Sunday, December 23, 2012

Winter pomegranate salad

Are you ready for the holidays? This year, I have to say I've been surprisingly prepared. I managed to make a calendar for the kids, ON TIME (unlike previous years where I would start a few days into December), we got our tree the first weekend of December, and I have been making jams and granola for the last two weeks for gifts. The kids have been cutting snow flakes out of paper and making paper garlands all month, and Christmas music has been playing almost every night off of Pandora in our house.

In the midst of all this frenzy, I have somehow managed to enjoy all this, and have gotten much joy out of watching the kids enjoy new and old Christmas traditions. Watching them grow in their understanding of what Christmas is really all about has also been very sweet. 

In our family, we celebrate the birth of Jesus as the biggest gift ever given to us. Understanding what happened that night, what it means to us, who God and Jesus are, are really magical and sweet to witness through the eyes of a child. They of course are more excited about gifts, Santa and the elf than anything else, which we do and talk about as well.

As for me, Christmas away from family means I want to fill my house with friends, light the lights on the tree, listen to Christmas hymns and cook a good meal. I haven't decided yet on the salad, but I will, of course, make a salad, before the main dish (which will be a pomegranate lamb on quinoa with sauteed leeks and portobello mushrooms). I thought I would share this one, which I made a few weeks ago, as it lends itself well to a Christmas menu.

I absolutely love pomegranate, and I'm not alone. The kids always ask me to peal them one (which I don't love doing as much) and I like to put the bursty juicy little seeds everywhere, including in my salad.
Shrimp is a common food for the holidays, usually served as an appetizer. The flavor of raw fennel brings a fresh twist to the whole thing, and avocado, with its smooth texture, completes the recipe perfectly.

For a big bowl of salad, here is what I used:

3 romaine lettuce, chopped finely
1/2 red onion chopped finely
1 pink grapefruit, pealed and cut in small pieces
1 orange, pealed and cut in small pieces
2 avocados, chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
dill (from the fennel branches)
1/2 pomegranate (or more), seeds
2 dozen shrimps
1 tbsp coconut oil
lemon juice
salt and pepper

juice of 2 oranges
3tbsp mustard
2tbsp apple cider vinegar
3tbsp olive oil
1tbps mapple syrup, honey or agave
Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 1tbsp coconut oil in a frying pan. Add the shrimps, stir fry them until cooked through, adding lemon juice, salt, pepper and dill while cooking. 

Place the lettuce, onion, fennel, pomegranate seeds, grapefruit and oranges in the salad bowl. Mix together and serve on plates. Add avocado cubes and shrimps and drizzle some of the dressing on top. 

Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

where I am at...

I am painfully aware of how silent I have been  here lately... I am painfully aware of how it looks like I am becoming one of those blog writers who didn't stick with it... And I really really don't want that to be the truth about me.
The truth is, I have been busy, I have been disoriented, I have been preoccupied lately. There is no need for me to get into details that don't pertain to this blog, but as I was thinking about what my next post would be, I thought I might want to process out loud some of the food stuff that's been on my mind. Believe me, I have 100 post ideas floating in my brain, some of them long overdue... Most of them requiring either some extensive research (which requires extensive time), or me actually cooking the recipe, so I can take pictures of the process, and/or actually taking the picture (versus forgetting to). Because of the whirlwind in my life currently, it is rare for all three things to align perfectly, and they certainly haven't in the recent past. The other truth is, I have been spending A LOT of time in the kitchen, trying new things, and have been left with not time to document it all.

 I thought I would post gluten free recipes for Thanksgiving, my pomegranate coconut pie, or some poetic prose about my love of Thanksgiving... But Thanksgiving came and went.

 We smoked a turkey on the webber with mesquite charcoal. Yum!

With Christmas approaching, I definitely want to post some festive recipes, and I have one in my drafts...

But for now, let me update you on what I have been learning over the last few months. After the real food symposium in May, I discovered the whole world of raw milk, grass fed/pasture raised meat and raw milk. Quite different from the vegan path I was on. I remain convinced that there is no such thing as one diet for all, and that everybody is different and has different needs. For example, my husband, my neighbor and I, went through a round of elimination diet in October. We all had different reactions to it, and my neighbor, who has several health issues, struggled a lot through it. He stuck with it for about 3 weeks, long enough to get past the detox effect, but didn't really get the benefits of feeling better and more energized. As soon as he reintroduced meat, he felt a million times better. Because of his health issues, he already knew that he does better without grains, and that a lot of cruciferous and green leaf vegetables can be harmful for him.

