Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recipe: Lamb Kofta

Last week my friend Angela and I, both 'recovering' vegetarians, decided to try our hand at preparing lamb.

Until now, I've avoided cooking meat in my home. Occasionally, eating it at high quality restaurants.

As someone who believes in the importance of home cooking, I realize this was something I must overcome. And so I suggested to Angela, the Brooklyn chapter leader of the Weston Price Foundation, that we try cooking lamb together. She was game.

I immediately thought of a recipe for Lamb Kofta, which was on the cover of the eat well cookbook. This recipe sources its inspiration from the Middle East (Kofta being the word for meatball).

Traditionally, kofta is made using bulgur wheat. In the West, breadcrumbs are common. To make this gluten-free we used some cooked quinoa, and was amazed how good it came out.

We picked up some grass fed lamb at the Park Slope Food Co-op, and got to work. The dish was put together in less than 20 minutes. My resistance to touching meat - well, that took a bit longer to overcome.

I still am not sure I am completely ready to jump into cooking meat, but this was a start. I am forever grateful for the farmer and butcher for the work it took to get this on my table.

I will continue to eat a diet heavy in whole grains, beans, and vegetables. It is what I love to make. And I will also honor my body, and give into its cravings for meat - choosing the highest quality available.

This dish can be served over a simple parsley salad tossed with olive oil and pomegranate molasses. Or with roasted tomatoes. Enjoy!

Serves 4

1 lb ground lamb ( grass-fed)
3/4 cup quinoa, cooked
1 egg, beaten
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 tsp finely chopped fresh dill
1 tsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
pinch ground cinnamon
salt to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine lamb and remaining ingredients in a bowl and season to taste. Roll into 8-16 meatballs, of desired size. Put in rectangular baking pan and bake for about 12 minutes.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Recipe: Oatmeal Kefir Pancakes

Have you ever tried kefir?

I've always heard a lot about this fermented milk drink, loaded with probiotics. And last week I thought I'd try it out, as I've been experimenting with high quality dairy products lately.

A couple of sips into it, I had to stop. It was much too thick and sour for my taste - nothing like the 'yogurt drink' I had expected.

As someone who hates to waste food, even when I don't like it, I started to think of other alternatives for my kefir.

Then on Saturday morning, it hit me. I'd use it for making pancakes! Similar to buttermilk, kefir's batter-like consistency was actually a plus in this case. So I tried, using an old recipe for oatmeal pancakes, and was amazed by how good they turned out.

Whether or not you like kefir, I am sure you will enjoy. Topped with ground flaxseeds and strawberries, this dish will welcome you into Spring!

You can also try with apple butter and labne. Yum.

Serves 2 (seven 4-inch pancakes)

3/4 cup rolled oats
1 cup kefir
1 egg
1 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup corn flour
1/8 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tbsp ground flax seeds (optional)
strawberries, sliced (optional)

Place oats and kefir in a large bowl and let sit for 20 minutes. Beat the eggs, vanilla, maple syrup, and melted butter in a small bowl. Stir in the soaked oats. Next, add the salt, corn flour, nutmeg, and baking soda. Mix well.

Drop 1/4 cup of batter into a heated cast iron skillet or griddle. Cook over medium low heat until tops are covered with holes. Turn the cakes over and cook on other side. Repeat until batter is finished.

Sprinkle ground flax seeds and strawberries atop the pancakes. Serve with yogurt or labne.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Planet health: Reducing my paper consumption

annie leonard from body & soul magazineHave you seen The Story of Stuff yet?

Since it was posted online a couple years ago, the film which makes a compelling case for reducing our consumption, has received over 10 million viewers.

I was reminded of the film and its case in April's Body & Soul magazine, which features an interview with Annie Leonard, the Environmentalist and Sustainability Expert behind the film. To sum up her view: "We're trashing the planet. We're trashing each other. And we're not even having fun doing it."

As someone who's rather eco-conscious, I took this article as a reminder to revisit my footprint. Yes, I've been doing great on the recycling front. In addition to sorting my paper and plastics each week, I compost my food scraps and recycle plastics not taken by the city to the Park Slope Food Co-op every second Saturday.

