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Monday, November 3, 2014

Demystifying Shrubs


     Raising a glass of something sweet, tart and bubbly seems to be a basic human urge.  But the modern form of this refreshing beverage, soda, is quite harmful to health.  For most of human history, people have been making and enjoying various fermented beverages, with or without alcohol, which have had health benefits derived from the live bacteria and lactic or other acids produced through natural fermentation.  The fermentation revival has brought kombucha, kefir, kvass, sauerkraut juice and the like back to the table, and one of my new favorites, shrub, or drinking vinegar, which all give a boost to digestive power as well as pleasing the palate.  
     Turns out most people who suffer from occasional indigestion, heartburn and the like actually suffer from too little, not too much stomach acid, and drinking live vinegar or sour tonic beverages before or with a meal helps a lot.  It will certainly help with sparking the digestion so you don't suffer too much from the rich food of the upcoming holidays.  I learned a lot about shrubs and got inspired recently checking out Michael Dietsch's new book Shrub: An Old-Fashioned Drink for Modern Times, check out his blog hereSalud!

Fruit and Herb Shrub
Preserving the harvest in vinegar is a time honored technique, and shrubs, originating in Persia and popular in colonial America, enjoyed a  heyday during Prohibition as a non-alcoholic libation.  They are now making a comeback among foodies and cocktailians (with or without alcohol added).  Flavored vinegar can also be used in salad dressings to add more flavor complexity and herbal benefits.  Drinking vinegar before meals is a great way to stimulate appetite, improve digestion, augment stomach acid and it can relieve liver qi stagnation, lifting the spirits. Using raw local honey instead of sugar and a raw vinegar such as apple cider, plus avoiding cooking the fruit as in many recipes, will all maximize the enzyme content of your drink, making the most healthful version.
Makes about 1 ½ quarts.

4 cups coarsely chopped fruit, such as berries, grapes, stone fruit, etc.
2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, rose geranium, basil, etc.
4-6 cups raw apple cider, rice, white wine or other mild vinegar
1-3 cups raw honey or sugar, to taste
Combine the first three ingredients in a 2 qt. Mason jar or similar and allow to infuse for 2-6 weeks.  Strain and add sweetener to get a taste that suits you.  Enjoy.  If you are using the shrub as a drink, dilute with 4-5 parts water or mineral water per part shrub, garnishing with sliced fresh fruit or herbs.

Combos to try: strawberries, basil and rose geranium, fig, black pepper and lemon, concord grape, peach, rose hip and rosemary, etc.

UPCOMING CLASS: This Saturday, Nov. 8th  I'll be teaching a day-long nutrition class in Berkeley, focusing on cooking and eating for the winter season and strengthening the kidneys.  It is suitable for acupuncturists (6 CEUs), students and those with some background and a passion for nutrition.  Follow this link to register.





Monday, July 28, 2014

Sultry Summer Salad: Nasturtium Fatoush


When the weather turns hot and moist as summer ripens to late summer, appetite a bit dampened by heat, I think of cooking the sensual cuisines of the Mediterranean, particularly the eastern Mediterranean, with the skillful use of spices there that spark the palate.  When the lettuce bolts and turns too bitter in the garden, simple salads of cucumber, tomato and fresh herbs take their place, and these travel well to the lazy picnics of the summertime.  On the days when I feel a little more ambitious in the kitchen, I’ve been making a special version of Fatoush, which is the Arabic version of the ubiquitous bread salad that thrifty cooks make across the region.  
I adapted this recipe from the fabulous Spice: Flavors of the Eastern Mediterranean by Ana Sortun, a delightful cookbook organized not by dish or season but by groupings of spices, in this case parsley, mint, dill and sweet basil which are so abundant in August.  I’ve replaced the greens (traditionally romaine) with nasturtium leaves and flowers here, but you can also use the radish leaves if they are young and tender, arugula, purslane, dandelion greens or another perky, leafy green.  This dish contains many foods which are known to protect and nourish the heart by Chinese and Western medicine: tomatoes, cucumbers, olive oil, peppers, radishes, the fresh herbs, the nasturtium flowers…and the joy you feel on seeing and eating it will certainly lighten your heart too.  Make it a full lunch by adding cooked garbanzo beans and garnishing with feta.   Serves 4-6.