I, on  the other hand, felt energized and much better after about a week. Quitting coffee felt wonderful, and though I am not on the diet anymore and have reintroduced it, it feels really nice to not need coffee every day. I didn't do so well mood wise though, and wondered if it had anything to do with the amount of grain consumption on that diet. Since you initially can't eat meat, dairy or eggs, you end up eating a lot of grains and beans to get your protein. I had heard that people with chemical and hormonal imbalances can be pretty sensitive to grains and need to eat more protein from animal sources, such as meat and cheese, in order to get enough of certain hormones, which stimulate the production of serotonin in the brain.
I have been reading the book "The Mood Cure" and decided that it was worth a try. So I embarked on an "almost Paleo "venture, increasing my protein intake and eliminating grains and sugar for a few weeks. The first thing I noticed is that I felt less hungry in between meals, and much less bloated. Mood wise, it seemed to help a little bit as well. I am definitely not Paleo (I don't eat meat three times a day and I love my yogurt!) but I am trying to limit grains, because I just feel better.

The other major thing that I have implemented in my diet is cultured foods. In a nutshell, cultured foods are fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickled vegetables... They are good for you because they contain healthy bacteria (probiotics) and can help heal the gut lining, which gets damaged by all the toxins we are exposed to, medication and antibiotics. When your gut lining is damaged, it can become permeable and leaky, which prevents the proper absorption of nutrients from the food you eat, and allows the release of toxins from your intestine into your blood, causing inflammation and auto-immune diseases. Restoring your gut is extremely important, and can be done through different foods. One of them is healthy oils, aka cold pressed, organic oils, such as flax seed, coconut, olive, sunflower (always always first cold pressed), as well as fermented foods and bone broth.

 I have been buying raw whole milk and making my own yogurt, with a culture called viili, which doesn't require to cook the milk, thereby preserving all its healthy bacteria and enzymes. It's super easy to make (I just mix two tbsp of mother culture with one cup of raw milk, cover with a cloth and let it sit for 12 hours, and voila!). This is pretty much the only fermented food I can get my kids to eat, so I make it mostly for them.

Prior to trying the yogurt, I have been making sauerkraut, which is also extremely easy to make. I plan on posting the recipe very soon, I just keep forgetting to take pictures when I make it.
I experimented with fermented vegetables, which was a pleasant surprise, and tonight, just made pickled beets, using some of the whey from that homemade raw yogurt. So, so easy to make, once you have the ingredients you need.

A few weeks ago, since I had that whey in my fridge, I realized I could make beet kvass, a fermented drink that doesn't taste very good but is supposed to be very healthy for your digestion. I made a bunch and put a little in my smoothie in the morning.

The newest thing I am trying is kombucha. A dear friend gave me two scobies, which are big mushrooms that you put in the tea that you have just brewed, and that will ferment the drink, adding tons of probiotics to this delightful beverage. I plan on adding some pomegranate juice to it after the 10 day fermentation process, to make it taste like soda for my kids.

On a sour note, things I've learned that have freaked me out a little are as follows:

- Carrageenan, which is in all the coconut milk (in cartons), almond milk and other alternative to dairy and soy, have recently been found to be a major inflammatory ingredients that has been linked to cancer. It is in a lot of yogurt, cream cheese and non dairy milks. It is in the organic horizon chocolate milk you might be buying your kids. Look out for it and try to avoid it. I certainly am, and we have switched to organic regular or raw milk, which we just put in our coffee and turn into yogurt.

- "Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, spinach, radishes, turnips, arugula, bok choy, collard greens, rutabaga, watercress, even pears and peaches all contain substances called goitrogens, which suppress thyroid function. 

Cooking crucifers reduces the goitrogenic substances by about 2/3. Fermentation does not reduce goitrogens, so fermented crucifers such as sauerkraut should be eaten in moderation." (quoted from this article)
Well, that wasn't good news for me, considering that I have been having a green smoothie pretty much daily for the last 2 and a half year. So kale, the superfood most talked about these days, may be good for you, but like everything, in moderation, and cooked. Great! That sucks! Because those green smoothies have changed my life and I am now addicted to them. I feel better, I digest better... But... I am now worried that it might have wrecked other functions of my body and caused hormonal imbalance. I plan on following up with a physical very soon. But since I have been preaching about green smoothies, I thought I needed to inform you all about this. The thing is, I followed the green smoothie advice from well-renowned certified nutritionists who have helped people heal from all sorts of ailment. Hence the confusion and disorientation I was mentioning earlier. Who knows? Maybe in 50 years we will discover that none of this was good for you. 
That's why I am more and more convinced that moderation and balance are key. As well as listening to your body, and not just the latest trend in diet and nutrition.

