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Friday, December 31, 2010

Lifestyle: Resolutions Pt. 2 - Exercise!

Earlier this week I blogged about the most popular New Years Resolution...losing weight. A resolution that is perhaps intrinsically linked to that is implementing an exercise regimen. So many people start the year with a desire to get fit, to improve their health and wellness, but with work and family and other commitments, it's just as easy to let this one go by the wayside as the diet. Often, the two go hand in hand.

So how do you keep from giving up on exercise? Unfortunately, there isn't a simple, easy, one-size-fits-all answer. Getting more exercise is difficult in this day and age for the same reason that eating healthfully is difficult; our lifestyles aren't conducive to it. In fact, the only thing that the American lifestyle seems to comfortably support is spending too much time sedentary, and eating high calorie, nutritionally poor foods.

It's obvious why we are currently in the throes of a obesity epidemic, isn't it? But a sedentary lifestyle, while it affects weight, has far more adverse affects on your overall health and wellness.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Recipe! Vegan Stuffing

When it comes to food taste and preference, everyone is different. Some vegetarians and vegans prefer to eat meat substitutes, others don't. But regardless of how you or your loved ones feel about the main dish, even if you dig into a real bird on holiday occasions, it never hurts to have the healthiest side-dish options possible.

Avoiding the grease of traditional stuffing not only leaves you more calories to spend on other things, but it also better for your health. But the trouble with stuffing cooked outside the bird is, more often than not, an issue of flavor. So how do you make a flavorful dish that's still healthy, a pleasing texture and a compliment to the rest of the menu?

I would say that the trick for this stuffing is cooking the various elements individually, combining them, and letting the flavors meld together. Just like a delicious soup, you'll get more flavor from this method than just combining the whole shebang and letting it simmer. It might take a little longer, but the results are absolutely delicious, and healthier than your average stuffing-from-a-box or in-a-bird.

So create, eat, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Lifestyle: New Years Resolutions

Ah, New Years...there's a lot that anyone can say about this time of year, because (like any day) it's meaning is assigned, not inherent. Every society seems to hold some sort of celebration or festival or new beginnings, out with the old and in with the new, and for reasons that are fairly obvious; we need that cyclical chance to renew ourselves. Everyone needs a clean slate, and even if dropping the baggage of the previous year is mostly symbolic, it gives us a chance to change things...a starting point from which we can push off. 

Of course, this creates the ever-famous (or infamous) New Year's Resolution. Many of us purpose to drop those holiday pounds, to give up our vices and generally do a better job of being a good person in the year to come. And frankly, there's nothing wrong with that.

The fact is, sometimes we need a diving platform, an edge to get us started, and a reason to stop making excuses...New Years provides this for many. But where do we find the motivation to stick with our goals? Losing the motivation to lose weight sometimes shortly after January 31st is so common it's a cliche`, just like dieting on January 1st. So how do you keep yourself out of that trap? 

It's so subtle you almost wouldn't notice it from an outside perspective, but the difference is that of starting a fad diet or making a conscious decision to improve your lifestyle. Don't let your gym membership go to waste, don't follow some strict regime that forces you to eat food that you don't want...it's pointless! Losing weight isn't a mystery, even if it feel like it. 

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Recipe! Vegan Quinoa with Vegetables

I hope that everyone's holidays went smashingly well! For us, Christmas is quite a bit about family, moreso than presents or even food. Nevertheless, good food did certainly abound. This year was a bit different from Christmases past; I was still brand new to the anti-anxiety diet last Christmas, and about six months ago my sister-in-law decided to go vegan. The new dietary restrictions for our family means that the traditional dishes needed to be tweaked a bit...I didn't want to have to eat food I wasn't comfortable with, and I knew that my sister in law needed more than just whatever salad she would be able to eat without worrying about animal products.

Therefore I did the only logical thing and took to Google, in search of healthy, delicious vegan recipes that the whole family could enjoy and my sister-in-law could fill up on.

Though I took a recipe from allrecipes.com, low ratings and availability of ingredients prompted me to adapt it to my own specifications, and the results were amazing! The whole family wanted to know what was in it, how I'd made it, and they all asked for the recipe! Ergo, this blog...now all of you can share.

This dish is extremely healthy, flavorful, and pleasing to the omnivorous and vegan palette alike. It can easily be adapted to whatever ingredients you have on hand. I also imagine that you could use couscous if quinoa is not readily available.

[Note: Quinoa is a whole grain. Most stores will at least carry the Bob's Red Mill Quinoa, but it's cheapest if you can buy it in bulk. It cooks much like rice, see the recipe! If you've never had it before, try it! It's absolutely delicious and extremely healthy.]

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Recipe! Creamy Avocado Soup

I'm not really sure what it is about the holidays that have put me in the mood for Tex-Mex, but there you have it. I have dreams of creating a fully multi-cultural holiday dinner next year, with side dishes and appetizers from all over the world, very Street in scope and flavor...but that's next year. This year the biggest challenge we are taking on is creating a meal that satisfies the vegan, myself, and the uber-carnivores in the family...all on one table.

That's enough for one year, right?

But in the meantime, I have another Tex-Mex recipe for you...I made it a few weeks back to go with black bean quesadillas, and it was a huge hit! Although avocado soups are generally served cold, this time of year who wants a cold soup? This was the reasoning behind the creation of this recipe, and it worked out quite well.

One taste-tester said that it was the "perfect soup" because he could dip chips in it, use is as a topping for his quesadillas, or just eat it straight with a spoon! It's spicy, warm, and delicious....a perfect compliment to any tex-mex meal. And it's vegetarian to boot. Just make sure you don't over-heat it, because it will lose it's lovely color! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Recipe! Chicken, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas

So what's the next big thing in food? The lowly sweet potato, if certain sources are to be believed...and based on the number of non-holiday sweet potato recipes I've seen pop up lately, it looks like it's true! And why not? Sweet potatoes are listed as one of the world's healthiest foods for a reason...mainly speaking, beta-carotine. But they are full of all sorts of vitamins and are fabulously good for you, and delicious to boot.

The fun part about sweet potatoes is that their flavor lends itself well to all sorts of interpretation...and as long as you aren't filling them with sugar and covering them in marshmallows, you can get pretty darn creative. The light sweetness of the sweet potato lends itself well to spicy seasonings, such as chipotle. But it also does will in baking sweet breads and in all sorts of soups and chilis...

I wanted to make a dish that would celebrate the flavor of the sweet potato, and I believe I have done just exactly that. These enchiladas are a bit untraditional...they have no sauce. But preparing each ingredient individually means that they each shine on your palette with every bite, and the result? Absolutely delicious and bursting with flavor.

When you make this, you will need to season intuitively. I gave measurements but, as always, they are approximate and may require doctoring. Though this recipe has a lot of steps, none of them are difficult, and it's not nearly as time consuming as I expected. This is sure to please, and can be dressed up or down (or spiced up or down!) as you please.

Make, enjoy, and share!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Recipe! Pumpkin Cupcakes with Pumpkin Spice Ganache

Ok, ok...I know the pumpkin season is nearing it's end, but as far as I see it, the world is still good for pumpkin creations until after Christmas...or until the grocery stores run out. So I had to post this recipe, see?

When it comes to baking, I tend to follow recipes pretty exactly. I'm a very intuitive cook, but not being able to check things halfway through makes me a wee bit nervous...so I tend not to create my own recipes for baked goods. With that said, I discovered the cupcake recipe via the magic of Google on the wonderful blog How Sweet It Is. I totally love this blog, and I encourage you to check it out! The ganache though...that's all mine.

These cupcakes are a little more like muffins, truth be told, but the ganache makes them a little unmistakable. I made them for a friend's birthday...my friend isn't very fond of overly sweet things, so these are certainly geared toward a more adult palette. As it stands, the ganache isn't very strong with spice flavor...you could add a bit more to increase the effect, if you so desired!

It's also important not to overbeat the ganache or overcook the cupcakes! Cook, eat, share, and enjoy!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Food, the Holidays...and Love.

The holidays are...an interesting time, to say the least. For the past five years, I've worked in some holiday-effected industry through the holiday season. For me, the Holidays start in October and last until January second.  It's long, grueling, and exhausting...not the most fun you can have during a season that's meant to be about giving, family, and love.

But this season I've been trying to keep up with a blog as well, trying to manage my anxiety, and of course, cooking up a storm. Add some writing projects on top of all that and it makes for the busiest holiday season I've ever had. Either because or in spite of the busyness, my perspective this year has...certainly changed. I've been thinking a lot more about changing the emphasis of the season and a lot less about...well, everything else.

I guess it started because of my paycheck-job. Every time I perform a transaction, I ask, "Do you want to donate to St. Jude's Children's Hospital?" and approximately ninety-nine percent of the time everyone gives me a quick, "No thanks." My next question being, of course, "Do you want to round up to the next dollar and just donate your change?" to which I am still very often refused. What is it in people that makes them refuse to donate a few pennies to one of the best charities out there during Christmas? It blows my mind.

So where does food come into all this?

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Recipe! Perfect Sweet Potato Fries

Recently, I was bitten by the sweet potato bug. It's a brutal sort of illness, one which demands long hours of sweet potato preparation and a great deal of mediocre dishes before finally resolving itself in tears of unadulterated joy and a batch of perfected sweet potato fries.