             1 ½ tablespoons sherry or wine vinegar
            1 teaspoon umeboshi plum vinegar
            ½ tsp chopped preserved citrus peel or zest and juice of 1 lemon
            1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
            1/3 cup olive oil or a mixture of olive and walnut oil
            2 large heirloom or 24 cherry tomatoes
            1 English or 2 Lebanese or 4 Persian cucumbers
            1 red bell or 2 gypsy peppers
            4 radishes
            2 tablespoons sliced green onion or chives
            ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
            2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
            2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
            1 cup nasturtium leaves and flowers, loosely packed or other greens
            2 cups toasted pita chips*
            2 teaspoons sumac (this tart purple spice can be found in Middle Eastern markets
            or a good spice shop)

Make the vinaigrette by combining the vinegars, preserved lemon, mustard and olive oil in small jar and shaking until emulsified. 
Chop the tomatoes into cubes or split the cherry tomatoes if they are large, and place them in a large salad bowl.  Dice the cucumbers and peppers, and split the radishes in half if they are large, and add to the bowl along with the rest of the vegetables. 
About 10 minutes before you serve the salad, add the salad dressing and pita chips, toss to combine, and finish with salt and pepper as needed.  Garnish with sumac and serve.

*Make pita chips by tossing 2 large leftover pitas, torn into 1 ½” squares, with ¼ cup olive oil and spreading in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees until crispy and golden, about 8 minutes.  

Fall Classes: Check out my updated calendar for the remainder of 2014.  Introduction to Fermentation is happening at 18 Reasons Sept. 8th, followed by Fall Fermentation on Sept. 29th.   September 28 and November 8th are my in-depth nutrition and cooking classes for fall and winter, for licensed acupuncturists, students and interested lay people, at AIMC Berkeley, where I'll also be co-teaching Introduction to Oriental Medicine this fall with Dennis von Elgg, L.Ac.on Wednesday nights in October and November.  Details coming soon on the AIMC site.  Nov. 2nd I'll be doing Ferment the Fall Harvest with the Biofuel Oasis, where I'll be teaching vinegar for the first time, along with kimchi, kraut and more.  And later that same day, join me for Seeking Peak Eating: A Workshop on Food and Pleasure at Manzanita Wellness from 2-4pm.  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Sweet Summer and Sweet Corn

After six years and countless hours, I'm very pleased to announce that I have completed my doctorate in nutrition!  I successfully defended my dissertation on peak eating experiences last Friday and have been awarded a Doctorate of Science (D.Sc.) from the wonderful Hawthorn University.  It's been an incredible journey and I'm looking forward to tasting life beyond graduate school.  I'll be making a batch of my beloved Cherry Soup as part of the celebrations.

Two tidbits to follow: another segment of my dissertation, examining the perceived conflict between health and pleasure, and a favorite summer recipe, Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn, from Real Food All Year. This version has a correction (the sweet corn didn't actually appear in the recipe, ha!).  This a dish I've been enjoying lately which is particularly suited to summertime, and a great thing to cook up on Sunday night and enjoy, varied by different condiments, throughout a busy week.

Red Lentil Dal with Sweet Corn
In Chinese medicine, red lentils are classified as having a slightly bitter taste, which makes them particularly beneficial to the heart, the organ most important to nourish in the summertime. Dal, a dish of simmered and spiced legumes, is a staple food in India and Nepal, and can be enjoyed for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is also traditionally used as the basis of a seasonal fast at the beginning of summer. This recipe can be easily varied by the addition of almost any seasonal vegetable. A bunch of chopped arugula, stirred in the last few minutes of cooking, is particularly tasty.
Makes 4 to 6 servings

6 cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
One 6-inch strip kombu (see Note)
1 tablespoon olive oil or ghee
1 onion, diced small
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 tablespoon curry powder or a mixture of 1 teaspoon each of ground cumin, coriander, and turmeric
2 carrots, scrubbed but not peeled and cut in 1/4-inch-thick rounds
1 cup sweet corn kernels, sliced off the cob
3 celery stalks, diced
One 1-inch piece unpeeled gingerroot, and grated (about 3 tablespoons)
Juice of 1 or 2 lemons
Sea salt
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