I know this article is a bit dismantled, and I am not going into anything in depth. If you would like me to address one of these things in a posts, let me know. Do you want to learn how to make yogurt and where to buy the culture? Kombucha? sauerkraut? Do you want to find out more about probiotics and their importance? Please post your comments and let me know what interests you. That will motivate me :)

And last but not least, I have been making lots of Master Tonic, a natural remedy to use as prevention or cure during the cold and flu season. I am now selling it out of my own kitchen for the price of $6, $10 or $20, depending on which size you choose. I am not shipping, but if you are local and are interested, contact me!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

A good blender, but cheaper than that Vitamix or Blendtec?

A few months ago, I was looking into buying a used Blendtec or Vitamix blender. These are the Rolls Royce of blenders. They can do anything in no time, including making flour and nut butters, but most of all, they make super smooth smoothies. With my Ninja Master Prep, I was getting tired of having to chew on my smoothie... The problem is that these super blenders are also super expensive, between $400-600, way above my budget! So I did some research on google and found the OMNI Blender, which you can see advertised on the right margin of my blog.

Unfortunately, I don't own one yet, so I can't really demonstrate to you how it works, but the videos I saw, though amateurish, were pretty convincing. 
 here is an example of what it can do.

Tonight, I got an email for a promotional value and thought I would share.

The OMNI Super Blender is now $279.00 with

We offer an additional $5.00 discount with a coupon

code entered, called "SUPERPRICE" (during the checkout).

The first 5 Orders that purchase the Super Blender by
entering the SUPERPRICE coupon code during checkout,
will receive a FREE spare blade assembly free of charge,
a $55.00 Value.

So for those of you who have been looking for a high performance blender, this is a great deal. Do some more research on it, check out reviews, but if you want this deal, act fast! Click on the logo on the right to order yours now!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

chicken bone broth to heal your gut, and that nasty cold...

One thing I have learnt about at the Real Food Symposium, and which I have definitely started to implement, along with fermented vegetables, is bone broth. I had occasionally made a soup with leftover bones from a chicken or from that Thanksgiving turkey, and they always turned out delicious, but there I learnt a whole new level of bone broth making, and discovered the health benefits of our grandmothers' traditional recipe.

If you haven't heard of the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet yet, and you suffer from low immunity, asthma, allergies, arthritis, ADHD, Autism, MS, Chronic Fatigue and Arthritis, among other conditions, you might want to take a look at it. The whole focus of this diet is to heal and seal the gut lining, so that you can better absorb nutrients and allow them to heal and nourish your body. Bone broth is a crucial part of the diet and plays a soothing role on the gut.

- When made properly, bone broth contains a gelatin which assists digestion by attracting digestive juices to itself and preventing gastrointestinal bugs from attaching themselves to the gut wall and wreaking havoc.

- It is loaded with minerals (calcium, silicon, sulphur, magnesium, phosphorus and trace minerals). All these minerals present in bones are macro-minerals which are essential for proper nutrition. Minerals are important, not only for our bones, but also for other functions in the body. The body with draw those minerals from our bones and tissues if it isn't fed enough of them, to maintain steady levels of minerals in the blood and other fluids, which can then cause other issues (deficiencies) such as inflammation, camps, muscle spasms, delusions, depression, insomnia, irritability, hyperactivity, anxiety, palpitations, hypertension, allergies, periodontal and dental disease, osteoporosis, etc, etc...

- bone broth is helpful in treating digestive disorders
- the gelatin in the broth tonifies blood and helps with anemia and other blood disorders. It also helps neutralizing any intestinal poison present during an intestinal bug or flu.
- in bone broth, we use cartilaginous parts of animals, like chicken feet or necks, which have a high concentration of glycosaminoglycans and help with conditions such as arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, cancer, decreased immune system states and malnutrition

- Collagen, which is another word for gelatin (which is in broth), along with minerals are needed for the creation and healing of bone. It is also integral to cartilage formation and repair.
- broth also contains, Chondroitin Sulfate, a jellylike substance, used as a supplement for joint pain due to osteoarthritis. It functions to support and provide adhesiveness. It lines blood vessels and plays a role in lowering atherosclerosis, cholesterol and heart attacks.
- broth can be thought of as a protein supplement, and a calcium supplement. The chemical ingredients extracted from broth are glycine and proline (collagen/gelatin), calcium and phosphorus (minerals), hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate (GAGs), and other minerals, amino acids and GAGs in smaller amounts.
If I haven't convinced you yet, or if I have bored you with all these details, just go back to the roots: didn't your mother or grandmother always suggest chicken soup when you had a cold? And since it is cold season, I figured it might be a good time to share the recipe, even though I have been making it all summer and have bags of frozen broth in my freezer.