Fortunately for everyone involved, I've scoured the internet in search of the perfect sweet-potato-fry method and as it happens...the best idea is to combine the wisdom of the Internet and kind of mix and match methods until you achieve perfection. A long process, yes, and completely worth it.

Now, two things about sweet potato fries are fairly undisputed: They will never be as crispy as russet fries, and they will always be crispier if fried instead of baked. However, fried food should always be kept at an absolute minimum. So how then can the practical, at home cook create delicious oven-baked sweet potato fries?

Well, it's absolutely possible, and fairly easy...just somewhat tedious. I would classify sweet potato fries as a "labor of love", much like kaya toast, flourless chocolate cake, or brown rice risotto.  The method here is very important, but the seasonings can be tailored to suit your desire. The recipe I have here is for spicy-sweet potato fries...yours can be seasoned any way you like!

One thing is...be sure to use parchment paper and a good-size cookie sheet. You need to make sure that they fries don't stick or crowd one another!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lifestyle: Impatience and Obesity

Truth be told, I happen to be a bit of an NPR junkie. That's right. I listen to NPR on the radio and I follow the feed on the sidebar of my browser and I am a bit shameless. But being an NPR junkie, I come across a lot of interesting articles and recently, one managed to catch my eye.

The article talks about the link between impatience and obesity. Apparently, recent studies have shown that those who exhibit impatience tend to be more overweight and less financially responsible...ouch. But it makes sense, honestly...just look around! Impatience is at an epidemic level (much like obesity), and the two problems seem to be linked. As our culture becomes faster and faster, we begin to lose our capacity for delayed gratification...for patience.

But getting things faster in no way guarantees satisfaction. We move at the speed of light but our waistlines bulge and our wallets keep getting lighter and lighter. I think that a great deal of America's chronic stress and anxiety problem can be connected to this same behavior. But how does anyone lead a calm life in such a mad world?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Recipe! Flourless Chocolate Cake

If you've never had a flourless chocolate cake...you need to have one, most definitely. They are rich, decadent...a few bites will certainly satisfy, and they need nothing more than a simple topping of fruit and/or fresh whipped cream.

Flourless chocolate cake is the pinnacle of desserts that are rich enough to satisfy with a tiny portion. It has no flour (which makes it gluten free!) but that hardly renders it a health food. It's a great treat for special occasions when you want to impress, and certainly not something you should eat every day.

This cake must be started the night before you want to eat it and is best made in a springform pan. I've never been able to get it out of the cake pan, so we just had to fish out the pieces one at a time. I imagine you could use a regular pan lined with parchment as well!

This is most definitely  a crowd pleaser, but the dark chocolate gears it toward a more mature palette. Experiment with the whipped topping (Frangelico and Bailey's come to mind...) and coffee-based cocktails. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Lifestyle: Learning to Balance Your Meals

I've often said that eating an anti-anxiety diet, or any sort of healthy, whole foods diet is a matter of lifestyle change. There's no quick fix and there's no miracle method...it's a fundamental change of lifestyle and a difference not only in what you eat, but in the way you approach food, eating, and nutrition in general. But picking and choosing from a laundry list of foods isn't exactly useful, because your meals have to put together in a way that achieves balance.

I was reminded of this while reading this article, which links those who eat out at fine restaurants on a regular basis with a higher danger of obesity. The doctors in the article have said that eating at fine restaurants all week long is no more healthy than eating fast food, and that, essentially, eating out means eating unhealthily. Of course, there are ways to eat out healthfully, but that's another article. "Foodie" culture has created an appreciation for the gourmet, but you can't forget that a dessert made with whole grains and fresh fruit is still a dessert, that all natural local cheeses are still cheeses, and that vegetables cooked with oil or butter still contain a serving of fats.

There's a way to enjoy these kinds of foods, however, and that's by incorporating them into balanced meals, using them as the finishing touch instead of the star. Also, there's nothing wrong with enjoying moderate portions of high-calorie or high-fat foods on a special occasion, just so long as it's more once-or-twice-a-month and not once-or-twice-a-week.

But how do you make gourmet foods without the gourmet calories?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Curries: The Ultimate Comfort Food

In practically every country but the U.S., curries are a standard fare. Relatively simplistic dishes that can be dressed up or down and made with virtually any combination of vegetables and meats, curries are delicious, comforting, and simple. If you aren't familiar with curries, they make an excellent weeknight dinner because they can be whipped up in a hurry, but if made with an array of veggies, a lean meat, and served over brown rice, they are a perfectly balanced meal.

My family has grown to love curries in the past few months, and I've made an effort to try as many different sorts of curries as possible. Japanese curry lacks the sweeter flavor that Indian and Thai curries carry, and Indian and Japanese curries are creamier and thicker than Thai. Japanese curry roux blocks can be picked up at almost any market, but they often contain MSG, so it's best to use a recipe to create your own roux. Thai curry paste is inexpensive and none of the brands at my local ethnic market contained MSG, though the red curry that we had was very spicy. Any of the curries can be made mild or spicy, sweet or savory, thin or creamy.

Versatility is the name of the game with curries, and they can be adjusted for nearly any palette. I've decided to include several curry recipes here for a one-stop curry making recipe post... keep in mind that these are suggestions, and can be adjusted based on your palette and what you have on hand. Enjoy!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Weight Loss: Childhood obesity and the new food safety law

I am not, by nature, an overly political person. I write a blog based on food and health, not news or politics, and that's the way I prefer it. It isn't that I "don't get it" or "don't care", I have very strong opinions and I try to stay on top of the news...but politicians will always let down, secret agendas will always be present, ulterior motives will always sneak about the edges of Washington, and I much prefer cooking to all of it.

But there are times when the shenanigans in Washington find their way into the health, wellness, and food sectors, and it seems one of those times is upon us now.

Congress has passed a bill concerning child nutrition, a bill that should overhaul school lunches and address some of the childhood obesity rate concerns. First Lady Michelle Obama has championed this bill as a facet of her "Let's Move" campaign to combat childhood obesity. Frankly, things needed to be changed in this country...if you've ever seen a school lunch, you know exactly what I mean. I wouldn't feed those processed, refined foods to my animals, let alone children.

But that isn't where it ends.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Recipe! Borscht.

There's something about borscht...it's one of those recipes I've long wanted to try and never quite gotten around to...until now.

Around this house, beets are a bit of a taboo. My taste testers aren't fond of beets and, though they trust my cooking, weren't entirely sure how they would like a recipe that utilized them so fully. Fortunately, I found several recipes and mixed their suggestions and the end result was...absolutely delicious.

Now, in our borscht, the beets were sliced. But I found that the large slices of beet were distracting. In the future, I will make borscht as written in the recipe...with beets diced. Some people prefer the large, meaty chunks of beet and if that's you...I don't judge. Either way, this recipe is delicious, comforting, and fairly easy.

Serve with sour cream and a sprinkle of sharp cheddar, if you so desire. And enjoy!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Weight Loss: Weight perception and how it affects you.

Recently this article brought my attention to something I have certainly noticed, yet never quite been able to pin down with logic; weight perception.

Essentially it says that these scientists did a study comparing women's actual BMI's to what they perceive themselves to be, and then based on that perception, what their weight related behaviors were. Turns out, women who are already overweight are more likely to consider themselves normal, and women who are within a healthy range are more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors in an effort to lose weight.

This brings up a number of questions, but it also serves to highlight some of the behaviors that have gotten us overweight and unhealthy as a country. Many women who are overweight and obese don't seem to think that they need to change their eating or exercise habits, and many women who fall into a normal weight range feel that they must mistreat their bodies to achieve some desired result...in the end, no one is better for any of it and the majority of us are left overwhelmingly unhealthy, regardless of weight.

It seems to me as though we are, all of us, caught somewhere in a battle between an unhealthy ideal and an unhealthy "norm".

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Recipe! Rustic Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Some recipes require a great deal of love and devotion...hours can be spent between prepping the ingredients and cooking the food itself, hours replete with stirring and tasting and checking and adjusting before finally getting the desired result. I, for one, am not at all opposed to this sort of cooking, but that doesn't change the fact that sometimes, everyone just needs a break. 

Which is precisely why I created this recipe. It's simple, the prep work doesn't take a terribly long time, and it's the sort of rustic food that makes you feel warm inside when you eat it. If I could describe it briefly, I would say that it just feels like home.

I would suggest that you marinate your chicken breasts in olive oil, garlic, and salt, but this isn't a strictly necessary step and it's one I have often skipped when I threw this dish together at the last minute. Also, it makes fabulous leftovers. My taste-testers are very fond of this dish, and they all agree that it completely hits the spot. Great for cold winter nights and lazy summer evenings alike...try it tonight!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Perspective: The Holiday Weekend

The interesting thing that I have found about food blogs is that we all come from vastly different backgrounds. The only requirement to blogging about food, really, is loving food. Therefore those who write these blogs and those who read them are as varied as a group can be, comprised of many different lifestyles and loves, but the passion for food is always present.

So this weekend, I imagine, will find us all doing very different things. Some will be continuing the Thanksgiving party, others will be shopping until they've truly dropped, some will be divvying up leftovers and others will continue to cook. Some of us, like me, will be working all weekend and others will be sleeping, relaxing, and enjoying their time with loved ones. There are as many ways to spend this weekend as there are people in America, which makes me wonder where we find our common ground.

