Sunday, May 31, 2009


Yesterday it was hot and sunny here in Seattle. The sky was nearly devoid of cloud cover and there was little wind. A perfect day to be at the beach. Unfortunately, my increasingly frequent bouts of procrastination have left me with lots of projects to complete this weekend. So, alas, I was stuck in my apartment drawing pictures of the probiotic flora in the lower gastrointestinal tract.

When my own GI alerted me that it was time to eat, I thought, if I can't be at the beach right now I might as well eat like I'm at the beach! And whenever I want to feel as though I'm at the beach, I make spinach. You see, I have never quite figured out how to get every last bit of dirt out of a fresh bunch of the stuff and when I bite down on a gritty piece of leafy spinach it's as if a gusty wind off the ocean just sprayed a lite mist of sand over my lovely picnic lunch. With every arenaceous morsel I can almost see the mosaic of beach towels and their formerly white occupants quickly becoming dangerously rubicund with UV exposure.

So the next time you're stuck constructing informative display boards on the human digestive tract, treat your own with a generous helping of Popeye's favorite. Here's how I prepared it:

Sauteed in olive and sesame oil with onions, garlic, thinly sliced sunchokes and burdock root.

Enjoy and wear your sunscreen!

Lounging on the "beach"...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Broiled Asparagus and One Night Stands

Now before you get your knickers in a twist, I'm not talking about what you think I'm talking about. Well, I am talking about broiled asparagus, but the other half of the title refers to a little tip I read at a great new website recently brought to my attention called, Nourish This. Here, Kristin O'Connor says the following:

Most of us are accustomed to making a big pot of rice and saving it for the next day...or week. Either that or we get more takeout than we need for leftovers the next day. However, putting rice in the fridge after it has been cooked (especially fried rice) is like cultivating bacteria in a petri dish! Of course you can eat reheated rice and be find, but reheating greatly increases your chance of getting a nasty bacterial infection in your digestive for me I have decided rice is only good as a "one night stand!"

I had never realized that my more long-term relationship with rice could cause such a problem. Come to think of it I have been feeling rather ill recently. That is how I came to concoct the meal you see above. At the time, all that seemed palatable were potatoes. So...I started putting some in a pan when I thought about the piece of yam left over from last night's stir-fry. And there was some burdock in the fridge next to the yam that I thought would want to join the party. When I ventured into the produce drawer to retrieve the latter ingredients I was greeted by a bundle of asparagus looking anxious to be broiled.

If you have not had asparagus prepared in this manner, you have not had asparagus! Just crank that oven up to "broil" and pop in the lightly oiled green spears until you can smell their outermost layers getting singed by the heat. The result is a succulent bite of green goodness...crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. At this point, I don't recommend adulterating your asparagus with pan-fried root vegetables, garlic, scallions, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast as I did. The asparagus is much tastier in its virginal state.

And now, after reading the above disclaimer about rice, I DO NOT RECOMMEND topping your meal off with a generous helping of rice you made last week (as I preceded to do). I'll let you know tomorrow if my long-term relationship with the grain has left me as many a committed relationship a whole lot of pain.

Here's to some one-night stands,

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Today was one of those rare days where everything was just...balanced. I slept for a few hours after my alarm went off but I was still very productive and not rushed. I had a very calm breakfast: a simple rice tortilla spread with homemade cashew butter, a few figs, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Satisfyingly sweet but not sugary and with a touch of richness that wasn't too heavy.

There wasn't much time to eat during the middle of the day, but (if you can believe it) I wasn't overly hungry. I worked out in the late afternoon and walked back to my apartment as the temperature was warm enough to make me sweat a little but not hot enough to make me dread the steep hill at the end of the journey.

Getting home around 5:30, I had ample time to cook dinner but not enough time that I found myself voracious before it was all ready to eat. In a manner very unlike me, I actually planned what I would cook before I stepped into the kitchen. My strategy was to dice some yam and red onion and coat them with some olive oil and curry spices (I used a boxed blend of about a dozen spices). I then roasted them in a 375 degree oven. To the onion/yam mixture I added some black beans (canned) that I heated with a bit of coconut butter that I thought would complement the curry spiced vegetables. My base would be quinoa and my side some steamed rainbow chard that I gently splashed with umeboshi vinegar before serving. To round out the dish I added some avocado, halved, lichen-green flesh scooped out with a spoon.

In a bizarre twist of fate, the meal came out just as I had designed it in my head. Before me lay the makings of a balanced vegetarian meal: grain, plant protein, sweet root vegetable, green vegetable, and healthy source of fat. So this is what it feels like to lead a balanced life!, I thought. I didn't feel compelled to multitask while eating, and I was actually hungry because I hadn't filled up on munchies before sitting down to my meal. Everything felt different and I was exquisitely happy and proud of myself.