You will need:

A whole organic free range chicken
2 or more chicken feet (read below to see where to find that)
and/or 2 chicken necks
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
an onion

a bunch of carrots
a bunch of celeri (or one gallon of chopped vegetables and/or scraps)
a bunch of parsley
2-3 bay leaves
1 tbsp peppercorns
filtered water

Place your chicken in a large chicken pot, with the feet and necks, and cover with iced water. Add 2 tbsp of apple cider vinegar and let it rest for 30 minutes, with the lid on. The vinegar helps to draw the mineral salts out of the bone. 

After 30 minutes, bring to a boil and skim off the scum or foam that appears at the surface once it starts boiling. Add the onion, vegetables, bay leaves and peppercorns. Reduce flame on low and let it cook for an hour. 

Then remove the chicken, which should be cooked by now, and remove the flesh off the bones. You can use the meat for different dishes. Replace the bones in the stock pot, and let it cook on low for at least 5-6 hours, up to twenty hours. At this point, if you are not going to be home for that long, you can transfer everything into your crockpot and let it cook in there for as long as you want. The longer you cook it, the more minerals you are going to get from it. 

One hour before the end of cooking, add the parsley. When you are done cooking the broth, you can let it cool a bit, or you can sift the liquid and toss the bones and veggies right away and THEN let it cool or drink right away. I sometimes grab a few of the veggies, making sure there are no bones left in the mix, and use some of the broth to make a soup right there and then.

I then let the rest of the broth cool and when it is relatively cold, I pour some in ice cube trays for freezing, or in muffin pans or other containers. You can use your broth to cook any meat or veggies, to make gravy, to cook your rice or quinoa in, or as is. The possibilities are endless. I use it mostly to make soups, which I love this time of year.

It is a pretty greasy broth, because the chicken skin gives out a lot of fat too. If you don't like how greasy it is, you could also just use bones.

You are probably wondering where to find chicken feet and necks (and yes, that is a chicken foot sticking out of that broth :)... If you go to your local Farmer's market, find the stall where they sell meat. Make sure it is grass fed/cage free and organic, and ask for those items. Dey Dey, who you will find at different markets in the LA area, namely Pasadena and South Pasadena, sells them frozen by the bag. I bought two bags 6 months ago, kept them in my freezer, and just finished them this week. I have made several batches of broth in 6 months.

So stay healthy this winter, and all year round, with that good old-fashioned chicken broth your grandma raved about :)

Friday, October 5, 2012

12 things I am certain of...

Since I started this little blogging venture, my world, in terms of health and nutrition, has been turned upside down a couple times. I started this from a more plant-based diet standpoint, rarely eating meat or dairy, until I went to the Real Food Symposium (expecting to meet fellow vegetarians and vegans), where I was introduced to the findings of Weston A. Price and his foundation whose church is the one of raw milk and grass-fed meat, with all the fats please. Needless to say, that was a bit confusing, after hearing through different sources and seeing first hand that eliminating animal fats from your diet can actually cure and prevent cancer. However, I took an open stance, and heard enough things at that symposium, to make me think twice about my mostly vegetarian, almost vegan diet. For example, someone told me that when you go vegan, you feel great the first couple years, because you are really cleaning up your diet of not only animal foods, but all sorts of junk. However, you are not giving your body certain nutrients that it needs and that can only be found in meat, or mostly in meat. Vitamin B12 is an example. I was also told that you exhaust your adrenal gland and then start developing other health issues, such as food allergies, rashes, etc... Given that my food allergies have increased and that I have been trying to figure out this rash on my tummy after I eat, this got my attention.

I also met Mark McAffee, from Organic Pastures, who preached about the benefits of raw milk and its importance in our diet. I met my old D.O at the symposium and asked her about my son, who is prone to asthmatic bronchiolitis, and she told me to feed him raw honey and raw milk. So I went home and did just that. A week later, he was at the hospital for an asthma crisis. Gulp! Raw milk went out  of his diet as quickly as it went in. However, we visited Mark's farm in May and met many people who were raving about raw milk and said they had all sorts of digestive issues and intolerances to milk that stopped once they started drinking raw milk.