Working with the public during the holiday season can be a complete nightmare. Tempers are short, lines are long, and though year after year television specials, banners and cards admonish us to "remember the reason for the season", no one ever really seems to. I think that reason can be different for everyone, but the desired result is the same...peace on earth, goodwill toward men. And yet...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Lifestyle: Is There Pleasure in Effort?

I ran across this article the other day...and of course, as someone who cooks just about every day and enjoys reaping the benefits and rewards, I was very intrigued. I can say with certainty that I enjoy meals that I make and meals that others make, and that I don't really discern any difference between the pleasure of eating whole food that I have prepared from scratch, and whole food that another person prepared for me. What I mean is that...barring a difference in the quality of the food, there's no difference in enjoyment of the meal itself.

However, I can say that when I cook and I make something really delicious, I derive more pleasure from it if it's shared with others. Seeing others enjoy what I've made and receiving compliments makes me feel much more satisfied personally, and how could it not? I'm sure that there is something built into us that makes us more appreciative of the things we've worked very hard to do, and why shouldn't we be? We know how much effort went into that endeavor, and when we look at the results we feel how successful we were, and we admire the results.

But what caught my eye in the article even more than that was the part about obesity.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recipe! Creamy Black Bean Soup

I love making my own recipes. I love taking a concept from...whoever, sometimes just a concept that I've come across enough times to remember, and then turning into my own. There's something about concocting your own recipe that leaves you with a sense of satisfaction...especially if that recipe turns out well!

Such is the story behind this creamy black bean soup. Nearly every Friday, I invite over whoever can make it and we cook, talk, laugh...sometimes watch movies, and always have a great time. Generally I'm the ringleader - I know what recipes we'll be trying and I have the necessary ingredients - but everyone helps with the cooking, eating, and clean up. It's a wonderful, fulfilling time. Cooking for others, with others, is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening.

This past Friday, I took all the information I've seen about making creamy black bean soups, added my own flare (i.e. seasonings) and served it with sweet potato fries and pumpkin bread. It was absolutely delicious, a total hit...and I want to share the recipe with you! This soup could easily be made vegan by omitting the cream. Enjoy!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Lifestyle: The Cost of Healthy Eating

I saw an article the other day about the cost of food and how it affects how people eat...which, of course, is a topic close to my heart. We don't have a lot of money and sometimes, making dinners week to week requires creativity not only with the recipes but also with the costs of the ingredients. As demonstrated on this blog, you can still make some pretty phenomenal food for a decent price, but there are times in the grocery store where spending the extra dollar or two feels a little painful. So what is the cost of eating healthfully, and is it worth it?

I once heard the perspective that when you buy organic and sustainable foods, the cost difference is an actual reflection of what it actually costs to produce that food. You're paying what it costs to sustain the world we live in, and to raise foods without any harmful chemicals and pesticides. It does cost more to eat well, it would be silly to deny that when you can grab an entire Totino's pizza for $0.99...less than the average pound of apples. But you aren't just paying for a brand name or a label, either. Fresh produce - especially that which is local and sustainable - will provide nutrition that Totino's couldn't come close to, and without all the preservatives, bleaches, and chemicals.

If you add up the nutritional value of the fast food, processed food, or frozen foods that you can buy so cheaply and compare it to the nutritional values of whole, healthy food...it's actually cheaper. You get what you pay for, in terms of food, and even though the grocery bill is coming out to a higher number, your health and that of your family will improve greatly. Of course, this means less doctor visits and hospital bills, trimmer waistlines and increased wellness of mind and body. Maybe it's difficult to think of those things when paying a higher grocery bill, but when you see results, it's hard to argue.

So it costs more to eat healthy...but what if you don't have more to spend?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Recipe! Susan Feniger's Kaya Toast

I recently traveled out to the bestWest coast for a week of Halloween fun and delicious food (if you eat badly in L.A. that's entirely your own fault) and came back with food dreams and a craving for a certain dish created by chef Susan Feniger. The restaurant is her first solo venture, called Street and located in Hollywood. We went on Dia de los Muertos, and it was rather packed...but the food was amazing. Susan Feniger's dishes seem to explode on your tongue, presenting a mix of flavor and texture like you've never had before. Her innovative flavors made her famous and, when you taste the food at Street, you know exactly why.

Everything that we ate that night was delicious, but there was one dish in particular that blew me away...and I'm not alone. Kaya Toast is, apparently, the most loved dish served at Street. It's so loved, in fact, that the chef posted her recipe online. When I came home and saw that, I was delighted, but doubted I could make anything as heavenly as what I tasted at Street. Fortunately, I was mistaken. Kaya toast was an instant hit around my house...the trick is both choosing the correct ingredients and putting them together in the proper method.

I barely deviated from chef Feniger's recipe, except in this...the recipe calls for a soft boiled egg, and I soft-fried mine. I used vegan butter (Earth Balance) instead of regular butter and whole wheat bread instead of white. It still evoked the same flavors...the trick here is the medley of flavors from the dark soy sauce, egg yolk, and coconut jam. Do not accept substitutions for those things! Also, the coconut jam is not difficult to make, but it is a bit tedious and time consuming. However, once it's made, one batch should make about 20 servings of kaya toast, and it keeps well in the fridge for up to a week.

This is a very impressive dish to serve as an appetizer or, if you're like me, a fabulous (and mildly guilty) breakfast. Make it and enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Recipe! Pumpkin-Turkey Chili

 When I saw a recipe for Pumpkin Turkey Chili, it tickled my taste buds and my imagination. Why? Because few things comfort in the winter cold like chili, but the bright, smooth taste of pumpkin could only make chili all the better. Not to mention the flavors and spices that could be used...! So that's how it started. I picked up the necessary ingredients and I went to work, only I followed the recipe I found on Whole Foods for about ten seconds before I started deviating all over the place and eventually, somehow, made my own dish.

Thus, the following recipe has a rather long list of ingredients...rest assured, most of them are spices and seasonings. You can (and will, I'm sure) adjust various spices and seasonings to make the chili to your taste, but at the end you will have a pleasantly sweet-hot chili, silky smooth with great, delicious pieces of turkey, onion, tomato and green pepper and two different, delectable beans. My version was fairly spicy...for a tamer chili, leave out some of the pepper and be judicious with your sriracha.

The best thing about this chili is that its as healthy as it is delicious. Ground turkey is a lean meat, together with legumes this chili packs a protein punch that's awesome for building calorie-burning lean muscle. Also, pumpkin is one of the world's healthiest foods, with a very low calorie content and a high vitamin content. And while we're on the subject of the world's healthiest foods, black beans, kidney beans, green bell peppers, onions, and turkey make the list as well.

Healthy and a crowd pleaser...what's not to love? Without further ado....

Monday, November 15, 2010

Lifestyle Changes To Combat Anxiety

There's been a lot of talk in the news about healthcare and the economy. Love it or hate it, the healthcare reform bill was passed, and if it actually takes effect it will certainly change a lot of things about how we view going to the doctor and how we pay for those visits and our medications. Regardless of your opinions on the healthcare plan, it can be pretty horrifying to need medical care and have no way to afford it. Being told by a doctor or a hospital that you can't be treated for a lack of funding is one of the worst, most hopeless feelings in the world...and when you need help with an anxiety disorder, such a feeling can send you into the depth of depression or a strong panic attack.

Although drugs aren't for everyone (I personally take no medications at this time, and would like to remain med-free) they often make life bearable for those who take them. If you would like to be put on medication for your anxiety, please reach out to the programs in your community. Google is a great place to start finding out about the mental health advocates in your community, and if you demonstrate financial need, these programs will often ensure you get your medication for a low copay.

However, if you prefer not to take drugs, or if you can't afford them, don't give up hope! Anxiety can be treated in a variety of ways, and one the most effective for me has been a lifestyle change.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Nervous About Holiday Eating?

With only thirteen days left until Thanksgiving - the biggest stuff-yourself-silly holiday in any calendar year - people everywhere are feeling the squeeze. We all know we'll overeat on Thanksgiving, and often times we have very little control over the food available, as it's usually an amalgam of whatever the family decided they should bring. At most family buffet-style Thanksgivings, the sodium and saturated fat is high and the whole grains and healthy foods are sadly MIA. We tend to stuff ourselves to the gills and lie about in a food-coma for the rest of the day, bemoaning our lack of self control even moreso when we next venture onto the scales. It's a tradition, and in American culture, tradition seems to trump...just about everything else.

So how can you maintain long-standing family traditions without ruining your diet or filling your body with unhealthy, processed foods?

Well, first of all, there are a few things to remember. One, its okay to splurge every once and awhile. Pick a few days throughout the holiday season that you know, already, that your calories will be higher than average. Let's say on Thanksgiving and Christmas, perhaps at a key party or two. Don't starve yourself the day before or after, or even the day of. Eat at least 1200 calories of healthy, nutritionally dense foods daily surrounding those "splurge" days, and make sure that your meals are balanced, containing a whole grain, a fruit or vegetable, and a protein. Do your best to maintain a workout routine, even if it's just a thirty minute walk per day. It's good for you!