Put the water in a large pot and add the lentils; soak overnight if possible. Do not drain, but bring lentils in their soaking water to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the surface. Add the kombu to the pot, cover, and turn the heat down low.
While the lentils are simmering, heat the oil in a skillet; add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes, or until it begins to turn translucent. Add the mustard seeds and curry powder, and stir occasionally until the spices give off their fragrance, about 60 seconds. Add the carrots, corn kernels and celery and continue to cook a few minutes more, until they begin to brown around the edges. Scrape the vegetables and spices into the pot with the lentils, cover, and simmer until the lentils are soft and creamy, 10 to 30 minutes more, depending on the age of the lentils.
Take the grated ginger in your hand and squeeze the juice into the pot, or force it through a fine mesh sieve to extract the juice and add to the pot. Add lemon juice and sea salt to taste. Serve garnished with cilantro.

Note: Kombu is a type of seaweed that helps beans cook more quickly and makes them more flavorful and digestible. You can purchase it packaged or in bulk at health and natural food store.

From Peak Eating Experiences: Investigating Relationships of Gustatory Pleasure and Health

 A  National Eating Disorder


The American people are experiencing unprecedented rates of disease today which are thought to be related to their diets.  In a telling cross-cultural study on attitudes toward food and eating, Paul Rozin observed: “given the much greater health orientation, worry about weight, concern and diet modification [such as choosing reduced-fat and –sodium foods] in the Americans, it is sobering that Americans consider themselves much lower in their own sense of being healthy eaters” than the French, Belgians and Japanese (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p.174).  Contrasting the pleasure orientation of French and Belgian eaters with the health focus of the Americans, Rozin suggests that the “epidemic of food worrying” here rather than our “healthier” lower fat diets may account for our higher rates of heart disease. 
Rozin also found that that “1/3 of a sample of Americans seek a totally fat-free (and hence, actually fatal) diet” (P. Rozin,  Bauer & Cantanse, 2003, p.132).   Frank Hu of the Harvard School of Public Health has written: “the low-fat campaign has been based on little scientific evidence and may have caused unintended public health consequences,” such as increasing rates of diabetes and obesity (Hu, Manson, & Willett, 2001, p.5). The decades-long admonition to avoid, limit and distrust an essential nutrient, fat, which has profound ties to both pleasure and satiety (Linden, 2011) is one example of an erroneous anti-pleasure idea which has profoundly shaped the prevailing American anxiety about food.
Viewing food “as much a poison as a nutrient, and eating almost as dangerous as not eating” (P. Rozin, et al., 1999, p. 164) might be connected to the observed increase in the national waistline, as well.  Dieting, a conscious effort to restrict the amount and type of food eaten bound to induce feelings of deprivation, has been consistently shown to promote both disordered eating and weight gain (Glassner, 2007; Tribole & Resch, 2003).  Bacon (2008a) observes that Americans “believe that healthy eating entails ‘watching our diets’ and fighting our desires…[this] is experienced as normal and appropriate by most people, and encouraged by health professionals—even though almost all dieters fail to reap the rewards that dieting is said to provide” (p.20).  Is it possible that the prevailing health versus pleasure dichotomy contributes to not only disordered eating but also stress, disease and obesity? Should nutritionists be teaching people to make peace with, or even to maximize, gustatory pleasure to promote both health and happiness?  If so, how might this be accomplished?
A provocative set of experiments conducted in the 1970s suggest that our enjoyment of food influences its nutritional impact.  Groups of Thai and Swedish women were served Thai and Swedish meals of known iron content, and each group both enjoyed, and absorbed more iron from, the meal of their own cultural heritage.  Iron absorption of the preferred meals was reduced by 70% when they were served pureed into an unpalatable paste (Hallberg, 1977). Another study found a 100% reduction in mineral absorption from a mineral drink when subjects were subjected to stressful conditions (two people talking simultaneously into each of their ears) while drinking it, compared to complete absorption when it was consumed in a relaxed state (Barclay, 1987). 
The antagonism between pleasure and health has deep roots in Western culture and has been traced from the Greek philosophers, through the development of Christianity (Coveney, 2006), to the ideology of the Puritan founders of this country (Kilwein, 1989).  It has influenced the evolution of the disciplines of both public health and nutrition, and profoundly shaped government policies and discourse around food (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996).  In his 1996 anthology examining The Functions of Pleasure, psychologist David Warburton opines: “in our society, health educators have become the new high priests of pleasure control with epidemiologists as their oracles,” (Warburton & Sherwood, 1996, p.9). The priest metaphor is echoed by Michael Pollan in his discussion of the dominant paradigm governing modern nutrition science.   Nutritionism holds that:
The key to understanding food is indeed the nutrient… [which is] invisible and slightly mysterious, [therefore] it falls to the scientists (and to the journalists through whom the scientists reach the public) to explain the hidden reality of foods to us.  In form this is a quasi-religious idea, suggesting that the visible world is not the one that really matters, which implies the need for a priesthood. (Pollan, 2008, p.28) 