So little by little, I started reintroducing certain things in our diet, but I felt very conflicted. Between my friends who are on the Paleo Diet and say that we are the only mammal that drinks another mammal's milk, and what's wrong with that picture, and Dr. Campbell who created the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet and says that grains and plants are the source of many gut issues, which is the place in our body where all disease starts, whereas raw milk and grass fed animals are really good for you... and the China Study, the movie "forks over Knives", the Food Revolution movement, all advocating for a plant-based diet, denouncing the over consumption of animals and what that does to the planet...

I have been pretty disoriented... and admittedly, neither of these diets resonated with me. If felt better on a plant-based diet but was nervous that I was depleting my body of important nutrients. And eating fat meat and dairy made me feel fat and bloated... I found myself going back to the Swiss doctor that my mom's nutritionist was trained by, Dr. Kousmine, and her much more balanced approach on health and disease.

As a friend said, I wish we could fast-forward 50 years and see what research would tell us about the way we are eating now.

Just the other day, I found out that you shouldn't eat raw kale every day because These veggies are bitter because the antioxidant and anti-cancer compounds they contain are designed by the plant to ward off predators. Crucifers produce compounds called isothiocyanates, originally designed by the plant to kill the cells of worms, bacteria, and insects that try to eat kale. Unfortunately, these compounds are not only capable of destroying human cancer cells, they also destroy healthy human cells (just as any form of chemotherapy can). They do so by poisoning the cells' mitochondria [Milner SE J. Agric. Food Chem. 2011; 59: 3454–3484]. Turns out antioxidants are double-edged swords...maybe there's a reason why kids don't tend to like these foods after all? (this came from the comments section of this article). Well, that made me feel great, after putting raw kale in my daily smoothie for the last two and a half years!

Sooo, as I continue to read, research, try to heal myself and my kids, I only have a few things that I am really certain of, and they are pretty basic and balanced, nothing too extreme. I thought I would share them with you:

1. Eat real foods (non processed)

2. Eat lots of organic fruits and vegetables

3. If you drink milk and do dairy, favor raw, full fat milk over pasteurized.

4. If you eat meat, only eat organic and grass fed beef or pasture raised chicken, turkey and pigs

5. Most vegetable oils are bad for you. Only buy first cold pressed, in a dark bottle, and store in a cool place. Do not use for heating, and stick to cold pressed flaxseed, olive, sunflower, walnut and hemp oils. Avoid products made with vegetable oils, as these are most likely either GMOs or they have been extracted or heated at high temperatures, which has turned them into trans-fats.

6. Raw cold pressed coconut oil is good for you and can be used for cooking because it can withstand high temperatures without its structure being modified

7. Soak and sprout your grains, beans and nuts. It makes them more digestible and gets them rid of lectins and phytic acids, which are components that are toxic.

8. Anything with more than 5 ingredients should not be eaten. It's over processed

9. Aspartame is a neurotoxin. Avoid it! Favor raw honey, grade B maple syrup, coconut sugar or sucanat. These are all natural sweeteners and minimally processed. Stevia leaves are also a good option. Stevia powder is questionable, seemingly highly processed, as well as agave syrup (I know, it's in a lot of my recipes. I'm learning as I go...). Note that aspartame is in your diet coke, light yogourt, and in your sugar free gum, among other things.

10. Sugar in general is bad for you and should only be used in its purest form (fruits and natural sweeteners above) and minimally. It increases inflammation and feed cancerous cells.

11. Avoid GMOs at all cost. It's full of poison. Research is now out showing a link between cancer and GMOs.

12. Pay attention to the balance between acidic and alkaline foods in your diet. Your PH, which you can measure with PH Strips dipped in your urine, should be around 7. Below that, it's too acidic, above it, it's too alkaline. (I'm hoping to one day write more about that). When your PH is too acidic, it creates inflammation (first in your liver) which then can spread through your blood stream and cause disease. Most fruits and vegetables are alkalizing (but not oranges and tomatoes, which are very acidic), especially bananas, pineapples and potatoes. Meat, fish, dairy, grains and beans are acidic and should always be eaten with plenty of vegetables.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Refreshing mint and lemon verbena tea

It's still really hot and though I should have posted this recipe a while ago, in the middle of summer, I think this is the perfect time to use your little herb garden if you have one and make this thirst quencher drink.

