Monday, June 22, 2009

Rock Star Gingered Slaw

The other week I gave a cooking demo to a completely full, standing room only, packed house. We laugh, we talked, we ate and at the end I received a roaring round of applause. What can I say, I'm a rock star! Well, at least in my head. Not that I have millions of fans or men throwing themselves at my feet (which wouldn't be all bad). No I'm a rock star in the sense that when I give a cooking class or lecture, entertain my audience and at the end a hear thunderous applause, I am on cloud 9. Like Bono hitting a high note. Since snatching the lead in my second grade play, "Pepe and the Corn Field Bandit" (yes, I was Pepe), I have loved being in front of an audience. There is nothing like the energy of a group looking to you for entertainment, laughs, information. You as "the guru" is awesome! For years my sister and father urged me to go into acting. "Jamie, you should totally go into acting," said my little sis. "You are funny and look just like Julia Louis Dreyfus. It's perfect!" Though the idea of endless adoration sounded quite good, I never really fit in with the "drama kids". I explored theatre in college but everyone seemed so put on, obsessed with getting their "big break". Not that they were bad people, just DRAMATIC. It was all way too much pressure for my delicate constitution.

But this bug, this rock star bug, kept at me. I'd held it at bay for a while until about 4 years ago when it showed up, bigger and stronger than ever! Interestingly though it took on another form. My rock star envy was no longer about me getting adoration or applause but rather about doing something worthwhile in my life. Using my rock starness (new word) as a way to help people. I know, cheesy right? I want to make a difference in the world blah, blah, blah. The cool thing is, now that I'm fulfilling my desire, the bug is gone. For years I felt like a cog in the wheel, just a small part of a larger machine I had no power to control. Becoming a health and wellness expert set me free. Yes, running a business is hard and there are still moments of complete terror but I never feel stuck or that I'm living my life for someone else. It's my life (que Bon Jovi), on my terms, and in the process I'm helping others change theirs. It's good to be a rock star!

Here is one of recipes I made. It was definitely a crowd pleaser and a quick salad you can throw together in 15 minutes. I actually had someone come up and ask to take the leftovers home. Sorry buddy, the rest is for me. Oh so good. Enjoy!

Rock Star Gingered Cabbage Coleslaw

Serves 4

3 cups shredded red cabbage, about ½ a medium cabbage

1-2 carrots, freshly grated

¼ cup cilantro, chopped

¼ cup fresh mint, chopped

2 green onions, finely minced

1/3 cup tamari roasted pumpkin seeds

Ginger Dressing

¼ cup unrefined sesame oil

2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup brown rice vinegar

½ teaspoon grated ginger

1 tablespoon tamari or shoyu

½ teaspoon of honey or brown rice syrup

Combine cabbage, carrots, onions and herbs together. In a small bowl combine all ingredients of the fresh ginger dressing together and whisk thoroughly. Pour dressing over the slaw, and top with pumpkin seeds! This hearty slaw is even good the next day so make extra.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where is the Grass Greener?

Envy creeps into my life about every 48-72 hours. That's an improvement. It used to be every 2-3. Maybe envy is not the right word. How about the phrase, "the grass is always greener"?

At this stage of my development, my "envy funks" only last about 20 minutes. But within that time frame, I'm in complete meltdown mode. Comparing myself to others is a nasty habit and one I've honed beautifully over the years. And why not? We're inundated with cars, clothes, homes, careers that others have and we want. I'm not blaming the media but...fine, I am! Ok, I'll spread my grievances out. I'm blaming the media and my family. Since all is fair on love and blogs it's only appropriate to call out those people who not only loved, supported, and cared for me (until this post), but also implanted little voices in my head. Voices that said, "Yeah, an A minus is good, but it's still not an A" or "Wear something nice to the party. Oh, and please brush your hair" or even "Julie's niece looks great. So thin!" Once ingrained the voices of your family become your own. When used for good they push us to achieve, when utilized for evil, we become obsessive, compulsive over-analyzers stuck within our own thought patterns.