Friday, May 9, 2014

Peak Eating Experiences (A Dissertation)

I'm emerging with the apple blossoms from a long period of writing, and Monday at last I turned in the final draft of my dissertation!  I'm now a hop, skip and jump away from receiving my doctorate in holistic nutrition from Hawthorn University.  Doing a distance-learning doctorate has been an amazing journey and has required tons of self-discipline.  The final stretch was greatly eased by switching to a standing desk (which fits nicely into my laundry room/office).  I wanted to share the introduction to the dissertation with you all, along with the abstract.  Comment if you are interested in reading more.
Meanwhile, it's off to the farmers' market for those ephemeral spring delights--new potatoes blanched and tossed with butter, fresh chives and dill, strawberries and raspberries scooping up creme fraiche and brown sugar, green garlic in anything, spring lamb, tender young peas eaten right out of the pod.

ABSTRACT

Worry and ambivalence, rather than enjoyment, tend to dominate American attitudes toward food and eating. While pleasure is an important motivator of eating, previous studies have not looked into what characterizes outstanding food experiences. The purpose of the study was to investigate the nature of people’s peak eating experiences, and to outline pedagogy of dietary pleasure for health educators.  Thirteen interviews were conducted, asking people to share their most pleasurable eating experiences as well as their ideas about what made them so outstanding. In addition, The Food and Pleasure Survey was created and completed by 173 subjects.  Content analysis revealed that the most pleasurable experiences people have with food tend to occur when eating a meal with others, freshly cooked and marked with layers of meaning derived from factors such as the source, setting, context, cultural tradition,  and personal relationships involved.  Multiple layers of meaning tend to synergize, increasing both the hedonic qualities of the food and the salience of the eating experience.   Techniques for enhancing gustatory pleasure are discussed.   