While commendable (pat on back), I must admit I haven't given as much thought on reducing my consumption. So I decided to look at my paper consumption, most of which floods my mailbox each week, and figure out a plan to clamp down. So far this morning I have:
  • Canceled the delivery of my phone book by visiting yellowpagesgoesgreen.org. If half of us do that, we could save 10 million trees a year.
  • Wrote to my landlord about posting a "no menus, flyers, ads" sign on our building to reduce the solicitations we receive. Park Slope residents can pick up a pre-made one from the Park Slope Civic Council.
  • Canceled my subscription to a magazine I no longer read. And putting out old issues for people to take, rather than sending them right to the recycling bin.
This is in addition to:
  • Collecting scrap paper, and feeding the blank side through my printer
  • Signing up for electronic bill paying through my bank/credit card company
  • Opting for no receipt when I make withdrawals at the ATM
  • Calling catalog companies to remove my name from their mailing list
I love how these are all simple things we can all do, without causing too much pain. In fact, you'll notice that most of what I listed is unconscious consumption - stuff we didn't even ask for in the first place. So what's stopping us?

Just remember - the positive improvements we make to our planet (more trees, clean air/water, good quality soil) directly leads to higher quality food and better health for us all.

To my green friends out there, I'd love to hear from you. What have you done to reduce your consumption?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Recipe: Salmon, Sweet Potatoes & Kale

I love it when a dish comes together without doing all that much planning. This dish was made from a few basic ingredients that I like to keep in the house - namely some frozen fish, root vegetables, and dark leafy greens.

Sometimes a meal can be comprised of three simple dishes, rather than one complex one. It's the way I like to cook and recommend trying it for those that get turned off by elaborate recipes. This meal only took about 30 minutes to make.

To prepare I first diced the sweet potatoes. I coated them in olive oil and thyme and roasted in the oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, I sauteed some kale with olive oil and garlic. And lastly seared the wild salmon on a cast iron pan with some coconut oil, cooking 5 minutes on each side.

That's it. Dinner is served.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The truth about calcium

grass fed cowMilk: it's been marketed to us as the holy grail for calcium. Yet for many of us, it's probably not the best place to get calcium in our diets.

"Go to the place where cows get theirs," urged Dr. Anne Marie Colbin, author of the new book A Whole Foods Approach to Bone Health at her free public talk on Thursday. Namely, leafy green vegetables. This was just one of the many useful nuggets of wisdom Dr. Colbin provided to the room full of science writers (and one blogger) in midtown Manhattan.

I was excited to attend this talk after listening to Dr. Colbin as a student at Integrative Nutrition. She's got this great no-nonsense way about her, and is passionate about cooking with vegetables and whole grains. She is the founder of The Natural Gourmet Institute, a health supportive cooking school in Manhattan. Every Friday night the school opens its door to the public, where one can enjoy a three course meal prepared by its students ($40).

On the menu at her school you will find many greens and other foods she recommends eating, namely - root vegetables, protein, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. You also won't find much milk, sugar, white flour, or nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant).

Why these foods? To understand, Dr. Colbin suggests we think of our bones as a mineral savings account. They house 99% of our body's calcium store, 85% of its phosphorus, and 40-60% of its sodium and magnesium. Certain foods (like greens and whole grains) add to our mineral store, while other convenience-oriented foods (sugar, flour) and nightshade vegetables make withdrawals from our store.

An occasional withdrawal is fine, provided one makes the necessary deposits.

Her talk reminded me that we must rethink what we've been told. Namely, that milk and calcium supplements are the solution. For one, most commercially available milk is made from cows that are not grass fed (the place where the calcium is coming from), and has been tainted by growth hormones, antibiotics, and refining. If you need further evidence, look no further than a Harvard Nurses Study that found women who drink two or more glasses of milk per day have a 50% greater chance of bone fractures than those who drink more than one glass per week.

And while good intentioned calcium supplements, don't guarantee that extra calcium will go to your bones. Calcium from these supplements often flood our bloodstream, which looks for any place to deposit it (including our kidneys and other organs), which can cause other health complications.

In other words, stick with the food. And if you forget, remember the innate wisdom of the cow.

*Photo courtesy Theiz on Flickr

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Inside Look: March Newsletter

Want to stay in touch with Rice of Life, but just aren't comfortable with the whole 'blog thing?' Good news! I have a solution: my monthly newsletter.

Each month I compile the top stories from Rice of Life and zap it to you inbox. I also write a short letter on whatever is top of mind. In my March newsletter (sent out today), I write about what I'm craving. Here's the full text:
Dear Reader,

It's the middle of March and I find myself craving two things: protein and Indian food.

As a health counselor, this observation is not just a passing thought, but a statement worthy of introspection. Our cravings come from our bodies, and when satisfied, keep us in balance.

Sometimes cravings stem from nutritional deficiencies. Sometimes from the seasons. Sometimes they are a little bit of both - like my craving for protein.

As few foods grow this time of year in New York, it is only natural for my body to crave earthy, dense foods, like protein. As a result, I've been finding myself craving lots of animal foods, dairy, beans, and legumes.

As for my craving for Indian food. Well, I'm Indian [huge surprise] - and this is my comfort food. The economy can continue to perform as it has, as long as I have my chana masala!