Why is this all coming out now? Recently I've been pushing myself hard. Blogging, tweeting, facebooking (is that even a term?); it's fun and keeps me connected but is also exhausting. Primarily because it updates me to the goings-on of others in my field. Honestly, the world of instant updates wigs me out. When another health counselor posts an article, I feel compelled to do the same. It's keeping up with the Jones' times 10. I'm totally envious when I read about their flourishing practice, recent TV appearance or book deal.

Where the hell is my TV show and client waiting list?

Thank goodness this is when reality and gratitude gracefully appear. First of all, I've got all those things. My practice is crazy busy, I'm already on TV, and my book, well, you're currently reading it. But all of that is not even the point. It is so easy to get caught up with the notion that everyone's got it better than you or everyone's got is figured out BUT you. However, experiencing such thoughts is actually GOOD because in snapping out the destructive and obsessive mental pattern, we realize what we have and how lucky we are to have it.

After bashing my family (just a little) I must admit it was my beloved mother who sent me this quote:"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting their own battle." No one is perfect and everyone's got their own sh-t. And I notice that when comparing sh-it, I more that likely want to stick with my own. See, now the grass on my side looks pretty green!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Perfect Pot of Beans

A perfect pot of beans is all I really need. And no fancy fixings either. Just mirepoix (onion, carrot, celery), good olive oil, fresh herbs and I'm set. If you know me though, there is a catch. I'm not just eating any old bean. I'm talking heirloom varietals, my friend. What? You thought heirloom only referred to tomatoes? Oh no. There is an entire world of heirloom/heritage foods just waiting to be explored. Pork, turkey, potatoes, beans, the list goes on. First, a little explanation. Heirloom foods come from older plant/animal varietals that have not been used in agricultural mass production. They are more genetically diverse (which is better for the soil and environment) than the monoculture plants/animals we eat when buying conventionally raised produce and meat. They are also typically more resistance to pests and disease. Here is an easy way to think of it. Heirloom food is to a mutt as conventional produce is to a purebred. SAT's anyone? Though the purebred looks good there is always something a little off. You know what I'm talking about. Purebreds are often insane, sickly, and rarely the sharpest tool in the shed. Then there is the mutt. He may not be pretty but he's clever, resourceful and knows how to survive in the wild. That's your heirloom.

I made a pot of these delicious beans for some friends Sunday night. After dinner one of our guests said," I was scared about what you were making for dinner, you know, because it was vegetarian and all. But those beans....those were REALLY good." So good in fact, he emailed me the next day for the recipe. That's right, I thought. Another bean convert down, a few million to go.

Borlotti Beans with Mirepoix and Fresh Herbs
I used borlotti beans in this dish for the simple fact that I adore them. Their creamy yet meaty flavor and consistency is unlike any other bean I've experienced. I buy them from Rancho Gordo, the best bean company on earth! Don't worry, if you can't find borlotti. Any of their beans will work in this recipe. You can also cook the beans days in advance to cut down on kitchen time.

1 pound bag borlotti beans, soaked overnight
2 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1/2 yellow onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 TBS mint, freshly chopped
1/4 cup parsley, freshly chopped
Celtic sea salt
Favorite good quality finishing olive oil (I use Bariani, cold pressed and unfiltered)
Good quality Parmesan cheese

In a large pot rinse and drain pre-soaked beans, cover with fresh water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 1 1/2 hours. Check the beans for doneness. They should be toothy but creamy. If they are hard or crunchy, give them another 1/2 hour. When the beans are done, drain them into a large colander and RESERVE THE COOKING LIQUID. This is the pot liquor to be used later.

In the same large pot, saute onions, carrot, and celery with olive oil and salt until vegetables have softened. Add in the beans (I usually put 1 cup of cooked beans aside to fry up the next day. So good!), cooking liquid, and salt and let simmer for 10-15 minutes. When ready to serve, stir in mint and parsley, drizzle with olive oil and add more salt if needed. Dust with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!

Monday, June 8, 2009

That added crunch!