Secondly, on these splurge days, watch your portion size.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recipe! Onion-Garlic Chicken

The thing that I love the most about this recipe is that it's versatile. I use variations on this chicken in all sorts of recipes, and season it to suit the palette of the recipe. Recently, I served this with mushroom cream sauce and risotto, and though it wasn't the star of the show (that title belongs to the sauce!) it was completely delicious, and great complimentary dish.

You could add different vegetables to this chicken, but I would stick with things like mushrooms, green peppers, and those types of consistencies. Depending on what you are serving it with, season it to go with your menu. I always start with a base of salt and pepper, and often ad parsley and whatever else sounds good. Make sure that your pan isn't too crowded! You don't want the chicken to steam.

Lastly, you want the chicken to cook somewhat slowly and thoroughly without drying out, so keep your heat just a tick above medium. Turn chicken after a few minutes to ensure even cooking! This recipe fed three, but you can always add or subtract ingredients to fit your needs. And as always, enjoy!

Onion-Garlic Chicken

2 large chicken breasts, trimmed and cut into 2 inch pieces or strips.
1 T olive oil
2 yellow onions
6 cloves garlic, put through a press or minced
Salt and Pepper
Parsley (to taste. I use about 1 T dry)

1. Warm olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken pieces, allowing space between them so they don't steam. After two minutes (or so, use your judgment on "doneness") turn pieces over and cook another side. Do this until all sides are white. Add salt and pepper during this process.

2. Add onions, garlic, and parsley, stir often until onions are beginning to brown. Serve with sauce, over rice or potatoes, in fajitas, or however you like!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lifestyle: Making the Decision to go Vegetarian or Vegan.

Recently, I saw someone discussing becoming a vegetarian because of the mistreatment of animals...and it made me think. I have a bit of a history with vegetarianism; when I was a young teen, I went from loving meat to being disgusted by it. The flavor, the texture...it became, quite suddenly, too much for me. I stopped eating all manner of meat immediately and sort of haphazardly ate whatever else was available. I had no concept of the proper nutrition for a vegetarian or how to get the necessary nutrients in my diet, and about five years later, I started craving a hamburger. I craved the hamburger for two years before I finally broke down and ate one, and after that, I was carnivorous yet again.

I've known many people who became vegetarians for the health benefits or weight loss. It is true that we, as Americans, get far too much of our protein from meat and done correctly, vegetarians can lose weight. It's a personal decision and one that I absolutely respect...no matter the reasoning. However, if your sole reason is a desire to avoid the mistreatment of animals? Well, you're fooling yourself. Becoming a vegan or fruititarian circumvents all animal cruelty, but refusing to eat meat and still eating eggs, butter, milk, ice cream, and other animal products from animals who have been mistreated, who could quite possibly be diseased...it's just as bad. Avoiding the mistreatment of animals is a wonderful thing, and something I support, but it's a bit naive to assume that cutting meat from your diet will alleviate the problem.

But there's another option.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Recipe! Heavenly Mushroom Cream Sauce

There are certain recipes that are choc full of fats and calories, but they are so delicious and meant to be used in moderation...and therefore so worth it. This is one of those recipes. Hands down, one of the best sauces I have ever made, I served this over garlic-onion chicken with brown rice mushroom risotto. You could use this sauce over pasta, over rice, over steak...over just about anything, I imagine. It's so good, there aren't many things it wouldn't complement.

The good news is that this sauce is really quite quick and simple. It tastes like a million bucks, but ten minutes of prep and about 15 minutes of cook time and you'll have a perfect sauce! This is one you have to try to believe, but I guarantee that anyone sharing your table will be worshiping the ground you walk on by the time dinner ends. Seriously. I should have just called this "Sauce to Impress".

Try it, love it, just don't eat the whole batch yourself. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Recipe! Brown Rice Mushroom Risotto

If you've never tried risotto, you need to. Just trust me on this. Risotto is Italian in origin, and is in fact the most popular way to cook rice in Italy. One taste, and you'll know why. Though risotto is made traditionally with white rice, it's even better (and healthier) when made with brown.

One important factor to note: this is a time-consuming dish that will demand quite a bit of attention. If you have children, this isn't going to be a good one for a school night, because it demands at least an hour of your attention. With that being said, it's not at all difficult...just time consuming, so don't be intimidated!

Neither of my taste-testers had eaten risotto before, and though they made comments while I was cooking to the effect of  "How good can it be, it's just rice." and "When will this ever be done?", they changed their tune with remarkable speed when they tasted their first bite. Risotto is creamy, rich, and delicious. It's a comfort food in the purest form of the word, leaving you with a warm, full feeling. I recommend tasting it as you go to adjust for seasoning.

I pared this recipe with onion-garlic chicken and the most heavenly mushroom cream sauce I've ever made in my life...the taste-testers couldn't stop talking about it. It was probably the best meal I've ever made! Both of those recipes are to come...but for now...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Weight Loss: Why "Quick" Methods Just Don't Work

Recently, the Blue Cross Blue Shield posted an article about the pull of Meridia from the shelves. The article discusses how the drug was deemed dangerous and how that leaves only one major diet drug on the market (and it's effectiveness is dubious at best). The article quotes the president of the Obesity Society, an advocate and research group, as saying that the drug's pull is frustrating. It also cites this as being a "step back" in the fight against the obesity epidemic.

But a huge part of the obesity epidemic is being cause by the sort of attitudes that tell us we can take a pill to solve obesity, just like we can take ibuprofen for a headache or benadryl for our allergies. Life doesn't work that way, the world doesn't work that way, and our bodies don't work that way. Losing weight on the national level is not about finding the miracle cure because there is no miracle cure. The obesity epidemic is a complex, difficult issue that has been created by a number of factors. This complexity means, in short, that there is no simple solution. There can't be.

But as a country, we shouldn't want one. Why?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Recipe! Easiest Whole Wheat Bread Ever!

I've always loved whole wheat bread, fresh out of the oven. I have a tendency to eat thick slices of it with vegan butter and honey and make a meal out of it. Fresh whole wheat bread is my comfort food, and though I love all fresh breads, it's one of my favorites.

Of course, bread-making has a bad rap. Often viewed is difficult, time consuming, and often all for naught when the recipe goes awry, bread baking is something many cooks are afraid to tackle. But have no fear! There are loaves out there (like the Vegan Pumpkin Bread) that are as simple as they are delicious, and I was absolutely thrilled to come across the following recipe on The Zest. This bread has five ingredients and is mixed with your hands. It rises only once - in the pan - so there's virtually no complexities.

The original post says to be sure and use a large loaf pan. Mine wasn't enormous and the bread is a bit lopsided, but it still tastes delicious! This is great with soup, or toasted and paired with eggs for breakfast. Each slice is very filling, so start with a half slice and go from there. Apparently, this is a good one to make with the kiddos as well! Enjoy!

Easiest Ever Whole Wheat Bread

5 c whole wheat flour
1 t salt
1 packet (or 2 1/2 T) Dry Active Yeast
1 T honey
2 1/2 c tepid water

1. Put flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, mix well. Add yeast, mix again. Make a "well" or space in the middle of the dry mixture and add honey and water.

2. Mix the dry ingredients into the water with your hand, making sure to get all the flour on the bottom and sides. Mix until the dough is slippery and elastic and comes cleanly away from the bowl.

3. Lift dough into a large loaf pan, smooth the top with a spatula, and cover with a damp towel. Once this is done, set bread in a warm area and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When the dough has risen (about 30-45 minutes) uncover and place in the oven. Cook for 35-40 minutes.

Delicious!!!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Eating Smart: What to eat on the go.

One of the most difficult parts of eating healthy is finding food that can be eaten on the go that's still healthful and not chock full of bad chemicals, bad sugars, bad fats, and refined ingredients. Many foods that tout themselves as healthy absolutely aren't, and even fast food restaurants that offer "healthy" options (here's lookin' at you, Subway) often offer food choices that are chock full of preservatives.

You can't really trust the labels that fast-food restaurants assign themselves, but finding high-quality, delicious food on-the-go is a real pain in the neck...especially without the convenience of stores like Whole Foods. So where do you turn when you simply don't have time to prepare your own food, or when you are stuck somewhere far from home with little time and a growling belly?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Weight Loss: Complex Carbohydrates

Ever since the advent of Atkins, it seems like carbohydrates have been viewed with the same back-and-forth ridiculousness that our culture applies to many other necessary aspects of our diet. Low-carb diets are effective ways to lose weight, sure, but they are very unhealthy. Why? Because you are depriving your body of something that it uses on a cellular level. Carbohydrates aren't bad, and neither are proteins...both are necessary for energy and cell reproduction!

So why all the negative press? Well, simple carbohydrates, defined as those with one or two sugars, are quickly converted to fat instead of used as energy. These carbohydrates are bad in large amounts and should be limited as much as possible. Complex carbohydrates, those with three or more sugars, should be a large part of your daily diet. They break down more slowly, providing you with energy that lasts longer and many of the nutrients that your body needs. Simple carbohydrates occur naturally in fruits, honey, and in some vegetables. They are also present in refined sugar, which is part of why foods containing refined sugar and flour should be avoided.

Complex carbohydrates are found in whole grains, in legumes and in starchy vegetables. All of these foods contain more than just carbohydrates, they also contain vitamins and minerals...which is why they should be used liberally in your daily diet. In fact, ideally you should be getting 40-60% of your daily caloric intake from complex carbohydrates.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Recipe! Gypsy Soup. [Vegan]

I...really can't say enough about this delicious, amazing soup. Really. It's so good, so filling, so low on calories and so high in nutrition. My whole family loved this soup, even the carnivores!