As I placed the first bite into my mouth I wasn't even disappointed when the yam was boring, the onion burnt, and the swiss chard bland. Whatever my meal was not, it was balanced.

With satisfaction,

Monday, May 18, 2009

Meditating on Mustard Greens

"Mustard greens are leaves from varieties of brown mustard that have been selected for their foliage rather than their seeds. Their texture is more delicate than that of cabbage. They're often quite pungent in the fashion of seed mustard, but are usually cooked, which may leave them mild and cabbage-like or intensely bitter, depending on the variety.
" - Harold McGee in On Food and Cooking

I'm tempted to make some sort of esoteric comment from that passage on the mustard green. Something to the effect of...when we find ourselves in the big frying pan of life (i.e. "being cooked") we can choose to become mild and cabbage-like or intensely bitter. But I'll refrain and just stick to the less abstruse concept of cooking this beautiful bouquet of Brassica.

Drawn to the viridian plumage of this vegetable while shopping at PCC several days ago I only paused for a moment to ponder two questions: Do I like mustard greens and if I do, how do I cook them? Having no definitive answer to either query I placed the colorful crucifer into my cart and continued shopping.

When it came time to consume the mustard greens I tasted a bit raw and was taken aback by the commanding bitterness that filled my mouth. With great alarm I thought ,if cooking could make these even more bitter (as Harold indicated) how could I ever eat them? I rushed to the cookbook shelf looking for a clue as to how one might turn these greens into something edible. No answers were found there. I then consulted one of my favorite sources when faced with the dilemma of how to cook any vegetable. Debbie. I'm not sure who Debbie is but from what I gather she farms and runs a CSA. This woman has the most comprehensive database of vegetable recipes that I've come across. You can search by recipe or read her newsletters about different items in this week's CSA. Go Debbie!

Though I found several mouth-watering descriptions of recipes that could include mustard greens, I didn't have many of the ingredients and wasn't in the mood to do a lot of improvisation. So I resorted to simply braising my mustard greens as I would any green that has the privilege of occupying my vegetable drawer. I sliced half an onion, very thinly and placed it in some heated olive oil. Once the onions were slightly browned, I chopped up the mustard greens and put those in, stirring to coat with the oil. At this point I would typically add some mirin and some tamari, however, I'm not consuming soy right now so I did mirin alone. I put the lid on and waited a few minutes for the greens to wilt but keep their color. At that point I took them out of the pan and put them in a large bowl with a dash of umeboshi vinegar to finish.

In the end, the mustard greens reacted to my treatment mostly mild and cabbage-like.

How would you react?

Munching on Mustard Greens,

Friday, May 15, 2009

Cooking for Real, Part Deux

Without further ado, I present the conclusion of "Cooking for Real" ....

Voila! Sauteed Broccoli Italian-Style! Unfortunately, the cooking process was done in the late evening so I didn't get to try it that night but the next day it made a lovely accompaniment to the Millet with Walnut Pesto and a side of Roasted Yam and Sunchokes with rosemary. Turns out my hunch about millet and pesto was right. They taste fabulous together. The richness of the pesto makes a big statement over the subtle tones of the simple grain.

Here they are all together right before becoming my dinner...

If I've learned anything from the past 2 blogs it is that I was a fool for thinking I could get by in the kitchen without a cookbook once in awhile ( or all the time). It's like getting rid of training wheels after only riding the bike for 5 minutes, or jumping into the deep end of a swimming pool during your first lesson without those attractive orange "floaties" on your arms (did anyone else's parents make them wear those at the public pool?). And in some ways it's really not like either of those analogies because even when you consider yourself a pro in the kitchen it's always nice to know where you can turn for some inspiration, a friendly suggestion, or a gentle reminder. Cookbooks are like angels that lift you up when your wings forget how to fly...or is that friends, or RedBull. No, RedBull gives you wings. I wonder how RedBull would taste with pesto...

Happy Recipe Hunting,

P.S. Here is the inspiration I used for the broccoli dish.

Italian Style Sauteed Broccoli

Makes 4 or 5 servings

Spring or filtered water
1 head broccoli, cut into small florets, stems peeled and thinly sliced
2 or 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
Sea salt
4 or 5 button mushrooms, brushed clean and thinly sliced
1 oe 2 tomatoes, diced (do not seed or peel)
Cracked black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add broccoli and cook until bright green but not completely tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well and set aside.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until onion is wilted and translucent, 5 minutes. Add mushrooms and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, 2 or 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, season lightly with salt and pepper and stir well. Cover and simmer 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cover and stir in broccoli. Simmer, uncovered, 2 or 3 minutes. Serve hot.

From Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christine Pirello, Penguin 2007.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cooking For Real

I'm going to cook something.

Right now.

No, really I am. And you, lucky reader, get to follow me through the entire process. Aren't you excited?

I've taken stock of my ingredients. Broccoli, jerusalem artichokes, red lentils, millet, sweet brown rice, leftover pesto, 1 brown rice tortilla, 2 yams, some yellow onions, and some garlic.

For a change of pace, I'm going to endeavor to use an actual recipe so the final product is something I actually want to eat.

Let me just dust off these cookbooks...

There we go. Now to find the perfect recipe that works with what I have on hand.

I'm pretty hungry though. While I leaf through this book, let me get out some granola to snack on. Ok, where was I.

Here's a recipe for Italian-style Sauteed Broccoli. I'm Italian (4th generation, but who's counting?) I could probably pull that off. Great! What should I have with that? My people would probably make some pasta but I don't really eat pasta. How about some millet? With the leftover pesto....that could be interesting. Let's do it!

Ok first step. Let's get that millet going. I like to toast my millet before cooking it so let's do that. I'm putting one cup of millet into my stainless steel pot on medium heat. While I'm stirring that with one hand. I'm going to chop up my head of broccoli into "small florets".
And in go the 2 cups of water for the millet along with a pinch of salt. I've covered that pot and am now waiting for the water to...and it's boiling! Be right back.

My broccoli has been floretted and is now steaming for about 2 minutes. And the 2 minutes is up! Just a second, please. Alright the millet is now simmering on a low heat. That will be going on for about 20 minutes so I have time to take a breather...oops, the broccoli! Ow! That steamer basket is hot!

Alright this is far too complicated. I'll catch you up on the rest in the next blog...

Still cooking,

Sunday, May 10, 2009

All Good Things

My grandmother used to say about her food..."of course it's good..I put all good things in it". At least I think it was one of my grandmothers who said that. Maybe it was something from the Golden Girls. My grandmother looked an awful lot like Betty White, it's a common mistake.
Regardless of who said it first, I have tried to apply this theory to my own cooking. And I've come to the conclusion that one can only say such a thing when the food is tasty. My concoctions lately haven't exactly fallen under that category...

For instance, the other night I was in the grocery store very late because I was assisting with a cooking class there. I thought I would pick up a few ingredients before I headed home. Not the best was super late, I was exhausted, and I had a really full bladder that was crying out to me as I hurriedly weaved through the shelves of various food products. I tossed some swiss chard, some yams, and brown rice tortillas in my cart and veered toward the check-out. On my way something caught my eye, a large jar of sauerkraut. How a large jar of pale strands of fermented cabbage catches one eye I don't know but, trust me, it did. As I held the product in my hand thoughts of pork and hot dogs rushed to my mind. Images of pork and hot dogs came to mind, neither of which are in my current dietary repertoire. Nevertheless, not knowing at all what I would do with sauerkraut, I paid for it and my other groceries and rushed to my car with my bladder still screaming at me to get home. I went to bed promptly after arriving back at my apartment without giving the odd purchase of the evening another thought.

The next morning I began to assemble my breakfast wrap, bored of the usual yam, kale, bean combination I searched my cupboards for something...different. Instead of chard. Instead of black/pinto beans...hummus. Instead of this point, I couldn't think of anything to replace that with so I put some yam into the mix per usual. It was then that I came across the sauerkraut. I did a quick assessment of the ingredients so far. They're all good I if I put all good things in my wrap surely it could become nothing else but a summation of all the goodness of which it was composed.

The culmination of that thinking is shown above. And though it made a pretty picture, the end result was anything but good.

Wishing you all good things,

Monday, May 4, 2009

A Journey, Not A Destination

This was one of the three pictures alluded to in the previous doesn't have a whole lot (or anything) to do with what I wanted to write about but it's a relatively picturesque scene so I thought I'd share it with you...

In this post I really wanted to address the point that was very astutely pointed out by my sister who began reading my blog recently. (Hey, sis!) In no uncertain terms she stated that I wasn't really doing what I had set out to do way back at post numero uno. As she is about many things, my sister is right. I haven't cooked a bean and the only thing that's grown during these past few weeks is my frustration with myself over what I do or do not eat.