A good dish is one that has many layers to it. Fat, flavor, and texture all come together to make a dish worthy of oooohhhhh's and aaahhhh's. Texture is a relatively new concept to me. Granted, I've always loved velvety ice cream or crunchy popcorn but in terms of my cooking, consciously adding this dimension only appeared in the last two years.

Let it be known, my favorite texture is crunch. Is crunch even considered a texture? Let's call it a sensation. Much sexier! Give me crunch and lots of it. I stumbled upon my crunch predilection when a client asked me, "Do you have any smooth recipes?" "What do you mean, 'smooth' recipes?" I said. "You know, anything with a smooth consistency. I love creamy smooth things. I must just have a lazy mouth." After throwing every rice pudding and mashed potato recipe I could find at her (all delicious and healthy, let me add) I started to think about my own mouth. If there is one overactive part of my body it is definitely my huge mouth. That sucker has got me into more trouble than I care to admit. To this day I'm the only one of siblings to ever get slapped across the face. Why, you ask? For running my mouth! And my parents don't even believe in spanking! I digress.

In that moment with my client I realized I was the complete opposite. A life sustained on dishes consistent with baby food seemed painful and very boring. My hyperactive muncher needed crunch, bad! Later that night I gorged on popcorn, shoving my mouth full of salty goodness out of fear that my beloved sensation might vanish from my palate forever. Luckily I have since recovered and, in a more emotionally stable way, add crunch to almost every meal.

If you open my fridge at this very moment you will see glass jars filled with all types of nuts and seeds. For a bit of crunchy sensation, I throw a handful onto everything. Salad with tamari pumpkins seeds, sauteed kale with pine nuts, brown rice and slivered almonds, the combos are endless. They are also the PERFECT on-the-go snack. The crunch and fat together fills you up and creates a sense of satiety that keeps you content until the next meal.

Tamari Toasted Pumpkin Seeds
You can simply toast these but I think the tamari adds a rich saltiness. Tamari, a naturally fermented wheat-free soy sauce, can be found at your local health food store. Regular soy sauce is loaded with preservatives, MSG and other undesirables so stay away from it. And besides, tamari simply tastes better!

1 cup raw pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon tamari

In a medium sauté pan toast pumpkin seeds over low to medium heat until they begin to turn golden, about 10 minutes. Make sure to stir them every couple of minutes to prevent burning. Turn the heat very low and sprinkle tamari over the toasted seeds. Make sure most seeds receive a little tamari. Once the seeds are dry (the tamari dries very quickly), remove from heat and let sit. Eat as a delicious salty snack or sprinkle over everything!

Storage: Once cooled, store in a glass jar in the fridge or freezer. Will last a good 2 months. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Potato Bliss

Most of my weekly food inspiration comes from the farmer's market. Even though I generally know what the farmers have in any given season, I like to see what pops out at me. What strikes my fancy, you might say.
Sometimes the produce has a cheerleader. Just like yesterday. While walking my usual route I heard from the distance, "A must try! New crop of butterball potatoes!" I like potatoes as much as the next girl but if it were between a potato and a piece of dark crusty bread (maybe even specked with walnuts...YYYUUUMMM!), the bread always wins out. I went by the stand to witness this amazing "new crop". Approaching the stand I saw a beautiful crate of waxy and perfectly round yellow potatoes.

"Have you ever had our butterballs?" the farmer's asked.
"Not yet, " I said, thinking, no one would turn down a food item named butterball.
"They've got a creamy, almost velvety texture. A must try!", she exclaimed. (I loved her enthusiasm and confidence.)

I bought the potatoes, excited to try something new. But roasting these just would not do. Roasted potatoes are fine but I wanted something lighter, more springy. With that I looked over at the next stand to discover a gorgeous bunch of basil. The foods Gods were definitely smiling on me. Potato salad with basil pesto it is.

I love basil! It's so versatile and in this dish it adds the perfect bit of herby sweetness. I threw in mint and cilantro for added freshness but feel free to use any other herbs you like. Dill and parsley would work nice as well.

