Monday, June 28, 2010

Where oh where art thou?

I just returned yesterday from the most amazing two week sailing trip throughout the BVIs. I could go on for paragraphs detailing where we were, what we did, what we cooked and ate, and what we drank (yes, we were on vacation in the land of coconuts and rum. Need I say more?).

But, for now, I will say this. I have had my fair share of the most amazing cocktails (Painkillers, Pina Coladas, Wreck on the Rocks, and my favorite, the Bushwacker) over the past 2 weeks. Though my waistline does not reflect that fact (thank goodness!), I feel as though it is in my best interest to do a little "detox" before the rest of the summer rolls on.

What do I mean by detox? Eliminating processed foods, especially those with white sugar and white flour. And avoiding alcohol for a couple of days. And lots of water, cucumbers, and celery, as these foods help naturally boost your body's detox and water-retention reduction abilities.

And, normally I'd drink a Synergy kombucha every day or every other day to help mend my body. But, a couple of days after I set sail, news emerged that kombucha's are voluntarily being pulled from grocery shelves as the FDA looks into the alcohol content of these fermented beverages (I really do not taste the alcohol in them -- though apparently they can contain as much alcohol as a beer would. Hmm).

Here is an article from the NYTimes, and another from Huffington Post.

I'm looking more into this issue, and am crossing my fingers and toes that they appear back on grocery shelves soon!

What are your thoughts regarding kombucha?

Monday, June 14, 2010

And I'm off...

sailing in the BVIs for eleven days, via New York!

So, there will be some peace and quiet on the blog front, as I will have no email/internet access. But, I assure you, there will be tales and tips to share upon my return.

In the meantime, I hope the sun comes out for those on the East Coast, and Happy Midsummer (on the 21st) to all!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Lesson On Giving

I recently started subscribing to Gwyneth Paltrow's newsletter, GOOP. I can't recall how I first heard about it, but I'm quietly surprised it took me as long as it did to catch on. Some of the postings do not do much for me, others inspire me to get back in to the kitchen and cook, while others have the profound ability to make me stop what I'm doing, take a metaphorical step back and think.

The newsletter sent to me today contained one of those such postings. Here I am, sitting bleary-eyed in the kitchen, my latte in hand and perched on my stool. My residual tension and anxiety from the prior day's worries are still nagging me along my neck and shoulders, so I wasn't quite feeling right. However, when I started reading down about the week's reflection on the Purpose of Giving, there was a sea-change. I can't quite explain it, but the energy of every cell in my body changed. They were moving, mending, making me whole again. It's like one's ability to heal oneself through positive thinking. Here, positive, generous thoughts are helping me shake my anxiety and regain balance. And it is working.

What I liked most about this "issue" of the newsletter was that it explored different meanings of "giving," all deeper than what your average Joe considers "a gift." It made me think about that doorman who kindly stopped me on Fifth Avenue two years ago as I was walking, in a torrential downpour, back to the crosstown bus from a meeting just to give me an umbrella. I protested slightly, wondering how I would return the umbrella, to which he replied, do not worry. How fitting it was for me to make it across town, dry, and meet a lady who was leaving my building to return to her home, but did not have an umbrella. You get, and then you give again. Keep passing the abundance, the wealth, and the happiness you receive. You look after others, and they will look after you.

I was particularly struck by Deepak Chopra's words, specifically about "charity" and generosity of spirit.  I try to live my life with these words in mind, some times losing sight or connection with true generosity of spirit. But, I guess it takes time. Practice. Mindfulness. 

I hope you read on, and enjoy.