My mom used to make it in this big stock pot when we were kids and it is ridiculously delicious. I don't make it enough, but when we came back from our trip, it was so hot here in SoCal, and our herb garden had grown out of control, so I plucked a few sprigs of mint and lemon verbena,  boiled some water, threw the sprigs in there with a couple lemons, turned the stove off and waited for it to cool off before placing it in the fridge, and voila!
Here is what you will need:

1-2 gallons of water
6 sprigs of mint
6 sprigs of lemon verbena or lemon balm
3-4 fresh stevia sprigs, or stevia powder, or raw honey to sweeten
2 lemons, cut in wedges

Bring water to a boil in a big stock pot or any big pot you have, then throw the herbs and the lemon wedges in it and turn off the stove. Let it sit for several hours, until your tea has cooled down. You can squeeze the lemons into the tea before removing lemon peals and herbs. Sweeten to your taste and transfer into a pitcher, then place in the fridge for several hours. Drink cold.

You will love the lemony taste of the verbena mixed with the mint. This is much healthier than any powder iced tea and has no caffeine, so it is totally kid friendly :)

You can also just boil water, pour in a cup, and throw a sprig of lemon verbena or lemon balm, add mint leaves (or not) and drink it hot, with or without lemon. Delicious!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

summery gluten-free "couscous" salad

Summer is almost over, although it certainly doesn't feel like it in this part of the world. There is still time for barbecues and summer salads. When I don't know what to make for dinner, I often resort to quinoa. Many people have told me they don't like the taste of it, yet it is such a super food and it can be so versatile! You just have to dress it up :)

Quinoa is gluten-free, rich in fiber, and not only is it rich in protein, but it is a complete protein. This means you don't have to combine it with beans, like you would with rice, to obtain and consume all the amino-acids of a full protein. It has them all!
For a more complete article about quinoa, with a bonus breakfast recipe, click here

Here is one example of a "couscous" salad, which is dressed with plenty of crunch and zest and spice:

3 cups cooked quinoa (if you have time, soak your quinoa in water for 12 hours before cooking it. Then add 1 cup water for 2 cups quinoa. It will cook super quickly and will be much more digestible)
2 cups shredded carrots
1 cup shredded celeri
2 cups sliced cucumber
1 cup sliced green olives
1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
1 cup chopped herbs, such as basil, parsley, mint, lemon thyme

Mix all the ingredients and toss with your favorite salad dressing. My favorite with this salad is something citrusy, like lemon juice, mustard, balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, garlic and olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.

turkey-veggie burgers and why meat could still be important in your diet

I realize I have been posting mostly vegetarian/vegan recipes, so this post might surprise you a little. Like I have said in my first post, I do not consider myself rigid about food, and I am constantly searching to find out what is the best diet for our family. Lately, I have been hearing more and more about the Weston Price Foundation and about the benefits of animal protein and animal fat, providing it comes from an organic, pasture raised, grass fed animal. I am also learning that different health issues require different diets. I definitely believe that for someone suffering from cancer or at high risk of cancer, meat and dairy should be avoided or kept to a minimum. If the body and the immune system are weak, they are not able to process things the same way, and these two foods can increase inflammation if the immune system is not strong enough, or so I was told at the Real Food Symposium.

However, meat is rich not only in protein but also in minerals and essential fatty acids.
Red meats in particular, are rich in minerals, especially iron, zinc and magnesium, and are a great source of Vitamin B12. The fat from the meat of grazing animals contains both omega-6 and omega-3 essential fatty acids, in small but balanced amounts. And it contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which is an anti-carcinogenic fatty acid. Two good reasons to go for grass-fed meats.

Now there are so many studies out there, saying so many contradictory things, it is really confusing. The vegans say that meat and dairy will cause cancer, the meat and dairy eaters say that  veganism depletes your body of too many things and that you end up with food allergies, joint problems, gut issues, asthma, etc, etc... Since despite all my research, I can't quite find one approach that clicks with me and they all make a little bit of sense, I am trying to eat a balanced diet and notice what causes irritation. Our consumption of meat has definitely been reduced significantly over the past two years and we all feel much better since then. But my boys jump for joy when I cook beef or chicken, and could by-pass all the veggies if it was up to them. So I have developed little tricks to get them to still eat vegetables, and it ends up making my burger taste better. 