Basil Pesto Potato Salad with Spring Vegetables
1 lb small German butterball potatoes
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 bunch of asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces and blanched (quickly throw into boiling water for 2-3 minutes and drain, should still be crunchy)
1 cup sugar snap peas, de-stemmed and blanched (throw in with the asparagus)
1/4 cup minced green onion (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped

Cut potatoes in half, quarters if they are larger. Bring a pot of water to boil, add a pinch of salt, and boil potatoes until cooked. About 12 minutes or until you can easily pierce them with a fork. Drain in a colander, place in a glass or ceramic bowl, squeeze with lemon, and cover with a dish towel. This allows the potatoes to steam and get extra creamy. Let stand for 10 minutes.

While the potatoes are steaming, make your pesto.

Fresh Basil Pesto
Makes 1 cup (this also freezes beautifully)

1 cups fresh basil leaves, rinsed, dried, and packed in
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan-Reggiano (A microplane works well here. No green can please!)
1/3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts
2 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
Celtic sea salt

Place basil in the food processor and pulse a few times. Combine pine nuts in with the basil, and pulse again. Add the garlic, pulse a few times more.

Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is going. Stop to scrape down the sides with a spoon or spatula. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add a pinch of salt to taste.

Combine potatoes, asparagus, and snap peas with the pesto. Add the pesto one tablespoon at a time to make sure you don't over dress it. Add the cilantro, green onion, and mint, squeeze in a little more lemon and serve warm. Enjoy!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Definitive Queen

Some of you may not know this but I am a definitive type of person. I like things absolute, locked in, solid. Black and white is my favorite lens through which to view the world. I deeply believe in cause and effect. If you do X, then Y will happen. However, no matter how much we want things to turn out as we think they should, they never do. Logically I know this to be true, and yet I am always shocked when events don't turn out as planned. I also think it is hilarious that with my allegiance to seeing things in black or white, my husband name is Gray. The universe is trying very hard to teach me a lesson.

With my definite nature, there was a two year span in my early twenties when I did not eat anything raw. That's right, no salad, slaw, crudite, or fresh fruit for two years. (Well, maybe half an apple every other day but that was it.) I told you I like to stick to a plan! At the time I followed a macrobiotic diet that espoused the necessity for all food to be cooked to aid proper digestion. This diet promised complete digestive wellness if I just stuck to the plan. Are you saying that if I do X, Y will happen? I'M IN!!!! At the time I was dating a guy who, almost nightly, made these huge "everything but the kitchen sink" salads. Surprising enough, he did not have a salad spinner. "What?", you say. I know! This was just a piece of a larger world-view problem. He would wash and dry every single lettuce leaf by hand, leaving the salad limp and waterlogged. Seeing as I was never going to eat salad again, I thought, "Why not give him my spinner?" This spinner opened his eyes to a world of possibilities! He spun in the morning. He spun in the evening. Nothing this man ate went to his lips without first taking a whirl. The relationship did not last much longer but I felt good knowing that whenever he used that salad spinner, he would think of me. I had made my mark.

Fast forward a few years....I had a new man (Gray) and I was eating salads again. I know, I said I like to stick to a plan but after years of nothing raw, resentment filtered in. It felt good to let go of my food restrictions, and for goodness sake, not everything had to be black and white. There were now shades of Gray. Once reintroduced, salads became a nightly staple at our dinner table. Every night Gray dutifully washed and dried each perfect salad leaf, one by one. We were standing in the kitchen in our usual spots. Me chopping fresh summer herbs and Gray at the sink, washing away.

Out of no where he blurted, "I can't! I just can't do this anymore!" (My husband has a flare for the dramatic.) "What!", I said. "I cannot bear to wash another leaf of lettuce this way," he screamed. "I hate it! You know, have you ever heard of an invention called a SALAD SPINNER!"

I had come full circle. All the harassment I hurled at my previous boyfriend had now smacked me in the face.