"From Deepak Chopra:

It's not just giving, it's the spirit.
I'd like to talk about the hidden side of giving.  People have a vague feeling that God favors those who give. Since Jesus said that it is more blessed to give than to receive, tithing became an established practice in Christian life. In India the focus is on karma -- in order to offset their bad deeds, people want some good karma, and giving to the poor is a way to do that. Still, as religious practice fades in every society, giving has become more secular. Few people feel secure in their conviction that giving has spiritual meaning.
I think that East and West are offering the same piece of wisdom: it's not what you give but the spirit in which you give that counts.  At the level of the soul there are really three levels of giving:
  1. Quid pro quo: you give in order to get something back. Whether you want a bit of good karma or a smile from God, the spirit here is selfish. Tit for tat is the rule. The giver expects to be appreciated. Big donors, whether to a political candidate or a prominent charity, expect to be noticed and praised. In small ways we all harbor a selfish part of ourselves. Imagine how you'd feel if you gave a lavish Christmas present to someone and received nothing back, not even a word of thanks? Suddenly, the act of giving would turn sour.  When you give in order to add to your self-image, the act may be generous, but the spirit isn't. It's even common for this kind of giving to involve a good measure of guilt.
  3. Charity from the heart. This is giving out of love. The word "charity" comes from the Latin "caritas," or love.  In early Christianity caritas became one of the three great virtues, along with hope and faith. By the time of St. Paul it already meant charity in the modern sense, but the spirit of love was always understood. One gives as a child of God to another child of God. In this spirit there is no expectation of return.  One may give anonymously or to strangers.  Charity is selfless. It leaves the ego aside, if only briefly, with one intent in mind: to add to the sum total of love in the world. The spiritual significance is to expand the heart.
  5. Giving everything that you are. This is true generosity of spirit.  There is no separation between giver and receiver. You offer up your whole life, and in return life makes you more whole.  This isn't just a mystical wish. Once you realize that everything comes from the universe and goes back to the universe, there is no need to make giving be about "me."  Possessing nothing, you can give everything. You know that the universe has infinite resources; therefore, life itself can be based upon giving.
Looking around, one realizes that giving everything is the most natural way. You and I are here because Nature stinted in nothing. The air, the sky, the plant and animal kingdoms enrich the earth freely. The creative source that gave rise to life allowed single-celled algae and bacteria to evolve into the human brain, the most complex structure in the known universe. When the spirit of life really sinks in, and we realize the incredible gift we've received, the only possible act of appreciation is to give back with equal generosity.
In other words, giving should be twenty-four hours a day. At the level of spirit you can give of yourself completely. That's the goal we are all evolving toward. At certain moments we sense this, all of us. A mother's attitude toward her infant child is one of complete giving, out of wonder that new life has become hers to nurture and protect. In expanded form, this attitude becomes Ahimsa, a Sanskrit word often translated as "reverence for life." As a doctor I also like the definition for "harmlessness," because a physician's first duty is to do no harm.  When you revere life, violence disappears, and it is only natural to do no harm.  You are linked to all life, and by magic, every gift you give becomes a gift to yourself.

Deepak Chopra is the President of the Alliance for A New Humanity"

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cooking with Alliums this Summer?

Read more about the lacrymatory factor in our allium friends, their own version of hand-to-hand combat. Don't know if you should chop, crush, or slice your allium addition? Dr. Eric Block's book, "Garlic and Other Alliums: The Lore and the Science" will surely answer all your nagging questions. I'm going to have to go out and get this book, stat!

Have you tried?

Local grass-fed beef yet?

If not, you're missing out. This stuff, coming from a ketchup-with-my-burger lover, doesn't need ketchup (shocking, I know). It is a deeper burgundy, bursting with flavor, and a heartier texture. Yes, it might need more TLC when cooking, but it it totally worth it.

The New York Times had an interesting piece in today's Dining and Wine. Check it out here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Feeling Wild and Crazy?

Okay, so maybe not wild and CRAZY. Wild and nutty?

Wild Rice and Walnuts, I mean!

This is one of the different salads we prepared over Memorial Day weekend for a Sunday dinner party for around 30 people. It originated from The Silver Palate Cookbook, as staple in many American kitchens. It is incredibly easy to make -- and to triple to quadruple the portions. It can be -- and should be -- made in advance, clearing the kitchen of messy bowls and pots before the gathering begins. The greatest added benefit of the dish? Very low in fat, clean flavors, full of fiber, and featuring very healthy ingredients like wild rice, walnuts, raisins, orange zest.