Originally listed on Cooking Books, I made a few slight modifications to this amazing recipe but not many. The heat can be adjusted (just add more or less cayenne pepper), but other than that I would encourage you to use the seasonings as described. For once, I don't recommend messing with too much...although you could if you wanted to. I imagine it's pretty hard to go wrong with his soup.

We had it with a simple, delicious brown bread (recipe to come!) and were all stuffed. You could add a salad as well. For the original recipe and for gorgeous pictures see Cooking Books. And please...do not miss out on this soup. It's cheap, delicious, hearty, and healthy...and did I mention easy? It doesn't get any better than that!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Exploring Anxiety: Food and Emotion Pt. 2

(Starting today, I'll be on vacation until November 5th or so. Blogs and recipes will still be posted, but I wont be around on Twitter or here to reply to comments. Please enjoy the blogs, regardless!)

In Monday's entry, I talked about modifying your relationship with food...the relationship that was forged during the earliest years of your life. But I don't want to give the wrong impression...I don't believe that food should be viewed strictly as a necessary part of life that's entirely pragmatic and unrelated to pleasure or stress relief or anything else. Cooking, eating, creating...food can be it's own art form, and flavors, textures, and forms can be endlessly intriguing.

Consider the current leanings of pop culture and food. Chefs have never been so celebrated in America as they are right now, and many cities are embracing whole new palates of flavor from all over the world. Food Network has done a great deal to further our embrace of rockstar-chefs and our own abilities to create delicious dishes at home, but many other avenues of communication and entertainment are plugging into the trend as well.

But far beyond the current pop-culture food climate, food has represented so much for thousands of years, often used as everything from currency to peace-offerings to a sign of respect or a measure of wealth. Why deny all that history and heritage by reducing eating, and thus food, to a strictly functional thing with no pleasure involved?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe! Fall Baked Apples

So maybe I'm going a little nuts with the fall recipes...but why not? It's a delightful way to appreciate a season that is, in my opinion, far too short. The flavors of fall, the seasonal foods, the weather, the crunch of leaves and the smell of the rain...it's the perfect time of year!

Eating these apples after a dinner of soup and fresh bread felt about as close to heaven as anyone can get on this earth. We added a little almond milk or heavy cream to them and ate them with forks...they were amazing. If you are pressed for time, you can steam them in a pan without about 2 inches of water first and bake until the topping is crisp and delicious. Brown sugar can be replaced with agave for a cleaner approach. All in all, this dessert fits the dessert criteria while remaining low calorie.

Try it and enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Exploring Anxiety: Food and Emotion Pt. 1

There's no doubt that food carries with it a great deal of connotation. Our relationships with food are something forged very deeply in us, often during our childhood...and like anything cemented during our formative years, this relationship can shape and define us. This relationship, in America, is made even more complex by the glut of food that is available, and the conflicting nutritional information available around every turn.

The sheer availability of food is huge in our culture; we have so many options put before us and galvanized with so much advertising that choosing how we are going to eat and live becomes an every day battle. Food can be a very disheartening part of an anxiety disorder and the combination of the two can lead to eating disorders and unhealthy deprivation habits. There's a medium that has to be struck between monitoring your daily diet to optimize your mental and physical health and obsessing about it, and for many, that can be a very difficult medium to reach.

So if you are struggling with food, with eating things that are unhealthy or eating "too healthy", with eating portions that are far too large or far too small, with binging every few days and following it with days of deprivation, or any other mentally-based, unhealthy food-related activity, there are a few things that you can do to try and self-correct. Of course, you need to use your judgment and seek medical help if necessary, but if you catch any problems early enough, it shouldn't need to come to that.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lifestyle: Weight Loss and Guilt

I feel like this weight loss issue is becoming a bit of a series, but I imagine it's a good idea to get it out of the way so that we can focus on other aspects of the anti-anxiety lifestyle. Eating according to these standards in no way guarantees weight loss, however, if you are overweight and you eat small portions of this healthy food, I imagine that you will lose weight. This isn't a diet in the way that those other fads are diets, which is exactly why it works so well. It's not difficult to live with or to follow.

I guess what made me think of all of this was my recent foray into diet consultation with my friend...I think what makes this whole thing so much different is that it can't be approached the same way that fad diets are. You aren't denying yourself anything. You aren't forcing yourself to live without. When you choose to make a lifestyle change for your mental and emotional health, you are finding new and better ways of living. It's rewarding in and of itself because you will feel better, and soon enough, you wont want what you aren't supposed to have.

The anti-anxiety diet isn't about deprivation and therefore, if you are trying to lose weight or if you are trying  to address a health issue or if you are just trying to eat a little better, guilt shouldn't be a part of it. Being raised in a religious background, I've often felt the burden of all sorts of unnecessary guilt, as though everything I did was somehow encroaching on someone else. A lot of this attitude made itself evident in my eating patterns, until finally I became so overwhelmingly frustrated that I just quit caring how I ate.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Recipe! Clean Eating Whole Wheat Irish Soda Bread

In my family, we're a little bit gypsy and a lot Irish. We have some other nationalities in us, but I think they lay dormant in fear of those two. We've always laughed about how much we love typical Irish fare, meat and potatoes, butter and cheese...it's all used with gusto in our house. I cook a lot of Irish food, and I love trying Irish recipes (I need to make Irish Butter, but that's another post), and I love the simple, rustic flavors used in Irish cooking.

One Irish staple that I've not often made but that I will definitely be making more is soda bread. Tiffany at The Gracious Pantry provided a wonderful recipe, which I am going to post here with her permission. The recipe uses whole wheat pastry flour...providing a delicious alternative to the usual white flour version. If you aren't used to making bread, this is a wonderful way to begin! It's easy, simple, and wonderfully wholesome. Eat with butter and honey or dip into the Potato Cheddar Soup for maximum deliciousness.

And most of all...enjoy!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Lifestyle: Alternative Medicine Part 2

So week one of oil pulling is behind me, and as promised, I've come to you with an update!

As far as my sinus infection, I'm beginning to think that I should have just seen a doctor. It appears to be going away, but so slowly that it's beginning to get ridiculous...and frustrating. However, I am grateful for it in some ways. Without it I would never have discovered oil pulling, which would have been a shame, because in one week I've noticed some pretty incredible results!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Recipe! Amazing Irish Potato, Cheddar, and Corn Soup

It's more than a little likely that I'll be posting copious amounts of soup recipes this fall and winter. Mainly, this is because soup is a wonderful meal, stretches to feed a family, and you can explore a million different flavors and still have a warm comfort food...not to mention that it can be very low calorie. This one is not particularly low calorie...but it's easy, comforting, and absolutely delicious. We had surprise guests over when I made it, and no one could stop talking about how good it was. It even tasted delicious reheated!

Although I took the original recipe from Whole Foods, the comments seemed to suggest that the soup was bland. When I started making it, I could see why...the only spices used were salt and pepper! I don't understand a potato soup that doesn't include garlic, and we used quite a lot. Along with the rest of the spices, we could not have had a more flavorful soup. The taste wasn't overpowering at all, which allowed each element to come through perfectly.

We served the soup with whole wheat Irish Soda Bread and had baked apples for dessert....both recipes to come! I'll be posting some amazing soup recipes this fall and winter, but this makes an excellent start to the season. Feel free to play with the seasonings, and most of all....enjoy!!!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Healthy Weight Loss: Calorie Restriction Without Starvation

On Friday, I mentioned that the way anyone could lose weight was restricting their calories...which is true. But Professor Haub's experiment proves that there are healthy ways to do this...and unhealthy ways. Eating only 1200 calories a day will help you lose weight, but eating 1200 calories of Twinkies and the occasional vegetable is very terrible for you, and can no doubt cause all kinds of health issues. I would venture to say that those people who are interested in losing weight generally want to keep it off, right? Which means eating healthy foods while still restricting calorie intake. (And building lean muscle, but we'll get to that in another post.)

With all the millions of diets out there, it's easy to get overwhelmed. In the checkout at the market they intersperse homemaking magazines (each advertising the latest fad diet) with beauty magazines (each displaying the latest air brushed figure), a powerful form of suggestion. In fact, it's less like suggestion and more like being beaten over the head with a blunt object loosely designated as "marketing". But the fact is that all of this rigmarole is a little unwarranted. When trying to lose weight, you're best off eating whole foods, plenty of raw foods, and getting the bulk of your calories from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, which you can eat a lot of without reaching 1200.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Lifestyle: Weight Loss...the Healthy Way.

I've talked briefly about the difference between eating healthfully and unhealthily before, but today I'd like to expand on that subject....in the realm of weight loss.

Losing weight is something that our culture is extremely interested in...and yet our waistlines are growing by the day. How can we be so obsessed with one thing while doing it's polar opposite? Well, it has to do with how we go about trying to lose our weight. We do this fad diet and that fad diet, we starve ourselves and restrict our foods, we put ourselves through hell only to regain that weight later. It's no wonder we have such trouble!

