Yoga and Nutrition
Tuesday
Nov052013

A Shanti mantra for this Tuesday (or any day)

From the classic Indian texts the Upanishads:  

om purnam adah purnam idam purnat purnam udachyate 

purnasya purnam adaya purnam evavashishyate

And a humble but heartfelt little take on that:

Make an offering. Send a blessing. Share some love. When you give from the part of you that is pure, complete, timeless, and good, you don't lose anything. What you give is pure and complete, and what remains with you is *still* pure and complete. When the source of love is infinite, by definition, that source can't be diminished. So let some of it go, and be ready to welcome it back, too. 

Om shanti shanti shanti


Sunday
Oct132013

Three legit reasons to be afraid of eating chicken

In the story of Chicken Little, the title character is a silly bird whose fearful overreaction ("The sky is falling!") leads to her demise. Some people, including our government's own food safety teams, are telling us that recent concerns about eating chicken are similarly alarmist. I'm not buying it.

If you haven't heard, chicken produced at three California facilities has caused serious illness in at least 317 people in 20 states and Puerto Rico since March. The culprit is the bacteria Salmonella Heidelberg, strains of which are resistant to commonly prescribed antibiotics. The CDC reports 42% of those infected have required hospitalization. These are only among known cases. The outbreak isn't over yet, and as of last week, the USDA has allowed Foster Farms' plants to continue operating.*

In a letter to Foster Farms, the company that owns the processing plants and is the country's 10th largest poultry producer, the USDA wrote, “Your establishment has failed to demonstrate that it has adequate controls in place to address salmonella in your poultry products.” The letter noted a dozen cases this year in which feces contaminated bird carcasses.

I think this is egregious enough. If you need more convincing, here are three more reasons it would be crazy to keep eating chicken.

 

1) The above conditions aren't uncommon in chicken processing.

In fact, they're the norm. Or better. According to the LA Times, "samples at the three plants found rates of salmonella in chicken parts on par with industry standards," and their whole chickens were safer than national averages. So you can avoid chicken from Foster Farms, but chances are you're getting the same dirty deal no matter where your chicken comes from. Foster Farms boasts, "There's nothing in our chicken but chicken... All of our fresh chicken is 100% natural, locally grown on farms." Pretty ironic, not to mention "natural" doesn't mean "safe." (And since when is chicken "grown"? Do you plant it? Does it come on trees?) The company says their poultry has "no added hormones or steroids," which is pretty meaningless since there are no FDA-approved growth hormones for poultry, anyway. Antibiotics are used, though, here and at most industrialized animal production facilities. It's these antibiotics that contribute to worldwide drug resistance that affects humans more frighteningly each day.

 

2) It may be “Made in China,” unbeknownst to us.

In August, the USDA ended a ban on processed chicken imports from China. Given the rash of food safety failures lately in China—from the deadly H7N9 bird flu to unidentified rat meat sales to 16,000 dead pigs appearing in a river that sources Shanghai's drinking water—this news isn't exactly comforting. Because the products will be made from birds originally hatched in the United States, neither country-of-origin labeling nor on-site USDA inspectors will be required. Government employees will be replaced by workers from the poultry companies themselves. Even the GAO has voiced "questions about the validity" of this industry self-policing, noting the USDA's failures in monitoring pilot programs to evaluate the new procedures. This system may "save" money and time, but not lives. Furthermore, the USDA's action paves the way for China to export raw poultry to the United States. (What would the United States net out of this deal, besides questionable food? Possibly China re-opening its fat beef market to the all-powerful and money-hungry American beef industry.) 

 

3) Sometimes chicken meat isn’t really chicken meat.

Professors from the University of Mississippi Medical Center randomly selected chicken nuggets from two national fast-food restaurants for microscopic analysis. In their report, which appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, they state that the samples contained "an adulterated chicken product containing 50 percent or less chicken meat, with other chicken components, in a suspension of unknown carrier material." Translation? Less than half of the nuggets were striated muscle tissue, the lean protein we assume comprises white meat chicken. Most of the nuggets were blood vessels, nerve tissue, glands, connective tissue, and ground bone. (If this melange sounds familiar, it's because it is sometimes used in dog food.) To be fair, this examination used a very small sample. However, the results likely can be generalized, given the importance of standardized recipes in fast food chains. And, while it might not be the worst thing to eat offal ("off fall") sustainability-wise, consumers should know what they—and their children—are actually eating.