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION
“Eating with the fullest pleasure—pleasure, that is, that does not depend on ignorance—is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world.” (Berry, 1990).
While eating is indisputably one of life’s consistent joys, the topic of pleasure is rarely discussed in the nutrition field.  To Americans, eating healthfully is often equated with consuming bland, tasteless, salt- and fat-free food.  Michael Pollan blames nutritionists, in concert with the food industry and the government, for steering us away from the pleasures of good eating to and obsession with the nutrients, or lack of them, in our food (Pollan, 2008).  Cross-cultural research suggests that Americans tend to worry more about food, categorize food in terms of “good” and “bad,” and associate rich foods, such as chocolate cake, with guilt, rather than pleasure, more than those from other countries (Erbele, 2009; Glassner, 2007).   Worry, anxiety and ambivalence instead of joy characterize American feelings about food (P. Rozin, Fischler, Imada, Sarubin, & Wrzesniewski, 1999).  This conflation of nutrition and morality has deep roots in Western culture, traced by some commentators from the Greeks through the spread of Christianity to the Puritan colonists of North America (Coveney, 2006).
Scientific scrutiny of the connections between food and pleasure has focused primarily on negative aspects such as food addiction and the reward response to “unhealthy” foods that contain fat, sugar and salt (Epstein & Shaham, 2010; Linden, 2011; Tiger, 2000).  Recent research has shown that the obese may actually derive less pleasure from eating than the lean (Stice, 2011).  Lindeman (2000) reported that dieters who both emphasized ideological food choices and devalued pleasure were more likely to have eating disorders and negative body image than others (Lindeman & Stark, 2000).   Hallberg (1977) found that the hedonic qualities and response to food influenced nutrient absorption from meals (Hallberg, Bjorn-Rasmussen, Rossander, & Suwanik, 1977).  It seems that the cultivation of pleasure might be an important tool for health and weight management as well as for achieving happiness.  Moralistic and anti-pleasure attitudes about food could be fueling, in part, both the obesity epidemic and the increasing rates of diet-related disease observed today in the United States. 
      Intuitive eating and mindfulness-based approaches to eating offer alternatives to the dieting mentality and nutritional moralism. They also consciously connect people with the pleasure inherent in eating, teaching people how to increase the satisfaction they get from eating by optimizing the circumstances in which they eat and exploring the sensual qualities of foods  (Roth, 2010; Tribole & Resch, 2003).  Such programs have been linked to lowered BMI, better moods and improved body image in diverse settings and populations (Albers, 2012).
Taking a cue from humanistic and positive psychology, the present study undertakes to understand the links between eating and pleasure by focusing on extremely positive or “peak experiences” with food and eating (Maslow, 1968; Morin, 1995).  It employs a survey which asks that participants describe two peak eating experiences and their thoughts about what made them so outstanding.  The survey and analysis are inspired by the work of Jack Morin, who investigated peoples’ peak sexual experiences and formulated a theory of eroticism described in his influential book The Erotic Mind (Morin, 1995).   Brain imaging demonstrates that the physiologic response to the pleasure of eating is quite similar to the way our brains respond to sexual pleasures (Georgiadis & Kringelbach, 2012).  As the capstone project of my studies in nutrition, I wish to counter the common anti-pleasure attitudes I have encountered among the health-minded, as well as bridge the gap between culinary and health-oriented approaches to food and eating.  The purpose of this study is at once hedonistic and didactic: to deepen the understanding and experience of the pleasures of eating, to learn how to cook and eat more pleasurably, and to elucidate a theory of gastronomic pleasure which will provide a basis for developing pedagogy of pleasure for health educators.   

Monday, March 17, 2014

Spring Flings

Spring officially arrives this week but in we've been feeling it here in Northern California for a few days now.  Warm weather, green grass, and the juices are flowing.  A little restlessness is normal as it pushes us to get into gear, and move out the stagnation of winter.  Spring produce, like baby beets, fennel, arugula, asparagus, kumquats and the first strawberries, will support our desires to lighten up. So will making a batch of Green Soup.

Spring is also a great time to indulge in dairy products and eggs, which get more nutritious at this time of year from the new green grass the animals are eating.  This weekend, we enjoyed one of my favorite childhood desserts--the year's first strawberries, dipped in homemade crème fraîche and brown sugar.  The rest of the crème fraîche we are shaking into cultured butter and buttermilk tonight, to be made into Irish Soda Bread to enjoy along with our homemade corned beef and a glass of Guinness in honor of St. Patrick's day.  If you are still shy about enjoying full-fat dairy products, check out this new research that shows that full-fat dairy may actually  protect us against weight gain and heart disease.  And cultured dairy is a source of probiotics and less dampening to your system from the Chinese medical point of view (in fact it nourishes the yin).

Crème fraîche is wonderful stirred into braised leeks or sweet spring onions, creating a decadent tasting side dish for chicken or pork or something to crack a couple eggs into to cook up into a spring brunch.  You can also drain it, as in making yogurt cheese, to make your own marscapone.

Crème Fraîche
This easily made cultured cream has a wonderful mild flavor and will add probiotics, beneficial fats, and enzymes to any dish calling for cream, milk, yogurt, or sour cream. It can also be whipped and used as a dessert topping, or drained as in making yogurt cheese, above, to make your own mascarpone. Be sure to use cream from cows that have been fed on pasture, and enjoy it in the spring for the biggest concentration of fat-soluble vitamins such as A and D.  Recipe from Real Food All Year.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups
1 tablespoon organic buttermilk, crème fraîche, or plain yogurt
1 1/2 cups organic heavy (whipping) cream
Place the buttermilk in a pint jar, and add the cream. Gently stir together, cap, and allow to ferment in a warm place (such as on top of the refrigerator) for 1 to 2 days, until the crème fraîche begins to firm. Store in the refrigerator, and consume within 2 weeks.

