Symbiotic Health (+ Power Brownies)

Yesterday, in class, our teacher introduced a section of the lecture covering several different popular diets and food philosophies by saying, in essence, people can get very stuck in their beliefs around food. That the heart of healthy sustainable eating is to tune into our own bodies, what they need and what they, individually, feel best eating. So simple, but profound too. A similar sentiment is echoed by the author of one of my favorite food blogs:

A lot of people want to know “what I am” – vegetarian, vegan, raw foodist, fruitarian, macrobiotic…guess what? I am a person who eats! 

My food philosophy is this: I hate labels. They stink. They force a person to define themselves in very rigid terms, beat themselves up if they suddenly eat something that doesn’t fit that definition, and I know I never want to have to label what “kind” of diet I subscribe to. Being dogmatic about anything, for me, just doesn’t work. Being flexible does. 

I like this idea. And, in reality, I don’t know a single person who subscribes to any specific way of eating 100% of the time. I often identify myself as a vegan, but that doesn’t stop me from having a slice of birthday cake, on occasion, or even a little fish from time to time. And yet, by using this term, which is defined objectively, I expose myself to feeling of guilt or inadequacy when I do diverge from the party line… and somehow I know that’s not part of achieving an optimal, healthy relationship with food and nutrition.

In class, we dismissed one diet after another on the basis of not accounting for bio-individuality. By nature, any diet or food philosophy simple enough to write a book on is going to be pretty basic and is formulated to be applied universally. While it is probably inarguable that everyone these days needs to eat more whole, unprocessed foods and especially vegetables, just about anything else in diet is up for grabs. Some people need far more protein that others, some people have trouble digesting grains, others have problems with dairy or soy. Some people thrive on higher fat diets than others, or higher in raw foods or greater concentration of certain vitamins or minerals. It’s mind boggling the set of conditions that influence each of us: our ancestry, lifestyle, routine, metabolism, food we grew up with, food we like or dislike, and so on. There is no one answer and no one prescription that will lead us to health, happiness and nourishment. Continue reading

Full of Beans

As all of you who are in Boulder can testify, this has been a weird summer weather-wise. It’s been in the mid-nineties and muggy for weeks on end. Aside from making me lethargic and grumpy, the oppressive heat is also making me feel mighty uninspired in the kitchen. That’s not all bad though. As I’m not feeling as inclined to try new recipes or spend hours (or any time at all) slaving over the stove, let alone firing up the oven, I’ve been focusing my culinary energy on the basics – beans, grains, simply-prepared veggies, smoothies (yes, they are their own food group)…

As a (mostly) vegan that eats (mostly) whole foods, I eat a lot of beans. For years I’ve felt less than stellar about canned beans- the BPA, the excess packaging, the extra expense. But actually getting my act together to soak and boil a big pot of dry beans was always a little intimidating. A couple of weeks ago I just bit the bullet and loaded up on dry beans at the store instead of canned. Despite the fact that my first batch (black-eyed peas) expanded more than expected while soaking and caused the jar they were inhabiting to ooze water all over the kitchen counter, I have deemed the experiment a successful one. I love the alchemical transformation through which these dry hard lumps from the bulk bin transform into swollen, soft little bits of deliciousness—their flavor is much more pronounced than the canned variety. And it sure is nice to just leave the pot on the stove to simmer without having to be in the same room. Once cooked and cooled, I’ve been loving having a mess of beans in the fridge to throw into salads, fill burritos or mix with rice. I’ve been doing much the same thing with various grains – quinoa, brown basmati rice, millet, barley. They are great to have on hand for substantial but light salads and quick lunches.

Amidst the cooking hiatus, I have crafted a couple of recipes that were remarkably delicious – maybe even warranting turning on the stove/oven (?)

Barley Summer Salad with Fennel & Chard (loosely based on the “Dill Basmati Rice with Chard ” recipe from Veganomicon)

2 cups cooked (& cooled) barley

1 cup cooked (& cooled) du Puy lentils (or other beans)

1/2 of a large fennel bulb, diced

1 small sweet onion, diced

1/2 of an English cucumber, seeded & diced

1 handful raisins

2 Tbs. minced fresh dill

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. black pepper

Good olive oil and red wine vinegar (in whatever proportions you prefer)– start with about 2 Tbs. vinegar and 1/4 cup oil.

Combine all the ingredients and mix with dressing. Let chill for at least one hour for optimal deliciousness. It’s even better the next day.

Sour Cherry Cornbread Cobbler (makes 4 -6 servings)

Filling:

2 cups lightly-sweetened pie cherries (sweetened however you prefer until palatable, but still tart)

2 small apples, peeled and grated

2 heaping Tbs. cornstarch

Squeeze of lemon juice

Biscuit topping:

2/3 cup cornmeal

1 1/3 cup Pamela’s gluten-free baking mix (or regular flour)

1 Tbs. baking powder

pinch of sea salt (add another if using flour)

1/2 sunflower oil

1/2 cup almond milk

1 spoonful coconut oil & 1 spoonful brown rice syrup, melted

  1. Heat oven to 400 F. Grease a pan (a large loaf pan should be perfect for this amount).
  2. Mix together the all of the filling ingredients and pour into the pan.
  3. Mix together the dry ingredients for the biscuits. Drizzle in the oil and mix with a fork. Drizzle in the milk and stir until mixture just comes together.
  4. Drop spoonfuls of dough on top of the cherry filling, more-or-less covering it. Brush or drizzle the top with the coconut oil/ brown rice syrup mixture.
  5. Bake for about 20 – 30 minutes until the top is golden and crusty. Mmmmmm!