Friday, August 29, 2008

Recipe: Zucchini nut bread

I've officially designated the last week of August 'Zuchinni Week!' It seems I've been inspired with the ingredient this week. Or perhaps it is just cause I've got so much!

This recipe was inspired by another great blog Au Naturel. I love it cause it uses a combination of almond and chickpea flour (yes, gluten-free!). And instead of sugar uses agave nectar, which is a milder, natural sweetener made from the agave cactus (the same plant tequila comes from). Very moist. Very delicious. I am sure you will enjoy!

Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cup zucchini (1 medium zucchini grated)
3/4 cup chickpea flour, sifted
3/4 cup almond meal
1 1/2 eggs
1/4 cup butter
3/4 cup agave nectar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp masala powder (or ground cloves, nutmeg, cardamom)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/4 cup raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a loaf pan with butter.

Grate zucchini using food processor or box grater. Press grated zucchini with paper towel to absorb excess moisture.

Combine all dry ingredients in bowl (i.e. chickpea flour, almond meal, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, masala powder). Be sure to pass chickpea flour in sifter.

In large bowl, beat butter and eggs until creamy. Continue to blend while adding agave nectar and vanilla extract. Fold in grated zucchini.

Add 1/3 of dry ingredients to wet ingredients. Stir to combine. Add remaining mixture. Mix well, make sure no dry clumps remaining. Add walnuts and/or raisins if desired.

Pour batter in loaf pan. Bake 40 minutes in oven. Immediately remove loaf and let cool. Note: cake will appear partially uncooked. That is okay...this is a moist cake! Continuing to cook will make this too dry.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Health care we can believe in

With the Democratic convention taking place this week, I've been thinking a lot about health care. Specifically, with proposed plans to provide coverage for our nation's 47 million uninsured.

To some this might be the moment they have dreamed of. For me, all I imagine is another 47 million complaining about their health care coverage! How their doctor is quick to prescribe and slow to listen. How their HMO doesn't cover a certain procedure.

Is that what we really want? I think we need to dream bigger.

In the last ten years there has been a movement to transform health care. As a holistic health counselor, I am proud to be part of that movement - to empower individuals to care for themselves. To focus on prevention and healing, rather than treatment and fixing.

A large part of that work starts with changing our relationship to food. It still amazes me how little this gets talked about. Food changes everything. It effects our blood, organs, cells, thoughts, moods. Many of us have had a little to no training in how to select and prepare foods, how to listen to our body, and how to nurture and feed it. I've seen answers to some really complex seeming health problems reversed, just by making simple changes to your diet.

However, just eating the best foods doesn't change things. We also need to look at our lifestyle. When we are stressed and sedentary, even eating the best foods will not make a difference. We also need to examine our beliefs about our bodies and healing. Cause whether you believe you can or you can't get better, either way you are right!

I've seen many great things happen for clients that are open to this approach to health care. Often the best healer is ourselves. We just need someone else to bring it out in us.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Recipe: Zucchini cakes with feta

I love zucchini. And every summer I am in search of a few good zucchini recipes. This is one of my favorites. It is very simple to make and really delicious. It goes well with sour cream, greek yogurt, or labne. Enjoy!

Serves 4 (about 18 patties)

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini (about 3 small to medium)
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 eggs
1/2 cup (or more) brown rice flour
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup chopped green onions
Coconut oil

Toss grated zucchini in a bowl with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let sit for five to ten minutes. Transfer to sieve. Press out excess water; place dry zucchini in bowl.

Mix in eggs, 1/2 cup brown rice flour, cheese, 1/2 tsp of salt. Then add parsley and green onions. If batter is very wet, add more flour by the spoonfulls.

Heat 3-4 tbsp of coconut oil on a large skillet over medium heat. Make small patties in hand and fry until golden brown. About 5 minutes on each side, adding additional oil as necessary.

Transfer to paper towels to remove excess oil. Serve with yogurt or sour cream.

Friday, August 22, 2008

What we can learn from a wine snob

You know how to identify them: the swirl of the glass, the slow dip of the nose, the long contemplative sip, and finally the self-important verdict.

Seems like a bad episode of Frasier. Pretentious!