All of this is on my brain because a friend asked me to help her lose weight this week...and I realized that diet consulting is more difficult than it looks! I've been trying to come up with a workable plan, including teaching her how to cook and shop, but I'm certainly not a dietitian. I have more respect for the profession, but I'm also enjoying the challenge. I've never tried to actively help someone reformat their eating habits before...I think that the experience will improve this blog and the advice I give out in the future!

But for now...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Recipe! Marinara, Semi-From Scratch!

I absolutely love making sauces. There's just no substitute for an amazing sauce over whole wheat pasta or rice or on the grill. I've been making marinara sauce in particular for years, and my sauce has become almost legendary among those who have eaten it. One friend who lived far away demanded that I make huge batches of it whenever I would come to visit, so she could save it and eat it long after I was gone. I always considered this to be very high praise.

Unfortunately, I've never had a green thumb...in fact, I don't even have a pale yellow thumb. My gardening thumb is nonexistent, which I've always found odd; my mother and grandfather are and were both avid gardeners. nevertheless I basically can't stand gardening, and thus I never find myself in the happy position of having more tomatoes than I can handle. This is why I use canned tomatoes, which can be purchased rather cheaply at any market, and though I don't doubt fresh tomatoes would make the sauce even more delicious, I think they serve as a good substitute.

The most important aspect of this sauce is the seasoning. You can tailor this aspect to your liking...make sure that it has a good flavor before you start to simmer it, and the more you simmer it, the more complex the flavors will become. But if it's bland when you start to simmer, don't expect a long simmer to magically cure it. I'm going to include a short, easy recipe and a longer, more involved one...you pick what works best, based on how much prep time you've got.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lifestyle: Alternative Medicine.

Ah, alternative medicine. Defined by answers.com as "A variety of therapeutic or preventive health care practices, such as homeopathy, naturopathy, chiropractic, and herbal medicine, that do not follow generally accepted medical methods and may not have a scientific explanation for their effectiveness." Alternative medicine is always going through various turns, sometimes being scoffed at, other times treated as something of a grail...no one really seems to be able to make up their mind about it.

Alternative medicine is tricky...but earlier this week, when the flu I had last week developed into a sinus infection and I didn't have money for a doctor, I started Googling. My search led me to natural remedies, not only for sinus infections and other infections but for...basically everything you could imagine. I stumbled upon oil pulling, and after reading up on it all over the internet, decided to give it a go. I bought my organic sesame oil and started yesterday morning...I'll blog about how it goes.

Anyway, I think it's important to approach natural medicine with the same balanced perspective that we strive for in all other areas of the anti-anxiety diet. There have been advancements in medicine that can not be equaled by a natural equivalent, and that is a fact. However, going to the doctor for every cold, flu, and headache is costly and largely ineffective. Doctors were incredibly helpful when I needed surgery on my ankle, and incredibly ineffective when I needed help with issues that were a little less clear cut. There are times when seeing a doctor is your best option, and that shouldn't ever be ignored.

However, there are also times that a simple, natural, or old-fashioned remedy might be just exactly what you need. The entire anti-anxiety diet, for example, is a form of alternative medicine. It wont have the same effect as anti-anxiety drugs, but some people (like myself!) are looking to avoid those effects. I don't think that diet alone can be a cure for anxiety...but it can be the first step in creating and maintaining a lifestyle as free from anxiety as possible. The foods that you eat will help your body and mind function at their best...which in turn will help to alleviate anxiety and give you a chance to focus on correcting other aspects of your out-of-balance life.

I've grown up in a family that used alternative medicines and remedies while still visiting the doctor when necessary. Perhaps I can thank my mother, grandmother, and aunts for instilling the idea in me that natural and alternative medicines can be very helpful, effective, and reasonably priced. At the end of the day, it's worth it to try something, to see if it works. My large bottle of organic sesame oil ran about $10, but if it has half of the good effects that other user reported? It will have been more than worth it.

There can be a concern of over-usage with alternative medicine. I think it's important to bear in mind that very little good can come from extremes. Now, if you are dealing with a very severe illness, then perhaps extremes should be taken. But for the average person with perhaps uncomfortable but not life-threatening problems, a balanced use is best. Taking too much of any vitamin or herb can become toxic. Drinking too much water can cause you to drown internally. Don't take anything to an extreme, practice moderation and control, and your alternative and natural remedies can be extremely effective.

As for oil pulling...we'll see if it's effective. I'll write next Wednesday and let you know!

-The Calm Cook

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Recipe! Vegan Pumpkin Bread

Oh, autumn...there's nothing about autumn that I don't like. Falling leaves, falling temperatures, soups, quickbreads, pumpkins, Halloween, Thanksgiving, shorter days...you name it! But one of my favorite things about autumn is pumpkin bread...and pumpkin pie, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin latte...I'm a bit of a pumpkin fanatic, and judging by the food-blog buzz, I'm not alone. If there's any flavor that says "autumn", it's pumpkin.

Traditionally, many of these pumpkin treats are far from healthy, and well off the beaten path of the anti-anxiety diet. Fortunately, my sister-in-law (who is a better cook than I am and fantastically good at adapting recipes) spent ages perfecting this pumpkin bread recipe. It is not only whole-grain, but also vegan...and it is moist and delicious and essentially the perfect pumpkin bread.

Luckily for us all, I convinced her to hand over the recipe and obtained her permission to publish it here. I've made it twice in the past two weeks and will probably be making it most of the fall. I use canned pumpkin but my sister-in-law roasts her own. This recipe makes two loaves, but she says that she generally doubles it, and that a good sized pumpkin will make 10-12 loaves. That sounds like a lot, I know, but it goes so fast. Anyway, without further ado:

Monday, October 11, 2010

Shopping Smart: Making over your pantry, painlessly!

One of the most difficult steps in making a lifestyle change is breaking yourself of unhealthy eating and drinking habits that have become second nature. Even more so in modern American society, where these habits are not only suggested by our surroundings, but reinforced with marketing dollars, convenience, and a lifetime of unhealthy behaviors. Out on the go and thirsty? There are a thousand places to get a soft drink cheaply and quickly, but you'll pay two to five times more for water...and you can forget a healthy meal on the go if you're strapped for cash. The snack machines in the office are full of sugar and sodium, your morning bagel made of refined white flour, your lunch-on-the-go comprised of sub-par ingredients full of hormones, pesticides, and inorganic chemicals.

Truth be told, it's overwhelming...which is why so many of us fail when we set out to eat more healthfully. Our society literally works against that goal with an unbelievable tenacity. Many companies have latched onto this conundrum, and instead of creating genuine, healthful products, they've marketed their same old unhealthy mush as health food. So how does anyone maintain a healthy diet in this country?

Well, ideally it would be wonderful to just completely reform and change in a day and be healthier and happier and more productive...but this is real life. Stress has reached such peak levels that one in every seven Americans has an anxiety disorder of some caliber, and the last thing that we need is another strain on our minds. So...make healthier eating virtually painless...make over one part of your pantry at a time!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Dessert: Doin' it Right...And Rich!

Because this week has been all about comfort food, relaxation, and feeling better (after my bout with the flu, it was pretty much all I wanted to think about!) I figured...what better way to end it then to talk about one of my favorite comforts...dessert? Honestly, the topic of dessert is one very near and dear to my heart. Not just because it's amazingly delicious, but because I feel that desserts get a bad rap. It's like we can't enjoy the indulgence because we are too busy either 1) feeling bad about eating it or 2) making it so low-calorie and fat free that it isn't even good anymore. In my opinion, if dessert isn't utterly, sinfully indulgent, then it isn't worth the calories!

Which brings me to my real point! So many times, people focus on these plasticy desserts with no sugar, no calories, no fat, and no flavor. I...take another approach. The key is making very high-quality desserts from very delicious ingredients that are rich enough that a small-to-moderate portion is all that you really want and need. Thus you can indulge, and perhaps your dessert is high-calorie, but every vice is fine in moderation, right?

Leave the frozen-food aisles desserts for the "dieting" masses. You are not "dieting", oh anti-anxiety aficionado! You are making a lifestyle change, and if you don't enjoy this new lifestyle, then what's the point? This sort of dessert isn't difficult...it can be as simplistic as dark chocolate truffles (see the recipe below!) or as intense as flourless chocolate cake with fresh whipped cream (recipe to come at a later date!)...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Recipe! Barbecue Baked Beans

Baked beans, in my family, appear to be a source of contention. My little brother and I are fond of the barbecue variety, my mother and sister aren't. Then again, both admitted that they had only ever tried the store-bought variety, which are no doubt chock-full of yuck. Making baked beans without the high fructose corn syrup, extra sodium and preservatives is easy, delicious, and absolutely worthwhile.

As far as beans are concerned...you can certainly buy yours in a can. This works well if you're pressed for time or if you are unfamiliar with cooking your own beans. However, it's cheaper and more delicious if you do cook your own, and it's really quite simple! Whole Foods Market has a great tutorial on cooking white beans, which rightfully points out that beans can be made ahead of time and frozen or refrigerated for recipes throughout the week. I soaked my beans the night before, cooked them the morning of, then used them for the recipe that evening...it worked out well!