When my foray into the world of whole foods began about 5 or 6 years ago. I've always held to the notion that one day I'll be a paragon of nutritious eating. Not a speck of processed food nor a grain of refined sugar will pass my lips and all my meals will reflect a perfect balance of taste, colors, and nutrients. My kitchen counters will be adorned with shiny glass jars filled with grains and legumes of all shapes and sizes and my refrigerator bursting with a palette containing every color of the vegetable rainbow. A set of gleaming stainless steel pots and pans will hang expectantly from above the gas range ready to be filled with the makings of another wholesome meal. Sadly, as I write this, my grains and beans are piled neglectfully in a dark cabinet next to the electric stove. Aside from the leftovers from a recent potluck (that I didn't cook for) and the remains of a can of diced tomatoes my refrigerator is a blank canvas. I own one stainless steel pot that has probably grown weary of waiting for anything more than the occasional cup of quinoa.

At times like these I like to remind myself of something Bob Costas, sportscaster and speaker at my undergraduate commencement, credited Oprah Winfrey, talk-show host and cover girl of every issue of O magazine, with saying: "Life is a journey, not a destination."

Maybe I'll never become that whole food maven of my dreams. So what? The important thing is to not become complacent. To keep exploring and questioning. To keep experimenting with new ways of doing things until you find something that works for you at that time. Maybe for now I'm meant to be eating most of my meals at the Bastyr cafeteria and scarfing down meals of asparagus and oatmeal on the rare occasion I do decide to feed myself at home. I'm not totally convinced of that, but it beats sitting here and blogging about how great a failure I am because I'm eating beans from a can and buying food grown by someone else.

Journey on.


Cliff Bars, Cashews, and Capers

This weekend I was fortunate enough to join some fellow budding dietitians on a journey to our Canuk-loving northern neighbor for a conference on "fetal programming". (Can you picture the look on the border patrol's face when we told him that one?) I was excited about the prospects this trip would hold for my blog which had seemed a bit stagnant lately. I packed my camera ready to take loads of pictures and make poignant observations about the eating habits of 9 nutrition students with about as many different food allergies/intolerances among them. Unfortunately, my camera decided to lose power after just 3 photos, all of which were of the tulip festival we stopped at on the way up. I took the above picture when I got back to my apartment. Though it contains little in the way of aesthetics it does depict my food moods and experiences during my brief sojourn to Vancouver, BC.
Exhibit A: Half of a Black Cherry Almond Cliff Bar
Ah, the vegan traveler's best friend, the Cliff Bar. I really used to fawn over the dense, chewy square of oats, soy, and rice puffs suspended in a brown rice syrup mold. I'm not sure what I was thinking. Aside from the occasional crunch of nut these rectangular meal substitutes are a gummy, homogeneous blob. The brown rice syrup content is so great it's a bit like eating a caramel or some Laffy Taffy without the perk of a free joke. On both occasions upon consuming only half of the Cliff Bar I experienced a serve hypoglycemic event about 30-60 minutes afterwards. My conclusion is that, though the Cliff Bar might be ideal for people like those depicted on the wrappers, busy scaling large geological structures, I do not recommend them for the not so arduous task of sitting in a conference room for 8 hours.

Exhibit B: Cashews
These lovelies came from the bulk section at a delightful little Co-op in Mount Vernon, WA. Organic and full of delicious fat, these babies were the perfect accompainment on a day of conferencing. I had been craving fat all weekend. I have to constantly remind myself that because I don't consume the two major sources of lipid in the typical diet: meat and dairy I have to work just a little harder to get my bodily needs for this macronutrient met. Nuts are a great way of doing just that and cashews are quickly becoming my favorite. When chewed they elicit a creamy sweetness that when joined harmoniously with a bit of salt yield a perfect symphony of flavors. If you haven't yet tried the fresh roasted cashews sold at Pike Place Market for $6.00/lb, I implore you to do so at your earliest convenience. It is simply nut Nirvana.

Exhibit C: Bohemian Veg Sandwich from Capers
bohemian -noun (usually lowercase) a person, as an artist or writer, who lives and acts free of regard for conventional rules and practices.
I'm not exactly sure why the good people at Capers grocery decided to name this sandwich the Bohemian Veg, but after experiencing one during the second day of the conference I can say the moniker fits the 'wich perfectly. The traditional mold for vegetarian sandwiches everywhere: hummus, lettuce, the occasional sprout, a tomato or two, perhaps a smear of Vegannaise was shattered with this one. There was just enough of the typical (hummus, tahini, baby greens) to fool you but between the bread, like its namesake, this sandwich had blatant disregard for conventional vegetarian sandwich rules and practices. Under the marinated artichoke hearts there was a concoction that's deep red hue only hinted that it must contain tomato. On the label it was written humbly as "veg pate" but my guess is that's only because they couldn't fit "amazingly robust, knock-your-socks-off flavorful, zesty, savory, you'll-want-another-sandwich-before-you're-even-more-than-one-bite-through-the-first-one veg pate".
Anyone up for a trip to Vancouver this weekend?

Only mildly happy to be back in the states,