"Well, I used to have one," I sheepishly replied.
"What do you mean used to?", he said.
"I gave it to an ex-boyfriend," I whispered. "Why?", he blurted.
And with a big sigh I finally admitted it. "Because I thought I would never eat salad again."
"You are INSANE!", he screamed.
I know I'm insane, I thought. Why do you think I never mentioned the salad spinner issue before!

For the record, Gray and I now own a salad spinner. It was given to us by my mother as an engagement present. We use it all the time. We spin in the morning. We spin in the evening. It has opened up of world of possibilities and probably saved our relationship in the kitchen.

It seriously irks me that situations, people, and things are forever in motion with nothing set in stone. As the Definitive Queen, life's changeability and uncertainties shake me to the core. I know, I'm working on it. I will take a deep breath, and let it go. And then do that again 100 more times. That being said, I love salad and am happy to have it back on the menu.

Little Gem Salad with Fennel, Peach and Cilantro
Serves 4

6 heads of Little Gems or 1 1/2 heads red/green leaf lettuce (I highly recommend not using pre-bagged salad mix. The leaves are always dried out and flavorless.)
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced/shaved
½ peach, cubed
¼- ½ cup cilantro, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
2-3 tablespoons good quality olive oil (I LOVE Bariani)
2-3 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar (again, Bariani)
Celtic sea salt

Wash, SPIN, and rip lettuce into bite size pieces and place in a large salad bowl. Add all remaining ingredients to the bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and Celtic sea salt and toss thoroughly.


Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Gratitude in Unexpected Places

Sustaining gratitude on a daily basis is difficult. Sure, finding gratitude is easy. Just listen to Morning Edition on NPR News and you'll be flooded with it. "I'm grateful to not live in AIDS ravaged Africa." "I'm forever grateful to not be in a war-torn country." "Thank you universe for my beautiful house and minimal debt." There are so many horrible, terrible no good very bad things happening around the world, it's a piece of cake to find gratitude within our privileged lives. And how long does your brilliant wave of gratitude last?...About 45.6 seconds. As soon as you thank God, or the Universe, or yourself, you shunt back into your daily life of to-do lists, work responsibilities, and kvetching over the slow driver keeping you from your desired destination.
It's such a bizarre occurrence to at one moment be in a mindful/thoughtful state and the next, going full speed into your day with only your needs and desires at the helm.

We all need something to bring us back to reality, to gratitude. This morning, my something came in the bathroom.

First, some back story. In 2000 I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis. It has been a long hard journey (one to be regaled soon I promise) of natural healing and clean eating that has brought me to my current state of health. Well that is, until a few months ago. I'd been seeing a lovely acupuncturist who put me on some herbs to "warm me up". (I tend to have cold feet and hands. Problem with having freakishly long toes, I suppose.) The herbs definitely did their job, including warming up my intestines. Since then I've experienced flare-up symptoms I've never encountered before. Again, no need to get graphic but let's just say, they are NOT fun!

My initial reaction to each trying bathroom escapade is, "This is Bullsh-t! I eat perfectly, do yoga, take deep breathes. Why is this happening to me!?!" Definitely not the most ZEN approach. Recently with my morning adventures I try to preemptively quell my frustration by repeating, "This is a journey, a process, the next step in my healing." I take a few deep breathes and wait for the unpleasantries to pass. And this leads me to where I found my gratitude. My symptoms this morning were shocking. So shocking in fact I wondered if I was going to make it to yoga at all. Was it safe to leave the bathroom? Should I even get in the car? During this bathroom debate something fantastic happen. Suddenly, everything began to calm down. My tummy relaxed, urgency diminished and I began to feel normal. Normal enough to make it to yoga in 5 minutes? I had to give it a shot!