Or so I thought. Until recently when our French visitor, Stephanie, brought over a bottle of Bordeaux wine from her country. We served it with dinner and could instantly smell the complex bouquet of the wine. [No swirl necessary] It was very fragrant, rich, oaky. I instantly knew this would be something I would want to savor. I slowed down. I smelled. I tasted the wine. It was amazing!

At that moment, something shifted. We all got present. We enjoyed our food and each other's company. It was literally one of the best evenings we've had in some time.

It is important to note that it was not the wine itself that took us there. Yeah, how much did you drink, anyway? Simply, the wine enabled us to get present.

The same enjoyment and appreciation can be had with any meal. All it takes is the ability to slow down and engage our senses. Next time you sit down to eat consider the presentation of your food. Close your eyes and take in the smell, taste and texture of the food. It easiest to do this with minimal distractions. So put away the book, magazine. Shut off the television.

And if you are dining with someone have them try this too. All of this will greatly enhance your experience of the meal...and each other.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nuts: nature's perfect food

Are you nuts about nuts? I am.

And fortunately, as a health counselor, I can disclose my consumption of these guilt-free. [You should see the messages from my advisers after yesterday's ice cream disclosure.]

Nuts are nature's perfect food: a healthy balance of fat, carbohydrate and protein. Which makes sense if you consider that a nut is basically a seed and contains everything necessary for a plant to create life.

Nuts are extremely compact and durable, which make them very convenient for modern life. It is no wonder they are so prevalent in trail mixes and energy bars.

Fellow nut lovers can rejoice when they visit the Tierra Farm booth at the Park Slope Farmers Market (Sunday @ 5th Avenue and 4th Street). Tierra Farm is a small, privately-owned producer of organic nuts based in the Finger Lakes region of New York State. My current favorite is the Organic Dry Roasted Sea Salt & Onion Cashews. Very addictive! Other favorites include Garam Masala Cashews, Roasted Pistachios, and Tamari Roasted Almonds.

Nuts are one of the few sources of healthy, plant-based fats. They are high in desired monounsaturated fats and essential fatty acids. All of which are important for healthy skin, hair and nails. As well as memory and cognitive function.

However, like all foods, nuts should be eaten in moderation. The foods are rather calorie dense. I recommend just a few at a time. You'll find yourself satiated surprisingly faster than most snack foods.

Yoga 101 workshop: Sun, Aug 24

Intimidated by the Manhattan yoga elite? Want to hone your down dog? Or even learn what that is?

My friend and yoga instructor, Annie Wong, is leading a special 'absolute' beginners workshop in Manhattan this weekend at Three Jewels yoga studio. Class size is limited to guarantee personal attention. See details below:

A is for Asana: A Beginners Yoga Workshop
Intimidated by learning yoga?
This workshop is designed for absolute beginners and
will teach you the "ABC's" of yoga.

Develop a strong foundation for an educated practice.
Explore and learn at a comfortable pace in a supportive environment
with others who are new to yoga.

The class will be kept small in order to ensure personal attention.
Taught by Annie Wong with guest Susanna Eckblad.

Sunday, August 24, 1:00-3:00pm
$20 pre-register
$25 day of

Email to pre-register

The Three Jewels
61 4th Avenue, 3rd Floor (btw 9th and 10th Streets)
New York City

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

We all scream for Blue Marble ice cream

Ice cream, it seems, has once again become in vogue for health counselors.

The shift in our universe is largely thanks to Blue Marble Ice Cream in Brooklyn. Here ice cream is handmade from local organic milk. Chocolate is fair trade organic. And the bowls and spoons are all compostable.

I was tipped off to the place by my friend and fellow health counselor, Angela, who has been visiting the store a little more frequently than she would like. Both of us, it seems, have been craving ice cream lately. So I recently decided to visit the store with my sister, Nina, who was visiting.

This conversion didn't come easy though. It had been almost a year since I've indulged in the stuff. Part of my attempt to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. Blue Marble's commitment to quality sourcing did ease my guilt a bit. However, I would be lying if part of me, didn't still think what I was doing was 'bad.'

So I put on my health counselor hat. Why might I be causing my craving for ice cream? Or rather what was my body trying to tell me? Perhaps I need to cool down. Or be less strict with my diet. Or maybe I just need more fat.