These beans took a few tries to get perfect...the seasonings and flavors had to be brought out to their full potential, but even the doubting Thomas' in the room loved them. My sister ate her helping right up, and had the leftovers for lunch the next day! Everyone agreed that they were the best baked beans they had ever tasted...they were a smash hit! We had them as a side dish for grilled BBQ chicken (still perfecting the barbecue sauce recipe...) and with pumpkin bread for dessert (keep your eyes peeled for that one...), but if you are making these as a main dish, or for a crowd, you'll probably want to double the recipe.

Contention no more! We can all agree that when it comes to baked beans, this recipe is the bees knees. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Lifestyle: Making it Through Flu Season, Sanity Intact.

It's been more than suggested that stress and anxiety can take heavy tolls on health. Not only do they carry with them their own ever-growing lists of related disorders and diseases, but they also lower immunity, making those who suffer from them more susceptible to everything from the common cold to much more serious infections. Anyone with undue stress and anxiety is already far too tightly wound to throw another problem into the mix, therefore a severe cold or a bout with the flu can cause life to because very overwhelming very quickly.

This topic stands near and dear to my heart today, as I had a touch of a sore throat and a few sneezes Saturday afternoon, and by that evening was so sick I could barely move. I spent Sunday and Monday sleeping, sneezing, coughing, and generally feeling like death, and it is only today (after sleeping another eleven hours and taking copious vitamins) that I can think somewhat straight...at least straight enough to type up a blog. Needless to say, I got hit pretty hard, which I suppose is my penance for avoiding H1N1 and any of the other nasty strains of flu that were floating around last season.

Interestingly enough, no one else in my household has felt a touch of the symptoms...lucky ducks. Nevertheless, I come from a family that always used a blend of the homeopathic with the more traditional medications, and it is my opinion that my swift offensive kept me from making a visit to a doctor that I can't afford. So, how does one avoid the flu? And if you do come down with it, how do you fight it? When should you go to the doctor, and when can you safely stay home? I'm not a doctor, but I can offer my opinions...and tell you what worked for me.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Recipe! Whole Grain Corn Bread.

There are certain kitchen secrets, here and there, that are passed down from generation to generation...how to make biscuits or perfect meringue, baking bread or selecting a perfectly ripe piece of fruit at the market. Little tidbits of information here and there that add a unique flavor to each cook's dishes, so that you can almost trace a pedigree by tasting a red sauce or slicing up a loaf of quickbread.

I was taught to cook by my mother, my grandmother, several aunts, and a few other miscellaneous sorts along the way, but it was my mother and grandmother who transmitted their 'secrets' to me most effectively. One of these secrets, passed down since god-knows-when, was the secret for perfect cornbread. Its so simple...just one ingredient, but I can hardly stomach a piece of cornbread without it. Why? Well, because for all of it's delicious simplicity, cornbread has a few terrible faults. Perhaps the first that comes to mind is how terribly, terribly dry it can be. There's no pleasure at all in a cornbread that crumbles like ash in your mouth!

However, the secret ingredient passed down through the cooks in my family eliminated this unpleasant attribute, while simultaneously providing just a touch of sweetness. It goes equally well smothered in chili or beans as it does slathered with butter and honey, but I always preferred the latter. Fresh, hot cornbread is something I remember quite fondly from my childhood...and luckily enough, corn flour is a whole grain! (Just make sure the ingredient's list doesn't say "degerminated"). For this whole grain version of cornbread, I used white whole wheat flour and finely ground cornmeal...and of course, the secret ingredient: one finely grated carrot.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Challenging Perspectives: What is "Healthy" anyway?

 I happened upon a news story the other day about a Kansas State nutrition professor who is eating little besides junk food and losing weight. He's decided to go on a diet that challenges the notion of "dieting", proving that one can lose weight while eating only the most unhealthy of foods. Next month, he's going to be eating only whole grains and fruits and vegetables and, supposedly, gaining weight. According to Professor Haub, its an academic demonstration - not a medical experiment - and the point of it is to "challenge the entire 'junk food versus health food' dynamic, suggesting that foods regarded as nutritious may, in fact, be unhealthy, while foods regarded as junk may have some benefits." [Quote is directly from AOL news].

I've noticed that, in many ways, healthy eating can become a near-obsession. In fact, they have a name for it...Orthorexia Nervosa. For those already battling anxiety disorders this can be a very real and present danger. Using caloric intake and nutritional value as a means of controlling the chaos and unpredictability of life can be downright tempting, and anyone could slip into it quite easily. This is why I recommend stocking your pantry with healthy things, making a general plan (like eating a vegetable and whole grain with every meal) and not getting overly hung up on details, unless allergies or medical problems require constant vigilance.


So, all that aside...what does constitute healthy eating? In a culture where the front of a box can say "all natural" while the ingredient's list contains all manner of non-pronounceable mush, it can sometimes be difficult to tell. Growing up with a health-conscious family who still ate pretty unhealthfully, I'll be the first to say it's not as easy as discounting this and lauding that. Plus...it's a constant learning experience! Finding what is healthy, what isn't, and how to combine and cook them is a lifelong learning experience, and even moreso with additional concerns, such as eating to curb anxiety. However, there are things that you can do now, things that don't take a team of scientists to figure out. Ways to eat and live that are not impractical, but still rather healthful. And isn't that the real goal?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Recipe! Polenta Pizza AND Bonus! Pizza Sauce recipe.

When I saw a recipe floating around for polenta pizza, I knew exactly two things for certain;

1) It would be amazing.

2) I needed to make it as soon as possible.

Thus, my Friday night consisted of watching The Ghost Writer and cooking up some delicious polenta pizza. And oh, it was delicious. The texture is wonderful, the flavor is wonderful, it can be customized any way you like...and it's a fabulous comfort food. You can make large batches to feed a crowd or small batches to feed a few, you can add or subtract ingredients, adjust cooking times and make it deep dish or thin(ner) crust. I had one taste tester and movie-watching companion, and though she complained a little about the fact that we didn't eat until 10 pm (this wasn't terribly well-planned), she also agreed that it was well worth the wait.

Polenta pizza is easy to make, but it does require time to wait. I would say that you should either prepare your polenta the night before, or make sure you start cooking two or three hours ahead of time. This is because the polenta must set in the refrigerator until completely cool, which takes at least an hour. Use whatever toppings and sauce your heart desires, but if you want a red sauce, I've included a great recipe that is simple and can be made while the polenta cools. Enjoy this as a fun meal or dress it up with fancy cheeses...it's just as versatile as any pizza! And if you made the polenta crust without the savory seasonings and cheese, you could even make a dessert pizza with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

Now that you're drooling uncontrollably, allow me to present;

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Lifestyle: Taking Time to Eat...but how?

Convenience foods. Fast foods. Frozen foods. Processed foods. All of these foods exist to save time, which seems to be our most valuable resource at the moment...more valuable than oil, more valuable than money, more valuable than anything else we've got. Americans scurry around at top speeds, constantly trying to shave off a few minutes here and there while simultaneously trying to add in a few more activities to fill in those few precious minutes and somehow, someway, still make their lives work. We're expected to put both jobs and family first, and time for ourselves? Well, for the average person, you can just forget it.

Being so short on time we, as a culture, start looking at things to cut out...but what do we end up cutting? Sleep, nutrition, exercise...the most important elements to keeping ourselves sane, healthy, and happy! There's no shortage of reasons behind the obesity epidemic currently running rampant through America, but it's undoubtedly contributed to by the lack of time. Less sleep? Weight gain. More stress? Weight gain. Fast food? Weight gain. Poor health? Weight gain. Sedentary lifestyle (in front of the computer)? Weight gain. The entire American lifestyle almost ensures obesity while idolizing unrealistic weight goals and promoting unhealthy habits. There exists a dissenting voice - that of the health-food nuts and exercise gurus - but with waistlines still expanding and national health going down the tubes, there has to be more that can be done.

Luckily, there is something that can be done, but it's not a quick fix, a "diet", or a miracle drug...it's a change  of mind, of heart...a change of lifestyle. And lifestyle's are far too complex to be addressed in one blog post, so lets just take one step at a time. One thing that we have lost as a culture is the desire to take time with our food. We eat too fast, we don't cook from scratch, and we don't enjoy our meals in good company...but why?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Recipe! Turkey Keema.

This is one recipe that doesn't lend itself well to vegetarian or vegan interpretation, or at least not at first glace. The spices are strong (though you could ease up on them a bit if you were making this with paneer cheese instead of meat, or another substitute) and it is thick and hearty...and an absolutely delicious dish.

One of my live-in taste-testers was a bit squeamish at first...he wasn't sure that cinnamon and cloves combined with beef would be delicious. He'd tasted a bit of the perfect brown rice and had decided that he didn't want to potentially "ruin" it if he didn't like the keema. However, after some....friendly encouragement, he took a bite, and continued to eat until his "food baby was in the third trimester." Score for The Calm Cook and her abundant usage of garam masala! My other taste tester enjoyed it very much as well, and we all ate portions that were probably a bit bigger than they should have been, but it was very delicious.

Traditionally, keema is made with ground lamb, and I suppose one could use beef or chicken as well. I used ground turkey and the flavor and texture was great! (Perhaps we will do lamb another time, if I can find some for a decent price around here...) Peas and potatoes can be added, as well as chick peas if you desire. If adding potatoes, boil them until fork tender and add them during the last bit of simmering. Peas (fresh or frozen) can be used...add during the last ten minutes. We ate our keema over perfect brown rice and with whole grain naan and a delicious green salad. It was very hearty and has kept well over the last few days.