Cultured Butter
(Recipe by Vanessa Barrington, adapted with permission from her wonderful book, DIY Delicious)
Cultured butter is really just crème fraîche whipped into butter and washed. It’s great fun to make flavored butters out of your own cultured butter. Add flaky sea salt, chopped anchovies, and/or garlic to top grilled fish or toss with vegetables or beans. Honey butter is wonderful for biscuits and muffins. All you do it work the flavorings into the butter to taste while it’s soft. Making small batches is best because homemade butter doesn’t keep as long as store bought.

1 1/2 cups crème fraîche
Sea salt or other flavorings as desired

Pour the crème fraîche into a medium bowl and, using a hand-held mixer, on medium-low speed; begin whipping the crème fraîche as if you were making whipped cream. Stop every now and then to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula. As the crème fraîche thickens, increase the speed to medium-high. When it’s just past the stage of a stiff whipped cream, the crème fraîche will become yellow and separate into clumps. At this point, decrease the speed to medium-low or you’ll run the risk of spraying buttermilk all over. After this point, the butter will quickly solidify and separate fully from the buttermilk. The whole process takes 8-10 minutes. When the butter seems to have given off all the buttermilk it is going to, pour off the buttermilk and save it. (It’s truly delicious to drink and it’s also great to use for baked goods). Push the butter against the sides of the bowl with a flexible spatula to get it to give up all the buttermilk possible, and pour it off.

Pour cool water into the bowl with the butter and work it around with a spatula. Pour off the water. Wash the butter two or three times until the water runs clear. This step is a must, as unwashed butter will spoil quickly.

Transfer the butter to a sheet of parchment and work it for a minute or so with the spatula to press out any additional water. Pat dry and then use the spatula to work in any salt or flavorings. Transfer to a clean dish, cover, and refrigerate for up to 5 days, or freeze for up to 2 months. Don’t leave the butter out at room temperature, as it will spoil.



COMING SOON: Delve deeper into nutrition with my day long class in Nutrition for the Summer Season, in Berkeley on March 29th, for acupuncturists, students and interested lay people.  Or try one of my hands-on fermentation classes in April and June (see sidebar for my 2014 calendar).  

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

A Cozy Dish for Late Winter


The warming weather here in California (punctuated by a welcome dash of rain) inspired me to get into the kitchen and cook a few more long-simmered stews to honor the warming food of winter before it's all over (earlier each year recently here in the West).  The mushrooms are a good way to boost your immune system to withstand the last tail of flu season, and the horseradish gives a spicy bite to keep the dish from being too cloying.  Admission: I pureed the cream a bit too long in my food processor, yielding horseradish butter, which was just as delicious and gave us an excuse to eat some steak with the butter the next night.  If you don't have any bone broth or vegetable stock on hand, go with the ale instead for rich flavor. The cultured cream in the sauce gives you boost in digesting the healthy fats in the dish. And it is good for your libido, too! 

My other favorite dishes for warming a Valentine heart and fighting the February blahs are the toothsome Grassfed Beef Tartare and the blushingly pink Rosehip Soup.  If you really need to stoke the fires, try a batch of Chocolate Truffles spiked with some aphrodisiacs like cinnamon, maca and damiana.

Beef and Mushroom Stew with Fresh Horseradish Cream

This wonderful concoction will warm you to the bone and encourage snuggling, but is both rich-tasting and easily digested. Ale and water make a good stand-in for bone broth if you are out. I adapted the stew from a recipe in the October 2013 issue of Sunset magazine and the cream is from Deborah Madison’s luscious and illuminating Vegetable Literacy.  You’ll have some of the horseradish cream leftover, and it is an enlivening condiment for tubers, root veggies, meats and soups.