I realized there was some truth in all of this. My success in eliminating most processed foods from my diet over the last year had brought with it significant weight loss. More so than perhaps my body was ready for! Ice cream, while not the only source of fat, was actually beneficial in helping me return to balance.

The whole episode reminded me that it important to have a flexible attitude towards food. And there are no universally good or bad foods. Yet, don't get my wrong, most of us eat too much ice cream and sugar. But if you want to indulge, why not choose the best?

I recommend the Mocha Chip. :)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fine dining in Costa Rica

Prepare for some gratuitous food porn.

Yes, in Costa Rica, like most of my travels, eating was central. Literally, days were spent meticulously planning and researching where or what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Below are some of the highlights from our trip. I hope you enjoy.

Gallo Pinto (Eggs, Beans and Rice, Corn Tortillas)
Breakfast in Montezuma, Costa Rica

Tuna Tartar
from Playa des los Artistes, Montezuma, Costa Rica

Best Coconut Milkshake
from Cafe Organico, Montezuma, Costa Rica

Thai Veggie Burger with Grilled Pineapple on Corn Tortillas
from Cafe Organico, Montezuma, Costa Rica

Dragon Rice Bowl (Brown Rice with Veggies)
from Cafe Organico, Montezuma, Costa Rica

Breakfast Burrito, deconstructed
from Cafe Baraka, Mal Pais, Costa Rica

Gallo Pinto with Garbanzo Veggie Burger
from Oasis Cafe, Nosara, Costa Rica

Home Cooked 'Traditional' Meal
made my myself

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Remember the butterflies?

When was the last time you saw a butterfly?

These beautiful creatures are one of the first things I noticed when in Costa Rica. Apparently, there are over 200 different kinds living in the region.

The sight of these creatures instantly took me back to my childhood in Virginia. There were literally tons around. Now when I go home, I rarely see them.

While, I am sure development plays a large part in this, I think it is also a side effect of the Monsanto world. I remember years ago reading published studies that genetically engineered Bt corn was linked to the decline of the monarch butterfly population. (Yes, this is the same corn that has splices an insecticide in the corn DNA and also conveniently only responds to Monsanto-branded Roundup pesticides). The population is said to have declined as much as 75 percent in the U.S.!

I don't think I fully grasped the impact of all this until my trip. I didn't realize how much I missed the butterflies until I saw them in this other land. To me, the butterfly has always been a symbol of transformation (you know ugly, fat caterpillar goes into cocoon and becomes lovely, airy butterfly).

Can you imagine using the same metaphor to inspire our kids, only to get, "What is a butterfly?" Perhaps we should all eat a bit more organic corn.

*Photo courtesy of Lotus Ryan

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

When nature isn't a destination

Maybe I've been in the city too long. When arriving in Costa Rica, I had a strong desire to connect with nature - see the wildlife, open space, rainforests. To my surprise, it was far easier than I thought.

Coming from the city perspective, I thought one has to 'go' to see this stuff. You know, nature being a destination. Our homes, neighborhoods, institutions all being 'separate' from the natural world.

In Costa Rica, however, I felt a part of the grand scheme of things. My home itself had its own elaborate ecosystem. Ants feasted on the remains of smaller insects. Lizards feasted on the mosquitos. Outside our garden was frequented by crabs, anteaters, iguanas and other creatures. Our property manager suggested tossing out or food scraps to feed these creatures. We did and they ate it. At restaurants, local birds helped us clear our plates.

I'm not sure all this would fly in New York. In fact, I'm pretty certain it would be a health code violation.

My trip reinforced how disconnected we are from the natural world. And not only with other creatures, but also our food supply. How many of us actually know how the food we eat is grown? Or how it is processed?

I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to witness another possibility of man living in the natural world. Especially since I didn't have to get on another bus or shell out a couple bucks for admission.

I'm back, refreshed

Dear readers, I've missed you.

For the last two weeks, I have been in Costa Rica (I know, no note, nothing). The good news is I am back now, refreshed, and ready to embrace you all again.

For this week, I thought it might therefore be fun to share my thoughts, observations about the great country of Costa Rica. I have always enjoyed traveling overseas as a great way to gain perspective on life. This trip was no different.

I hope you enjoy. Pura Vida!

Integrative Nutrition