This recipe works with any kind of ground meat, and you can vary the quantities of vegetables you mix in, as well as what kind of vegetables and herbs you put in. Use your imagination, this is just an example :)

For a great source of grass fed beef and organic chicken, visit your local farmer's market and look for Dey Dey's truck. I know he is at the Pasadena Saturday farmer's market, and other LA markets. To find out his schedule and/or how to order from him, visit his website here.

1 pound of ground turkey or beef
1 cup of  shredded carrots or zucchini or both
1 cup of shredded onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 cup of chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil

Mix all the ingredients in a big bowl, form into patties, heat a little bit of olive oil in a pan on medium to low heat and throw the patties in, flipping sides after 3-4 minutes, and continuing to do so until fully cooked.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My mom's zucchini and tomato gratin

It's tomatoes and zucchinis harvest time in So Cal gardens, and whether you grow them in your own backyard or get them in your CSA box or at the Farmer's Market, you might end up with so many of them you don't know what to do with them anymore.

Last week, I went to the Farmer's market and bought a bunch or heirloom tomatoes that were very very ripe, for a discounted price. That night, I made my favorite zucchini/tomato gratin, which my mom used to make (and still makes) when I was a kid. I made it again for friends this weekend and it was a success!
It is so simple, yet so delicious. If you are not a cook, don't shy away from this very simple recipe. You could suddenly become very popular in the kitchen ;)

5-6 medium zucchinis, sliced
1 onion, cut in two, then sliced
3 large tomatoes, sliced
salt and pepper
3-4 tbsp of grated parmesan or gruyere (leave out if you are doing the 28toGreatBarre3 Challenge)
olive oil, drizzled.

grease the bottom of a baking dish (9x15) with olive oil, then spread a layer of zucchini slices at the bottom. Cover with a layer of tomatoes, sprinkle some salt and pepper on it, then add a layer of onion slices. Repeat until you have used all of the vegetables. Drizzle a little bit of olive oil in the middle or on top, then sprinkle the parmesan on top and place in the oven at 380 for 40-50 minutes, or until the zucchinis are tender and translucent.  Serve with quinoa, rice or potatoes, and/or a fish or meat dish.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

spa popsicles

Have you ever heard of spa water? It's that deliciously refreshing  calorie free drink composed of cool water in which mint sprigs and cucumber slices have been soaking. It is the perfect drink for hot summer days and I have often served it at parties instead of sodas. Well, the last two weeks have been exceptionally hot and last Sunday was the first day I had some time to be in the kitchen since we came back, and I had all the ingredients for  a marvelously refreshing popsicle blend. Inspired by a recent post from,  I gathered the following ingredients in my blender:

5 or 6 sprigs of fresh mint, leaves only
1/2 green cantaloupe
1 whole english cucumber (they are the long ones), pealed
juice of 4 limes
a sprinkle of stevia

2 kiwis, sliced

Blend all the ingredients, until you obtain a smooth liquid. Peal and slice two kiwis and place two slices in each popsicle mold. Pour mixture on top, cover with lid and freeze for 6-8 hours. Enjoy on a hot summer day :)

Verdict: my kids love them, even though they are green, and they even love the fact that they can see the kiwi slice hiding inside. I am absolutely addicted to them, and they are completely guilt-free, which is a plus!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Milk and Honey

I have been rather silent over here, over the last few weeks. I have been missing my little blog and my mind has been buzzing with ideas and things I want to talk about. I was away for almost a month, visiting my family and home country over summer break. What a wonderful experience it was! I know this is a food blog, but I would like to share with you a little bit of my experience and why this trip was particularly special for me this year. Of course, I enjoyed all sorts of food that I don't necessarily miss anymore, but if you put them in front of me, in such a beautiful setting, let me tell you that all the good resolutions go out the window pretty quickly. After all, this was vacation, and there is a time for indulging and enjoying. And that is exactly what I did.

Let me tell you about Switzerland. More than ever before, this country strikes me as the land of milk and honey. You know, the promised land, in the Bible? And it litterally is a little paradise, full of, well, milk, you guessed it, and not just any milk, but milk from Happy Cows, grazing in mountains and fields that are untouched, non genetically modified, cows that have bells around their necks... and some of the milk is raw, not from a farm such as Organic Pastures, but from the farmer next door, from whom you bought your freshly extracted milk that same morning...

Hot chocolate with raw milk

And with that milk of course, comes the butter, the cheese, the chocolate, the cream, in all possible forms and variations of it. As for the honey, you have not tasted honey like this. It is so good, so tasty, and of course, so raw, because really, the beehives are in the field next to the forest, or in your neighbor's backyard, and as my mom told me when I asked her if the honey I was eating was raw: "All honey is raw".

