walk into the scrub, you worry about snakes and occasionally see a sand-colored iguana dart past you. The kind of hot where it’s more quiet than usual around noon. And the sky seems bluer than usual.

photo 4-4

It’s also peach season. Our peach tree, which yielded 18 peaches last year, has a few hundred this year. So I’m blanching and freezing them for smoothies. And on Saturday, I made my first pie ever from scratch, using this crust and this filling. I cut the sugar in half and didn’t put any on top. It was Meditteranean-style delicious where we could actually enjoy the sweetness of the peaches. Last night, A. and CM walked freshly-picked soft peaches to the neighbors.

photo-15

photo 1-9

photo 3-3

A. is working hard on building bunk-beds for the boys. Over the past few weeks, he’s taken over the garage cutting and sanding and assembling the wood. This weekend he painted. CM wanted green, so we picked out three shades on Friday, ultimately deciding on Happy Camper. We ordered mattresses — splurging for organic to avoid chemicals — and I’ll pick out some sheets this week. We hope to move CM into his new room by next month so we can shift CP into the crib.

photo-14

As for the boys, CM now has six imaginary friends, who are always with us, on our hikes, in the backyard, in the car: Bevi, Doc, Wood, More Wood, Mud and … wait for it… Jason. CP, who’s not quite three months, rolled over and is kicking and coo-ing and smiling all of the time. He’s a calm, happy baby who sleeps well, and that makes for a calm and happy me.

photo-16

photo 2-11

photo 1-10

2 Comments

Filed under baking, desert, food, Uncategorized

sweet tooth, (mostly) healthy recipes

Ever since CP was born two months ago, my sweet tooth has been pestering me in a creepy horror film kind of way. There’s a low murmur in my head: “E., E., eaaaat me!” I don’t know if it was the amazingly delicious chocolate croissant I had within two hours of CP’s birth that set me off, but I’m fighting that voice in my head.

The thing is, I know that if I don’t satisfy my sweet tooth slightly, I’ll give myself over to the voice and make batch of crazy fattening oatmeal cookies and munch on at least 20 throughout the day.

So, along with making fruit smoothies, I’m seeking recipes that call for whole wheat flour (or are gluten free) as well as natural sweeteners like fruit, honey and maple syrup. And I’m making mini bites. That way, I can eat three or four guilt-free.

Here’s what I’ve made in the last few weeks that have been delicious (click on red to get to the recipe):

Chocolate Brownies (From the Longevity Kitchen cookbook by Rebecca Katz, made with maple syrup, almond flour and dark chocolate.)
photo 1-7Strawberry Cupcakes (I halved the frosting recipe, used only one cup of powdered sugar and frosted fewer than half of the cupcakes. I also used maple syrup and honey as the sweetener. I discovered that it’s tastier to eat them minus the frosting and doused in milk with extra strawberries.)
photo 2-9Banana Coconut Muffins (Made with whole wheat pastry flour and coconut oil. These were a hit at the park on Monday. I suggest doubling this recipe.)
photo-11 Orange Oatmeal Cookies (From the Healthy Kitchen cookbook by Rosie Daley. These are better cold, so I keep them in the freezer. And I make a batch at least every two weeks.)
photo-10Do you have any go-to “healthy” recipes that satisfy your sweet cravings?

1 Comment

Filed under baking, food, Uncategorized

food facts i wish i had known long ago

It’s February, less than a month from my due date with baby no. 2, and my new(ish) fascination with food and nutrients hasn’t abated. (Also, I’m nesting: The baby is doing full, uncomfortable turns inside of me). And now, I can’t contain myself: I need to share what I’ve learned. Do you ever have that feeling? You read something and you feel like everyone needs to know it now.

The book Eating on the Wild Side by journalist Jo Robinson, published last year, is filled with information about nutrients in our food. It’s information she gleaned from thousands of journal articles.

Here are a few things that have surprised me:

  • If you want to reap the benefits of garlic, you need to peel and either mince, chop or press garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before adding it to heat. Garlic contains the ingredients to make allicin — a cancer-fighting agent — but they’re in separate compartments and need to interact with each other to turn into allicin. If you don’t let it sit and throw it in your frying pan, you get merely flavoring and zero of the garlic’s benefits. Crazy, no?
  • Canned tomatoes have more lycopene (from the heating process in canning) than fresh tomatoes.
  • Canned beans have more antioxidants than bagged beans (and here I thought I was somehow harming my family because I was relying on the convenience of the cans).
  • Don’t peel (organic) carrots. If you do, you lose 1/3 of their nutrients.
  • Blueberries have four times more antioxidant activity than any other fruit and 10 times more than most vegetables. Cooked blueberries are even better for you than fresh blueberries.
  • Steam or cook your broccoli immediately. The longer it sits in your fridge, the more nutrients it loses. Also, raw broccoli contains up to 20 times more sulforaphane (a cancer-fighting agent) than cooked broccoli.
  • Adding avocado to a salad can increase the amount of beta carotene and lutein from the greens by as much 1500 percent.