Serves 3-4

For the stew:

3 strips pastured bacon

1-2 tsp bacon fat, ghee or olive oil

3 T white whole wheat or brown rice flour

½ t sea salt

½ t Ras el Hanout (see NOTE)

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 bay leaf

1 pound pastured beef stew meat or chuck, cubed into 1 1/2 “ pieces

1 qt. bone broth* or 1 pt. ale such as Boont Amber and 1 pt water

1 oz dried shitake mushrooms

½ cup fresh mushrooms (try maitake for an immune boost or the humble crimini)

3-4 carrots or parsnips

1-2 large shallots

For the cream:

1ounce horseradish root

½ cup creme fraiche or sour cream

½ cup whole milk yogurt

1 T umeboshi plum vinegar, or apple cider vinegar with sea salt to taste

Cook the bacon in a heavy 5-6 qt. pot over medium heat until it begins to crisp. Meanwhile, prepare seasoned flour by mixing the flour, spices and salt in a medium bowl. Remove the bacon to a plate and melt in the additional bacon fat.  Dredge the beef cubes in the flour, and add to the pot, browning the pieces well all over.  Add the bone broth to the pot, scraping the bottom to loosen any brown bits at the bottom.  Chop the bacon into 1” strips and add to the beef, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to a gentle simmer.  Boil 1 cup of water and pour over the dried mushrooms to soften, weighting them if necessary so they stay submerged.  Simmer the stew, stirring occasionally, about 1 ½ hours.  Meanwhile, peel shallots and separate into lobes if small, or slice if large. Slice the mushrooms and cut the carrots into chunks. 

Add mushrooms, carrots, mushroom soaking liquid, and shallots to the stew and simmer another hour, or until the beef is meltingly tender.  Meanwhile, make the cream by peeling the horseradish (I use a knife) and grating it on the fine holes of a box grater. This might make you cry, and will most assuredly clear your sinuses! Place the horseradish in a food processor with the crème fraiche, yogurt and ume vinegar and pulse to blend into a textured paste.

Simmer the stew uncovered to finish if you would like a thicker broth.  Correct the seasonings, and serve the stew in warmed bowls with a big dollop of the horseradish cream.

 *I used a combo chicken/pig’s trotters broth with some Huang Qi/Astragalus and Da Zao/jujube dates added in the last 8 hours of cooking.  Beef or vegetable stock will also be just fine.

NOTE: Ras el Hanout, or “top of the shop” is a stunning mix of paprika, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, grains of paradise, allspice, nutmeg, mace, cayenne and more that is used much in Moroccan cooking.  Find it in your local spice shop or improvise a mix of some of the above. 

 

 

Friday, January 10, 2014

The Five Elements of Movement

Moving into the New Year, I want to take the time to write about the most important determinant of health and happiness besides food—exercise. Working with thousands of clients over the years has given me countless examples of the exercise imperative: move it or lose it!  Moving our bodies consciously and regularly is truly the magic bullet of health, if there is one.  Five element theory provides a way to think about the diverse benefits of a truly balanced approach to movement.  Give your routine a tune-up now and you'll reap the benefits throughout 2014.

Metal-Lungs: The Lungs govern qi and to keep the lungs working well and our vitality strong we need to keep our qi and blood moving with regular aerobic exercise (you are breathing faster but are not out of breath) punctuated by bouts of anaerobic exercise (you get out of breath). You can pick a baseline aerobic activity—walking, hiking, running, biking, dancing, sports, and do it regularly. The health benefits of aerobic activity became popularized in the 70's (Ken Cooper’s book Aerobics made a huge impression on me as a kid), but new research has shown that the anaerobic activities we do can have a greater impact in shorter time on mood, cardiovascular health and metabolism than the old-style steady state aerobic workout. The easiest way is simply to incorporate sprints into your baseline aerobic workout. The runner’s practice of fartlek, or speed play, is an informal technique where you simply vary your pace throughout your run, adding short sprints as you see fit. Minimum is three times a week, 6-7 is optimal.

Wood—Liver: The liver rules the tendons and keeps us supple and flowing. The free and easy wanderer keeps moving easily by stretching, another key component of vital movement. Many newbie exercises and weekend warriors err by stretching a lot when muscles are cold—it’s less effective and likely to cause injury. Instead, incorporate a stretch break into the middle of your aerobic workout or make time to stretch at the end. Doing a lot of stretching once a week (i.e. a yoga or stretch class) can be as effective as stretching in shorter bouts more often. Minimum: once a week to daily.