And now of course, the recipe!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Shopping Smart: Avoiding Market Anxiety

There are many tips, hints, and tricks out there for those who want to eat healthier. There are websites and blogs devoted to eating vegan or vegetarian, to incorporating more raw foods, to balancing your diet, and on and on. But there are unique challenges posed to those with anxiety disorders, even to those who are dealing with an unhealthy amount of stress and strain. Yes, we must eat more healthfully, but we must also deal with other issues...panic attacks, agoraphobia, compulsive habits, and more. These challenges can make shopping into a nightmare, especially when you are trying to start converting your diet and the calming effects of all that good nutrition aren't active yet.

One of the challenges I've faced is the sheer size of markets in this part of the country. Wal-Mart rules the roost around here, and most other stores have built enormous amounts of inventory just to keep up and compete. The huge selections, however, do nothing useful for me at all. I wander the aisles overwhelmed and overstimulated, forget half of what I am there for and leave frustrated and in a near-panic. Or at least, that's how I used to be. I have since formed a system that allows me to make my market trips more efficient, no matter how big the market.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Unsafe Food: What You Can Do To Fight Back.

When I was a young child, my older brother and I would often visit my aunt and uncle on their farm in Kansas. My aunt had a particularly lovely gift of putting us to work around the farm while making the entire experience utterly enchanting...I very much treasure my memories from her farm. But one of my favorite jobs - indeed one that stands out in my memory - was getting the eggs from the hen-house in the morning. The eggs were warm and brown, sometimes with spots or other imperfections, and always made for a delicious breakfast. The hens ran about the farm all day clucking and making for endless entertainment when we got to chasing them, and though I always liked the ducks better for their endearing "Quack!", it was the hens who laid the eggs.

It would be years before it occurred to me that hens were kept in any other fashion.

With the recent egg recalls and this week's hearings, no consumer should neglect to educate themselves about the deplorable conditions at these factory farms. Not only do these horrorshows have potentially deadly repercussions for Americans and their families, but these animals are used like machines and tossed away like trash when they "break down". Its morally reprehensible and robs us of any remaining confidence in America's food supply.

And it isn't just eggs. There are breakdowns of quality at every level, breakdowns that show us that these "factory farms" can not possibly keep up quality standards with their enormous amount of output and their huge numbers of animals. They pump their animals full of anitbiotics, and these antibiotics have been proven to increase the rate of antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans. There are outbreaks of salmonella and the nutrition content of our food is falling, and failing, far to fast. There are no quick, easy solutions to this problem on a national level, although strides need to be made, and no one should give up. But in the meantime, until we get this taken care of on a national level, there are things that you can do in your own home and pantry to ensure you are avoiding these farms and their diseased, inferior products as much as possible.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Recipe! Whole Wheat Naan and Perfect Brown Rice (everytime!)

Although many countries around the world make and eat "naan" every day, in the U.S. you'll tend to find it in Indian restaurants as a lovely accompaniment to the main dish. The word "naan" refers to a leavened flatbread baked in the tandoor (a type of oven) but is spread broadly across a great variety of breads in many countries. Like most breads, it is terribly versatile and can be topped, stuffed, or incorporated with all sorts of additions.

In my opinion, no Indian dish is complete without some naan on the side, and thus I searched until I found a lauded recipe which I then, of course, adapted. But before we get to that, allow me to avail you with another of my recent discoveries!

In the realm of rice, not all are created equal! White rice has been milled and does not qualify as a whole grain. Thus, brown rice is your best friend when you need a warm, wholesome compliment to any number of meals. But if you've grown up cooking white rice of any variety, cooking the brown sort can be confusing. There's no doubt that the extra hull requires extra cooking time, but often rice cooked according to package directions comes out mushy and gummy.

Fortunately, this week I came across something absolutely brilliant...a recipe for perfect brown rice, every single time. I tried it and it works...the taste testers were amazed! Lifted shamelessly from Saveur, this recipe is easy and delicious. We made short grain brown rice...but you can make any variety you want! And best of all? It's easy as pie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Healthy Lifestyle: A Balanced Perspective Toward Food.

Last Wednesday we talked about exercise and it's affect on anxiety, but we also touched briefly on diet and the overwhelmingly schizophrenic American view on food. I wanted to cover that more in-depth this week, mainly because there exists a difference between "diet" and diet...and it's important not to mistake one for the other.

For example, when I say "anti-anxiety diet", people who hear it immediately think that I am speaking of a weight loss diet. And if you are overweight and you practice portion control and eat the way I describe, then it's rather likely that you will lose weight. However, this is no "miracle", no "drop 30 pounds in thirty days" supermarket checkout diet. The focus is health, nothing more, nothing less. Physical health and mental clarity as provided by nutrition.

Being of a healthy weight is very important; the studies are everywhere. It's one of those things that we're all quite aware of, and that sometimes we don't really care about regardless. Often times, the call of greasy, high calorie foods or sodas or other unhealthy options can be too much. But it's important to realize the affect of the things that you put into your body. America views food as so many things simultaneously...a comfort, a friend, an enemy, a menace, an addiction, a source of pleasure, a necessity, a convenience or inconvenience, a frustration...the list goes on and on. And with so many different opinions here and there, how is anyone to have a balanced perspective?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Recipe! Veggie Korma

If you've never tasted Indian food then you probably have no idea what you're missing, but let me assure you...it is absolutely delicious. For those of us that are accustomed to the fare of the Western world, the spices and their combinations can seem daunting, even strange.  But trust me...it's absolutely delicious. And cooking any sort of ethnic food often means cooking from scratch and making dishes from whole foods. Essentially, it's a fun way to keep blandness from creeping in around the edges of the anti-anxiety diet, and a delicious way to expand the horizons of your taste buds and culinary skill! (With that said, this recipe is extremely easy. Don't let yourself be daunted!) Neither of my live-in taste testers have any any experience with the flavors and spices of India, but they gave this recipe absolutely rave reviews. We had a guest taste tester for this one - a lady who knows her way around a korma - and she said that this was absolutely divine.

Perhaps one of the most wonderful things about this recipe is that it can be altered and tailored to suit your individual preferences! We made our Korma with chicken, but it was an addition for my carnivorous taste testers and not strictly necessary for anyone who prefers to go meatless. With the chicken removed, the recipe becomes immediately vegan, so perfect for those with strict dietary convictions! Traditionally, korma calls for ground cashews. Unfortunately, we forgot to pick them up at the store, so ours was lacking that particular element. Nevertheless, it was still absolutely delicious. Next time, we wont forget the cashews!! We also ate our korma over brown rice and naan.

Now, always remember that spicing and seasoning is entirely dependent on your tastes. I will tell you what I used as a baseline, but please feel free to expand on my suggestions, particularly if you are a fan of very spicy food! With a velvety smooth sauce, a rich flavor, and a lovely golden color, korma is food fit for a king! This recipe was adapted from All Recipes Without further ado: Vegetable Korma.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Shopping Smart: Milk...to dairy, or not to dairy?

There's no doubt at all that the dairy vs. non-dairy debate is one that is becoming increasingly more difficult to escape. It seems readily accepted fact that soy milk and other non-dairy milks are better (and greener) than their dairy alternatives, and many people tout a dairy-free lifestyle. But how true is this, really? Vast amounts of Amazonian rain forest are being destroyed in order to keep up with the world's soybean demand, and as pointed out on Grist, all plant-milks are processed foods, not whole foods. The fact is, the consumer can choose local, organic dairy products and avoid all of the questions of animal cruelty, hormones, and other undesirable chemicals and toxins in their dairy while still eating whole foods. So...what gives?

It's important to address allergies and intolerance; if you or your family is allergic to dairy, avoid all dairy products, even the organic, local sorts. The same hold for almond or nut milks if your family is allergic to them. In those situations, the choice is a little more clear cut and boils down to common sense. However, if you don't have any allergies or intolerance, what's your best option? If you are allergic to dairy, trying to cut back, or fully vegan, which of the non-dairy alternatives is best?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Eating Local: Nutrition and Economics

If you've been a part of the "foodie" community for any length of time, there's no doubt that you've been extolled on the many virtues of eating local. And for good reason! The benefits transcend economics and stretch over into so many arenas that it's hard to name them all. Boosting local economics, maintaining better nutrition, and eating food that tastes just as delicious as it looks are a few of the "pros" to eating local, and with that being just the beginning, why would anyone do anything else?

The main complaints that seem to surface are price (local food is more expensive than grocery market produce) and inconvenience (a trip to the farmers market requires more planning than a trip to the store down the street). Despite these complaints, I imagine that anyone who truly tried eating locally for awhile would find them easily overcome. You don't have to buy only things that are grown or made locally; it's up to you, the consumer, to decide how much of your produce and other food comes directly from local farms, and how much you rely on the nationally-owned markets. If you need something on a Wednesday and the Farmer's Market wont be open until Saturday, there's no reason not to run down to the store and pick it up. Eating locally can be as small as choosing one product, i.e. tomatoes, and committing to buy only a local variety when possible. (And if you've ever tasted a just-picked garden tomato, you'll know this is an excellent choice!)

Of course, once you start tasting and eating local produce, you wont be likely to go back to the imported variety that the market offers. So what's the best way to eat local?