 

*The USDA insists that the government shutdown hasn’t slowed work on resolving this situation. I’m not buying this, either. The CDC has furloughed about 70% of its staff. According to NPR, who interviewed director of the CDC Division of Foodborne, Waterborne and Environmental Diseases Chris Braden, there are normally eight people who oversee the database PulseNet, which tracks foodborne illnesses. In the first week of October, only three of those eight remained due to the shutdown. Braden explained though he has the authority to bring furloughed workers back, it would take precious time to do so, time when more people’s lives may be at stake. The communications staffs at CDC and USDA are reduced, as well, limiting the agencies’ ability to advise the public on how to take precautions.

 

 

 

Friday
Sep272013

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins. Of course.*

Dear ones. It's been way too long since I've posted something. Anything. I hope this recipe will make up for it. I promise it's a goody.

*Pumpkin best-practices only here. I know this time of year is kind of like THIS. But this recipe = real, good pumpkin at its finest. No fake-pie-spice-flavored-latte ridiculousness.


Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins

Ingredients: 

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp nutmeg

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 cup organic butter, softened (1/2 stick)

1/4 cup canola or coconut oil

2 organic eggs (always look for pasture-raised, please!)

1/2 cup sugar (I used magically delicious coconut sugar)

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla 

1 cup pumpkin puree (from a can is fine; you don’t have to be superman ALL the time)

1 cup finely chopped dark chocolate (Ghiradelli works well. Lately I've been into Madecasse, too, which is made in Madagascar by lemurs. Not really. Maybe.) 

Preparation:

1. Preheat over to 350 degrees and line 12-muffin tin with paper wrappers.

2. Mix butter, oil, sugars, pumpkin, and vanilla until even consistency. 
 

3. Add flours, salt, spices, baking powder and soda until just combined, then stir in chocolate pieces. 

4. Fill muffin tray with batter (each cup about 2/3 full) and bake for about 20 minutes or until tops of muffins are lightly browned and a knife inserted to the center of a muffin comes out clean.  

5. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from tin.

Makes 12 medium muffins.

These stay wonderfully tender for several days. As always, you can put extras in the freezer.

Wednesday
Jul172013

Watermelon, basil, fresh corn, and cupcakes... It must be summer!

Fourth of July barbeques are over, the heat has set in here in NYC, and who cares about menu planning? Clearly, I do! Take advantage of the summer vegetable and fruit bounty with these simple recipes. Use them individually, or all together for a fabulous summer dinner party. Bonus: except for the cupcakes, none of these recipes require you to turn on the oven.

 

THE MENU 

  

Lemon watermelon spritzers

Basil and kale pesto tofu over fusilli with asparagus

Summer lettuce and fava salad

Butter-lime grilled corn

Vanilla vegan cupcakes

 

 

Recipe 1:

Lemon watermelon spritzers

These refreshing cocktails – with alcohol or virgin – are perfect for pre-dinner drinks on the patio, the back deck, or the front stoop.

 

Ingredients:

2 cups cubed watermelon

2 cups seltzer

2 Tbs agave (or adjust to taste)

Juice from 1 lemon

8 oz vodka (optional)

 

Preparation:

1. Puree watermelon in blender until even consistency.

2. Mix watermelon with seltzer, agave, lemon, and vodka, if using. Serve immediately.

 

Serves 4.

 

 

Recipe 2:

Basil and kale pesto tofu over fusilli with asparagus

Let’s face it: pesto chicken is tired. Go to any salad or pasta bar in NYC and you’ll see it sitting sadly next to the metal buckets of canned asparagus, orange shredded “cheese,” and questionable tuna.

This simple pasta dish bangs out the protein and the flavor with pesto-enhanced tofu and a smattering of salty hard (real) cheese. And in case there was any doubt, don’t even think about canned asparagus right now.

 

Ingredients:

6 oz firm or extra-firm tofu (about ½ package)

½ cup pesto (recipe below)

2 cups (dry) fusilli

1 cup fresh raw asparagus, cut into 2-3” pieces

2 tsp olive oil

¼ cup fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

Black pepper, to taste

 

Preparation:

1. Slice block of tofu in half and press between paper towels to remove as much excess water.

2. Crumble tofu and mix with pesto until thoroughly combined. Set aside

3. In a large saucepan, bring water to boil. Add pinch of salt and pasta.

4. During last minute of cooking pasta (for total cooking time, see package), add asparagus to saucepan.

5. Drain pasta and asparagus and add 2 tsp oil to keep from sticking.

6. Combine pasta and asparagus with pesto tofu.

7. Top with grated cheese and black pepper.

 

Serves 4.

 

 

Recipe 3:

Basil and kale pesto  

I know, I know, kale is all trendy now. But it’s SO GOOD! It adds a green kick here that separates this pesto from standard recipes. Walnuts and pine nuts together make for a perfect blend.