Earth—Spleen: this element connects to our tissue and muscles and the way to support them is to do strength training. Women lose 1% of muscle mass per year starting in their 30’s, men in the 40’s, if they don’t make a concerted effort to maintain strength. Lifting heavy things as part of daily life is good, but most of us need to supplement that with some focused strength training, which doesn’t have to be at the gym, although the gym can be a quick and easy way to get your strength needs met. Body weight exercises like pushups, burpees, squats and wall sits can be done anywhere with just your good self as the weight. Yoga and Pilates can build strength (and alignment, and balance and suppleness) when designed with that intent. Research has shown health benefits beginning with just 1 strength session a week (and 1 set!) but 2-3 times a week is safer and less likely to cause injury. After years of doing free weights at the gym I’m totally bored with that, so my new favorite is body-sculpting classes at the Y—it’s a strength focused workout using body and hand weights that reminds me of muscles I had forgotten I had.

Water-Kidney: Our kidney energy is connected to willpower, longevity and development. It is supported by practices that require discipline to develop skill, particularly those movement practices derived from the ancient wisdom traditions of yoga, martial arts and some forms of dance. Working toward mastery in sports such as swimming, tennis or ping pong is another form of cultivation, and has been shown to be supportive in preventing cognitive decline.

 Fire-Heart: The heart is much more than the engine of the cardiovascular system in Chinese medicine: it is the seat of spirit and all the functions of consciousness. The heart is affected by joy, and joyful movement is a tonic for the spirit. Movement in nature, movement that connects you to others (dance, partner yoga, team sports), movement to music, free from movement such as ecstatic dance and forms of qi gong and nei gong, or any type of movement that makes you happy counts.  The other side of joyful movement is conscious stillness, or intentional relaxation techniques.  Taking time for shivasana at the end of yoga class, progressive muscle relaxation, catnaps and receiving bodywork are ways to balance the joy of movement with the pleasure of intentional stillness--which is quite different from inertia.

The balance of these elements that is right of each of us depends on age, constitution, lifestyle and season, so we each need to find our own mix. And many activities incorporate several of the elements.  For me, lately a mix of running, Zumba, yoga, body sculpting and meditative dance has been keeping my body and soul humming along nicely.  A toast to finding your optimal mix for 2014!

And so as to not break my tradition of a recipe in every post, here is our current favorite dessert which is helping wean us off the sugar habit from the holidays.

Honeyed Oranges 
Adapted from The Jungle Effect by Daphne Miller

Peel and slice 3 oranges latitudinally into rounds, and lay on a plate.  Drizzle with 1 tsp. raw honey and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.  Chill and serve.

I've got a lot of great classes and continuing education opportunities coming up in 2014, check it out:

1.13.14 6:30-9pm Introduction to Fermentation: Hands-on class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco.

1.27.14 6:30-9pm Winter Fermentation: hands-on class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco

2.8-9.14 Integrative Nutrition through the seasons: continuing education course for licensed acupuncturists, nurses and TCM students.  AIMC Berkeley.

2.17.14 4:30-6pm Food and Pleasure: lecture and workshop at Three Stone Hearth, Berkeley.

2.23.14 Dairy Fermentation: hands-on workshop. Biofuel Oasis, Berkeley

2.27.14 7pm Cooking Demo and Booksigning, Laughing Buddha Acupuncture, Oakland FREE

3.3.14 6:30-9pm Spring Fermentation: Hands-on class at 18 Reasons, San Francisco

3.21-23.14 Spring into Greater Vitality: residential workshop at Harbin Hot Springs with Dennis von Elgg and Laurel Brody, L.Ac.s, continuing education for licensed acupuncturists and students.

3.29.14 Integrative Nutrition through the Seasons: Summer. Continuing education course for licensed acupuncturists, nurses and TCM students. AIMC Berkeley.

6.16.14 6:30-9pm Summer Fermentation: hands-on class at 18 Reasons in San Francisco