IMG_2046I’m learning how best to store vegetables and fruits and grains. I’ve given up white rice, white pasta and most bread, have cut down on my sugar (I’m using honey to bake and on my oatmeal), have cut out my every-other-day bacon habit and I’m trying tofu and soy sausage.

The Midwesterner in me is shocked at how my time in the desert has altered my food habits. Or maybe it’s California. Or maybe it’s the baby in utero. A. recently said to me, in jest: “You are not the woman I married who craved chicken pad thai and bulgogi weekly.” Regardless, it’s fun, for now. And — besides being 8 months pregnant and tired — I have been feeling great.

4 Comments

Filed under food, Uncategorized

a food transformation

DSC_4946

I’m going through a massive transformation right now, and it’s not my bulging belly.

It started bubbling in me a year-and-a-half ago when C. was an infant and I made his baby food from scratch. Then, when he was a year old, we moved from D.C. to a town in California without any good restaurants. On our first day here, we picked up a farm box full of organic, seasonal fruits and vegetables. It was the first time I’d had a persimmon. Over time, I tried parsnips. Daikon radishes. Fresh lavender. We were bowled over by the green, leafy, full spinach. “This is the best spinach I’ve ever had,” A. said.

I started to teach myself how to cook and bake. In D.C., I ate carry out at least three times weekly, and met friends for brunch often. I let A. cook for me, and never cooked for friends because I was afraid I’d embarrass myself. But in the desert, I started cooking almost every meal — and mostly vegetarian because the meat and fish looked limp and slimy. I had disasters — including poisoning my family with raw beans and ruining a baking sheet that I used to broil pork — but over time, I improved.

Whole wheat carrot muffins

Whole wheat carrot muffins

I lost weight. And felt better. But I still craved sugar, and would make oatmeal cookies (still a major weakness) and buy daily chai lattes.

Then, about a month ago, the doctors were concerned I had gestational diabetes. I scored a 134 on my one-hour screening test — a marginal score, but my doctor ordered a three-hour test. Also, the baby, at 28 weeks, was in the 65th percentile but its belly was in the 86th percentile and my amniotic fluid was on the high side — all signs of diabetes. I took the three-hour test and passed. Since then, I’ve had two non-stress tests and my amniotic fluid is normal.

In the meantime, I investigated a diet for gestational diabetes. I started to really think — in a much deeper way — about the food I’m putting in my body. Our bodies — along with our relationships — are the most important assets we have. And we often abuse them.

moosewoodNow I’m reading about healthy eating and staving off diseases and preserving our bodies into old age so that we’re happy and healthy. Along with regular exercise, it means mostly eating (pesticide-free) fruits and vegetables. Getting Omega-3s (there is scant fish here, so I get it in flaxseed for now). Drinking a ton of water. Eating a lot of fiber. Cutting back — or eliminating — sugar. Eating whole grains — brown rice, quinoa, bulgur. It means discovering ingredients I’ve never considered before — like miso, tahini, wheat germ, barley. It means considering — really considering — everything I ingest.

I’ve picked up several cookbooks from the library, including Moosewood Cooking for Health (black bean veggie burgers! butternut squash whole wheat pasta! roasted beet salad!), and have several on request, including by Annie Somerville, Alice Waters, Yotam Ottolenghi, Heidi Swanson and Deborah Madison. I’m reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about her family’s adventure of living off of their garden, chickens, fruit trees and local producers for a year. And I’m feeling inspired to start a garden, get involved with local growers and cook healthy meals for my family every day. I finally have the time and energy to research healthy eating and cooking — and turn what I learn into a lifetime of eating well.

2 Comments

Filed under food, Uncategorized

apricot nirvana (or hell, whichever way you look at it)

After A. got home from work this evening, he went into the backyard, and then peeked his handsome face through the kitchen window screen.

“What happened?” he said. “You didn’t pick any?”

We had agreed I’d pick a bunch of apricots — that are just starting to ripen — before we head east tomorrow.

I had picked 60. Sixty apricots.

Image

And the tree still looks full.

C. helped me. I stood on a rickety chair in the 100-degree mid-morning shade and handed them to him one at a time — and he eagerly dropped them in the colander. Then he picked a handful of green ones from the low branches, very proud of himself.

“Apricot!” he said, beaming, and added to our collection. (Sadly, I had to toss those.)

I blanched and froze 40 of them. And then I made a honey-sweetened apricot butter infused with lavender that we got in our farm box yesterday.

Image

I canned two jars and tied ’em up all pretty.

Image

This evening, A. took bucket-loads of apricots to our neighbors, almost all of whom are retired. He stopped at five houses — and dished out 12 a house. One neighbor was especially grateful — said he’s been trying to eat more orange-colored fruit.

Now A. is at the stove making apricot preserves — without any sugar — out of 100 more apricots.

He picked all of them this evening.