My family has been making this for as long as I can remember. We've made a few adjustments, like using less olive oil than the original recipe called for. I also like to amp up the flavors with plenty of orange zest and juice, mint, and proper seasoning. Throw in some extra golden raisins and toasted walnuts (a new recent change -- we used to add pecans, per the original recipe, but I prefer toasted walnuts much more. Plus, they're healthier!).

I like this salad two to three days (or four, if it is still around) after it has been made. The flavors have melded together, the rice moist, and raisins super plump. I've been known to eat a heaping cup of it for breakfast. Hey, it is at least a relatively balanced meal!

Nutted Wild Rice
adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook

1 c (1/2 lb) raw wild rice
5 1/2 c defatted chicken stock
1 c walnut halves
1 c yellow raisins
Grated rind of 1-2 oranges
1/2 c chopped fresh mint
4 scallions, thinly sliced
About 2 tbsp olive oil (add one and adjust to taste)
1/3 c fresh orange juice
1 1/2 tsp salt (taste as you add to make sure proper balance)
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place rice in a strainer and rinse well in cold water to cleanse. Put into a heavy medium saucepan and add stock. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking uncovered for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, check to see if it is done. Drain in a towel-lined colander and transfer to bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and toss together gently. Adjust seasonings and let sit at least 2 hours (I like to let it sit overnight) to let flavors develop. Serve at room temperature. Excellent with grilled lamb or beef and roasted vegetables and a hearty green salad.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Feeling Thirsty?

ABC Kitchen
photo by Amy Sussman courtesy of The New York Times

If you've had a little too much fun at your Reunion recently (or other events with free-flowing alcohol) and are feeling a bit sluggish and thirsty for nutrients, I urge you to check out Brandi Kowalski's juices at her Elixir Bar at Jean-Georges' new restaurant ABC Kitchen. After reading this article, I can not wait to try one. I don't think I'm quite up for the Dragon Slayer. JG's favorite, 24 Carat, is more my style.

The Debate over Raw

Have you heard of "raw" milk?

If you haven't tried it yet -- or have not even heard of it yet -- I urge to to run, yes, run, to your nearest natural foods market or grocery store (the local market in New Canaan, CT used to sell the BEST raw milk before the "raw" revolution even began! Yay for Walter Stewart's and Sankow's Beaver Brook Farm!) and get a half gallon. Then email me and tell me what you think.

Taste-wise, I can't begin to describe the difference between raw and pasteurized milk. Raw milk is a "whole" milk product, yet to me, has a mouth-feel more similar to skim, yet still retains a creamy texture. The flavor is amazing! I did not grow up drinking milk (was even fed goat's milk as a child due to a milk protein intolerance), so I never had the urge -- or parental requirement -- to drink a glass of milk. Until I had my first sip of raw milk. Just a month ago, we had a bottle in the house and I got all excited, pouring myself a nice cup of cold raw milk. It's that life changing.

The Weston A. Price Foundation (Sally Fallon's book Nourishing Traditions is a MUST read)

Health-wise, the benefits over pasteurized milk are remarkable. As I'm not a scientist, I will refer you to two excellent sites where you can read up more about the pasteurized vs. raw debate. But first, my own opinion. Raw milk is alive, with all the necessary enzymes and energetic "stuff" you need to digest the milk. Pasteurized milk is heated to a certain point to kill off all the "bad" stuff (from factory farms, really). This process also kills off all the "good" stuff, thus making it harder for our bodies to often digest the milk. And I wonder where and why we have an increase in milk intolerance these days (side note: my milk intolerance is no longer. How? I will have to credit raw milk, and an acidophilus habit).

And for a little in-the-news debate? Check out this article from today's New York Times.

With my cup of raw milk raised, cheers!