As I pulled up to the studio, signed in for class and gently rolled out the mat, my entire body flooded with a wave of gratitude. "Thank you body for letting me enjoy my yoga practice. Thank you for letting me be here. I'm forever grateful for your flexibility and cooperation," I sighed. And let me tell you, it was the strongest class I've had in months! Every pose was a gift, an honor just to be in. Don't get me wrong, tomorrow I may curse the elderly driver or stress-out about work but today, today I am committed to feeling grateful for my body, its gifts and am open to the possibility of taking this gratitude with me into tomorrow. We shall see.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Fruit and Chocolate

It was a standard Hanukkah party thrown by my Grandfather and his then-wife Bea. All the usual characters were there and Bea fluttered around the room, true to her name, making sure everyone was happy. I, being about 7 or 8 years old, was bored out of my mind. Don't get me wrong, it was a lovely party but I was the oldest grandchild, the next oldest being my sister and believe me I had seen enough of her. I whined to my mother, "Can we go nnnooowww???" "No sweetie", she said in her perfectly even keeled voice. To this day I don't know how my mother is so patient. I need a lesson. "We haven't even had dessert yet. Go have fun with the other kids", she cooed.

I gave her the biggest eye roll I could muster and skulked back into the other room, head hung low in defeat. And then, as I passed the dining room buffet table I saw them. The biggest, most delicious looking strawberries dipped in chocolate. Some had dark chocolate, others white chocolate, and even ones with white and dark chocolate stripes. From an early age I had a deep appreciate for chocolate and strawberries separately, but together, oh, my little brain could barely handle it! I had never seen chocolate-covered strawberries before and if I had, they sure as hell did not look like these. The berries were about the size of my fist and the chocolate fit each like a snug little bootie. "These are chocolate covered strawberries from the best dessert shop in town", Bea whispered to me. "Very special". Heck yeah they're special, I thought. So special I'm going to eat them all!

I took my time choosing just the right one to begin the berry eating extravaganza. It had to be the biggest but also contain the most chocolate surface area. That one? Nope, the chocolate doesn't go close enough to the stem. Maybe this one? Eh, a little too small. Finally, smack in the middle of Bea's perfectly arranged dessert plate, I found MY chocolate-dipped strawberry. The berry was giant and beginning to sweat a little from the heavy coat of dark chocolate surrounding it. Here we go!

The first bite was exhilarating! Chocolate, strawberry goodness finally converging with my anxious taste buds. It wasn't until the confection hit the back of my tongue that I knew something was terribly wrong. This tasted awful! Actually worse. It didn't taste like anything at all. The chocolate coated my naive little tongue with a tasteless waxy-like substance that I could not seem to scrape off and the strawberry tasted like water. Not even strawberry favored water. Just plan boring water.

Yuck! This was disgusting! Of course I tried one more small bite just to make sure and yup, this thing was inedible. It was then that I decided (and as you know, I stick to my decisions) that all chocolate covered fruit items were to be banned from my edible repertoire. I'm sure some of you are thinking this decree was unfair. These confections were obviously not representing berries and chocolate at their finest. Perhaps if I had started with a flavor-bursting organic strawberry and gourmet dark chocolate things would have turned out differently. (I have since tested the organic version and am still not impressed.)

Having sworn off all fruit and chocolate combinations for the last two decades, you can imagine my reaction when my dear friend Jennifer sent me a recipe for Blueberry Truffles. Immediate reaction.....gross! After staring at the recipes for a good month I thought, "You know, Jennifer has very good taste and I've been holding onto this grudge for quite a while. Why not let it go and try these." By the way, I highly recommend talking to yourself daily. It really helps.

As it turns out these truffles are the smoothest, most delicious one-bite treat I've ever made. No joke. The creaminess of the walnuts mixed with the sharp sweet of date and chocolaty richness is fantastic. Now I don't know if I will ever be a fan of strawberries dipped in chocolate, but at least I know there is one fruit-chocolate combo that definitely lives up to my expectations.

Blueberry Truffles

2 cups of walnuts

1 cup of pitted dates

1 cup of frozen blueberries

1/2 cup of cocoa powder

2 tablespoons crushed oats and cocoa to roll the truffles in (mix together with a mortar and pestle or grind oats in a coffee grinder the combine)

Blend ingredients in a food processor until the mixture is smooth. Shape the mixture into small balls and roll them in oat/cocoa combo. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours, then serve.

Makes 12 truffles.