If you're interested in exploring your cravings for protein, I suggest attending my upcoming class "Expand your Protein Repertoire" on March 22 in Brooklyn, NY. Or call me at 917-804-9358 to setup a complimentary health consultation ($75 value).

And if you have any questions or thoughts, please send them over. I'd love to hear from you!


If you are interested in signing up: fill out my online form. You should receive an email shortly thereafter, confirming your subscription (sometimes appears in your spam folder). Oh yes, and I promise not to spam or sell your information to third parties. Pinky swear.

And I really do mean it when I say I want to hear from you. I love getting emails and comments from readers.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Recipe: Chana Masala

Chana Masala (or Chole) is a classic Indian dish and a staple in my kitchen.

It is one of those dishes that is great anytime of the year - serving as my comfort food in the winter and great in the summer when tomatoes are in season. My recipe uses tomato paste, but can easily be substituted for a diced fresh tomato in the summer (just might take a bit longer to cook down).

For a richer taste, try using ghee (clarified butter) instead of olive oil. You can purchase at health foods stores and Indian grocery stores, but I prefer to make my own. For a simple recipe, visit Fran's House of Ayurveda.

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil or ghee
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 small red onion, diced
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground cumin
2 15 oz can garbanzo beans
1/2 tsp salt
juice of 1 lemon
a few sprigs cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

1. In a large wok or skillet, heat olive oil or ghee at medium high heat. Add turmeric.

2. Cook onion until golden brown and fragrant, about five minutes.

3. Add tomato paste, garam masala, ground coriander and cumin. Cook for another seven minutes, and stir to form a nice paste. You might start to see the oil separate.

4. Add garbanzo beans (with reserved water). Reduce heat to medium and cook for another ten minutes or so. Should form a nice sauce. Remove from heat.

5. Add salt and lemon juice. Adjust as necessary.

6. Serve on plate with basmati rice. Add cilantro as garnish.

I recommend eating this dish with my recipe for South Indian Green Beans. They look and taste great together. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

NYC free lectures: Bone health, Protein

If you are interested in learning more about holistic health and nutrition and live in New York City, here are two lectures you won't want to miss.

A holistic approach to bone health
with Dr. Anne Marie Colbin
Thursday, March 12
6:00 pm to 7:45 pm
The New York Public LibraryScience, Industry & Business Library
188 Madison Avenue @ 34th St
New York, NY

This lecture is in support of Anne Marie Colbin's upcoming book, The Whole Food Guide to Strong Bones: A Holistic Approach. She will be talking about foods that build and maintain strong, healthy bones (I have a feeling it's not milk!) Dr. Colbin is the founder of The Natural Gourmet Institute and a visiting teacher at my school, The Institute of Integrative Nutrition. RSVP required. More information.

Expand your protein repertoire
with Ameet Maturu, HHC
Sunday, March 22
12:00 - 1 :30 pm
Park Slope Food Co-op
782 Union Street, between 6th and 7th Ave
Brooklyn, NY

A discussion on protein, led by me! Discover if you display symptoms of protein deficiency and learn how your choices effect your thoughts and moods as well as our bodies. You'll also learn some new foods to prepare (from legumes to tempeh). Perfect for both omnivores and vegetarians. More information.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Recipe: Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes

I've just noticed that it's been a while since I've posted a recipe. In fact, my overall posting has been down considerably in the last month.

With my wedding only three months away, my mind has been focused towards other things. Instead of dreaming up new ways to eat whole grains, vegetables, and legumes, I've been focused on finding a DJ and designing our invitations.

It doesn't mean I've given up on eating well. Rather I'm sticking to simple food preparations and tried and true recipes (e.g. beans and rice, salmon and greens, vegetables and whole grains). These are dishes that I can make intuitively, and almost feel odd posting a recipe.

This dish for Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes is one of my favorites from the last couple of weeks. And regardless of where you stand on cruciferous vegetables, I am confident you will like this recipe. I never liked Brussels sprouts until I tried them roasted. You'll want to make sure they get nicely browned in the oven. They go well with sweet potatoes and quinoa.

I hope you enjoy this recipe and may it serve as a reminder that good food doesn't have to be complicated.

Serves 2

10 Brussels sprouts, buds removed and cut in halves
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 sprigs of thyme or rosemary
1/2 tbsp butter (optional)
1 cup cooked quinoa

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Place cut Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes in a small baking pan. Coat with olive oil, sea salt and either thyme or rosemary. And if desired throw in a few pats of butter. Mix well. Roast for 25 minutes, removing halfway to stir.

3. Serve with cooked quinoa

Integrative Nutrition