 Cream Budwig

My parents' garden

So, for me who has been freaked out about the GMOs in America, and who has been striving to eat a healthy, organic, mostly raw diet, this was a little slice of heaven. Not to mention the fresh air you breathe, the breathtaking views of the lakes and the mountains, and the overall kindness and simplicity of the Swiss people who have values, traditions, manners, all of which were extremely refreshing to experience this time around.

Switzerland, in all its beauty, isn't perfect, though. When I left, 11 years ago, after some adjustment time in the States, I found America very refreshing. There is a freedom and a creativity in the States, an openness, spontaneity and diversity that allows anyone to find their little niche, their little place in society. You can find your passion, develop your ideas, pursue your dreams, and be very successful. In Switzerland, it's a different story. There is a protocole to everything, mostly one way to do things, rules and regulations, limitations, order, discipline. But with that, there are also values, traditions maintained, land protected, food regulations and landscape regulations... I realized this time around that the narrow mindedness I am usually struck by when I go home provides a different kind of freedom and quality of life. The reason why Switzerland is so beautiful, so preserved, so safe, is because they have a system in place. It is rigid, and definitely not very conducive to the development of creative and "out of the box" ideas, but it has protected this land, its values, its traditions, its landscape. You can't just do whatever you want.
I have enjoyed the freedom that has allowed me to develop my creativity, open up my own business and be inspired by all sorts of creative people. But I am also getting fed up with the lack of clear boundaries around food and agriculture regulations, the medical system, society in general. The lack of values and traditions, the way we rape the land in this country... It appears to me that if you want safety, it costs you freedom, and if you want freedom, it costs you safety. I wish I could have it all, but I live in the in between, longing for one when I have the other, and vice versa. Loving both, yet hating aspects of both.

 Living with that tension is not easy. For about three weeks though, I decided to enjoy all I could about my homeland, and these are the little treasures I cherished:

The respect of nature and beauty. Wherever there is a view, there is a bench, a picnic table, a chair for you to sit on and admire. There are agricultural zones where it is forbidden to build new constructions, in order to preserve the landscape and the old buildings. Old stones have a story to tell and they maintain the spirit of Switzerland, they retain history. Cows have bells around their neck, just for the heck of it, because it adds to the charm of the scene...

Manners and values. People are polite, considerate. A bit shy and for some, seemingly cold, but if you smile at them and engage in conversation about their country, their traditions, people open up and loosen up with a smile. They take much pride in their land and its beauty.

Long meals, sharing good wines and foods with good friends around the table. In my country, eating is not just to feed the body. There really is a ritual around food, a communion, a way of fellowship, that I strive to maintain in LA, with my family and with our community. If you have eaten at my table, you hopefully know what I am talking about.

                                                                         Little wine tasting place and Lavaux vineyard

Needless to say, all sorts of things made it into my plate, and to my palate's delight, into my mouth. The beautiful swiss wines, the cheeses, the breads (oh, the breads! I don't normally eat gluten but I couldn't resist the whole grain breads there), the chocolate, the yogourts, the honey... I have definitely paid the price in terms of health, my body struggling to assimilate some of these, and I am coming home with a couple extra pounds, but it was well worth it :) Most of these foods were whole foods, clean and organic.
Alphorn players and swiss bakery in Zermatt


In the South of France, where we spent a few days with my brother and his family, I enjoyed fresh fish, olives, tapenade, cheese, prosciutto, melon, croissants, baguettes, honey... I must admit, I was a little shocked by the amount of bread the French eat. It France, it's mostly white bread, but who can resist a freshly baked baguette for less than a dollar?

                           Les Halles, covered market in Nimes. Olives, garlic and prosciuttos, yes please!

                                                        Food places in the streets of Nimes

There is nothing like a french croissant dipped in hot chocolate!

                              Caquelon camembert and bacon. I did not eat that, this was my husband's :)


Octopus and squid

                                                          The best way to cook a chicken!

                                                         The butcher in Anduze

                                                                    Sardines on the grill

                       with my brother's out of this world ratatouille and a glass of Costieres de Nimes, divine!

Enough said, I hope  you have enjoyed these pictures of the beautiful and delicious things we enjoyed, before I go back to my healthy and hopefully inspirational lifestyle. I might need to write a post about cleansing and detoxing ;)