And the tree still looks full.

photo-27
I’ve been eating a few apricots a day. Plus, I put them in my morning oatmeal. And we’re using them as ice cubes in our white wine.

Many apricots will be ready for the pickin’ while we’re visiting friends and celebrating a few weddings. So we’ve told a couple friends to come by and help themselves. And we’ve told the birds to have at it.

And honestly, I think it’s OK we’ll be gone for a bit.

‘Cause my skin is turning a slight orange: I’m a little afraid we’re about to turn into apricots.

5 Comments

Filed under food, Uncategorized

we picked a peck of plump peaches

Image

Over the weekend, I checked the peaches on our tiny peach tree in our backyard — a tree we didn’t know we had until March when the pits appeared. I felt the fuzzy skin of one that turned a deep red, and it gave a bit under my fingers.

“The peaches are ready!” I yelled to A., who was lounging on the patio.

Except it wasn’t just one or two that were ready — it was 18 succulent California peaches. (The birds pecked five more to their rotting, crumbling deaths.)

A. and I pulled off the peaches dripping with juice, and I excitedly hauled them into the kitchen and boiled half of them so I could slip off the fuzzy skin and freeze the chunks. Then I made a batch of peach butter to enjoy with my homemade bread.

We also ate a few on our road trip to Sequoia National Park, our laps full of paper towels, our fingers sticky, the warm air blowing on our arms and legs, the speakers blasting “The Lone Bellow,” the sun stretching in the cloudless sky.

Now I have my eye on our apricot tree: Hundreds of apricots are starting to turn yellow. I bought canning jars yesterday and I’m searching for recipes for anything apricot. Please share if you have any!

Image

Image

8 Comments

Filed under desert, food, Uncategorized

my first loaf of bread from scratch

One thing that’s been on my bucket list for years is to make bread from scratch. I remember having a conversation with a hippy named Seamus in a dark D.C. bar more than four years ago who said that making bread, building furniture and skiing where the three things that made him feel connected to the earth. I wasn’t interested in the guy, but those comments stayed with me.

One of the reasons we moved to the California desert nearly six months ago was to have time, space and money to do things we’ve always wanted to do. Here, the rents are cheap, the skies are blue and we have zero distractions, including obligations or places to go in town. That gives us energy to create.

Last week, I received an email from our farm box supplier Abundant Harvest Organics: “Our baker is going on a well-deserved two-week vacation.”

“Noooooooo!” I thought to myself.

And then I looked at the sky. Overcast. Actual clouds in our desert skies. I took that as a sign.

breadingredients

So I bought some yeast and whole wheat flour and started the process while C. was napping. I halved the recipe because we have only one bread pan. And maybe I chose the right recipe on Epicurious, but the oatmeal wheat bread was easy. I kneaded it for about 10 minutes: the majority of the process was to let the bread rise.

Continue reading

4 Comments

Filed under baking, food, Uncategorized

my seasonal treat: strawberry smoothies

strawberries

I have an unhealthy addiction to sugar. Luckily, I married a man who doesn’t care for it the way I do. He makes a disgusted face when I put a spoonful of sugar on my Cheerios (for a while I sneaked it, then I stopped buying Cheerios altogether.) And he eats plain Greek yogurt, which is what we give C., so now, at the grocery store, I walk past those cartons of yogurt filled with 22 grams of sugar.

Anyway, I probably get my max daily amount of refined sugar in my espresso I make myself every morning. And then, of course, I put brown sugar on my oatmeal. And we usually have dessert after dinner — a scoop of ice cream from Baskin Robbins, dark chocolate with almonds. Needless to say, I’m maxed out.

So I’m looking for ways to eat natural sugar. And I need look no further than strawberry season. That’s right, folks, we’ve been buying a big box of strawberries from a Mexican man with a cane who drives them up every weekend from Oxnard and sits on the corner under a green tent. I love this man, and I kind of freaked out on Saturday morning when he wasn’t there at 9:30 a.m. I went back at noon and when the green tent came into view from the car, I relaxed my grip on the steering wheel. I got out of the car and said: “I’m so happy to see you!”

strawberries2

I don’t even like strawberries very much, but I found (and adapted) a recipe for a strawberry smoothie and I’ve been making it nearly every afternoon while C. naps. I sit on our patio, listen to the birds sing, and read or write. I save some for C., who sucks it down through his “taw.” And then I’m not hungry till dinner time and not snippy if A. is home late.

Yes, I’m loving this thick, delicious treat. I hope you do, too.

Strawberry Smoothie

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

smoothie

A 12-oz. glass of frozen strawberries, plus one or two
A banana (a big one — if they’re small, I put in two)
Half a glass (same glass I used for the strawberries) of whole milk
A spoonful of plain Greek yogurt
A spoonful of honey
A generous handful of rolled oats (not instant)
A generous handful of sliced almonds
A splash of vanilla extract
A few shakes of ground cinnamon

Put it all in the blender and mix away.

2 Comments

Filed under food, Uncategorized