 

Ingredients:

¼ cup pine nuts

¼ cup walnuts

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves

1 cup coarsely chopped kale

2 cloves garlic (optional)

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup grated Parmesan

¼ cup grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and black pepper to taste

 

Preparation:

1. Place nuts, basil, kale, garlic and olive oil in food processor, pulse until coarsely combined, scraping and pushing down as needed.

2. Add cheeses and process until smoothly incorporated.  If texture feels too dry, you can add some more olive oil, just a little drizzle at a time, as you continue to process.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

Makes about 1 cup.

 

 

Recipe 4:

Butter-lime grilled corn

There’s no mystery to the delight of grilled buttered corn – especially if it’s eaten at dusk at a picnic table (with plenty of Citronella candles nearby). This recipe opens it up to those who avoid dairy; Earth Balance is one of the few butter alternatives that tastes amazing and doesn’t get all watery-runny when it’s melted.

 

Ingredients:

4 ears corn, in husks*

4 Tbs Earth Balance buttery spread

2 Tbs fresh lime juice

Cayenne pepper, to taste

 

Preparation:

1. Soak corn in husks in cold water for 20 minutes. While corn is soaking, heat grill to medium-high.

2. Combine Earth Balance, lime juice, and cayenne.

3. Grill corn in husks until husks begin to darken, about 5 minutes on each side.

4. Remove carefully from grill and peel back husks using oven mitts.

5. Spread butter-lime mixture on corn and serve immediately.

 

*If corn is already shucked, you can wrap the corn cobs in thick aluminum foil to replace the husk.

 

Serves 4

 


Recipe 5:

Summer lettuce and fava salad

Fava beans are my legume heroes.  For details on how to prepare them, see my July 16, 2012 blog post Fava Love or my June 2013 guest blog piece for Food and Nutrition magazine. I’ve been enjoying delicate summer lettuces from Brooklyn-based Gotham Greens (roof-top grown!) and Satur Farms, of Long Island’s North Fork (an area close to my heart). Both are available in Whole Foods.

 

Ingredients:

1 package lettuce* or about 8 cups, torn into pieces

1 cup fresh cooked and shelled fava beans (aka broad beans)

½ cup fresh parsley

2 tsp lemon juice

2 Tbs olive oil

Salt and pepper, to taste

 

Preparation:

1. Mix lemon, oil, and salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Toss lettuce, favas, and parsley together. Dress with lemon and oil just before serving.

 

Serves 4

 

 

Recipe 6:

Vanilla Almond Vegan Cupcakes

Full disclosure: Before I tried making (and eating) vegan cupcakes, I kind of thought, what’s the point? I advocate a plant-based diet, with exceptions as appropriate, and I thought you HAD to use a (pasture-raised, please) egg to make cake or cupcakes. Wrong! Try these. They are so delicious, light, moist, and satisfying, you won’t even think about what’s not in there.

 

Cupcakes

Ingredients:

¼ cup Earth Balance butter replacement

¾ cup sugar

1 Tbs vanilla

1 cup plain soymilk

1 tsp white vinegar

1 ½ c all-purpose flour

¼ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

¼ tsp salt

 

Preparation:

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Line standard-size cupcake tin with paper liners.

2. Combine soymilk and vinegar in small bowl; stir then set aside and allow curdle.

3. In a large mixing bowl, combine Earth Balance, sugar, and vanilla until creamy.

4. Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add to butter-sugar mixture and mix until just incorporated.

5. Add soymilk “buttermilk” and mix until just incorporated.

6. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until cupcakes are firm and a knife inserted to the center comes out clean. These will continue to “bake” for a short while after you remove them from the oven, so err on the side of taking them out early, when they JUST start to brown on top.

7. When cupcakes are cooled enough to handle, remove carefully from baking tin and set on wire rack to completely cool.

Makes 12 generous cupcakes.

 

Frosting

Ingredients:

½ cup Earth Balance butter replacement

1½ cups powdered sugar

1 tsp almond extract

2 Tbs (more if needed for desired consistency) plain soy milk

Preparation:

1. Place all ingredients in mixer (or use large bowl with electric hand-mixer).  Start combining slowly, and increase speed as ingredients meld.

2. Frost cupcakes when they have completely cooled.

Makes enough frosting for 12 cupcakes.

 

*Note – if it’s a particularly warm or humid day, make this frosting right before serving , not too far in advance. It can get quite “melty” in a small NYC apartment during the summer.

*For chocolate frosting, add 1 oz melted chocolate, ¼ cup cocoa powder, and top frosted cupcakes with shaved chocolate (I use a carrot peeler and a big, excellent-quality chocolate bar that has been kept cool) after frosting.

Wednesday
Jun122013

Eating Well for Life After Cancer Treatment video

An informational talk I did for MSKCC Resources for Life After Cancer, available on their web site... watch it here!