Tuesday, December 30, 2008

it's a new day

hi guys-

well, here we go...it's almost 2009, a year when history will be made in many ways. a new president will take his place in washington and ask us to become better people; to work for the good of us all; to create community and support each other. it is a year when we will be asked to help those around us who may be less fortunate or weaker.

to do that huge job, we will need our health. we will need strength, clarity of thought and vitality. it's no small task to change the world, but america is at a tipping point and change is all that will save us from ourselves. the era of poor politics, over-consumption, materialism and obsession with celebrity and 'stuff' is over. it's time to stop taking and time to begin giving back. it's time to lift the burden off our planet and treat her with the kindness and generosity she always shows us...no matter what we do.

it's time to get back to the basics of truly living well...and it begins in the kitchen, where we create delicious meals from whole, unprocessed, seasonal (as much as possible) ingredients prepared in balance with who we are and what we want to achieve in life. health begins in the kitchen. vitality comes with every saute, every simmering pot, every fragrant stew that you serve to those you love.

in times like we face, we need strength of mind and body to overcome and rise to new levels of greatness. eating dead, processed junk food will never give us the wings we need to soar to those heights. humble, natural food prepared by our hands, in our homes is the ticket to health and wellness.

enjoy a great 2009...i wish you all peace, prosperity and togetherness...because after all, what happens to one of us happens to us all.

enjoy this quick dish and give your energy a lift!

Orecchiette with Green Olive Pesto

Makes 4 servings

Green Olive Pesto
2 cloves fresh garlic, peeled, left whole
1 shallot, coarsely chopped
¼ cup pitted green olives (Ni├žoise are best)
¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

8 oil-cured black olives, pitted, very finely minced
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 plum tomatoes, seeded, finely chopped
2 cups orecchiette, cooked al dente, ¼ cup pasta cooking water reserved
4 basil sprigs, for garnish

Make pesto: Combine garlic, shallot, green olives, parsley and basil in a food processor. Pulse to coarsely chop. With the motor running, slowly add olive oil and process until fully incorporated into the olive mixture, but do not over-process. This should be a coarse pesto, not smooth.
Heat a deep skillet over medium heat and add pesto, black olives, salt and tomatoes. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Stir in orecchiette and pasta cooking water and cook, stirring, until the water is absorbed, about 2 minutes more. Serve hot, garnished with basil sprigs.

ps...to erica...jon is a friend from nashville, whose talent i admired and wanted to share with everyone...robert pirello is my most cherished and adored husband of 21 years...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

soy vey!

hi guys-

so i was teaching a class the other night and someone asked the question i have been asked about 10,000 times...is soy healthy?

i know that information is confusing and conflicting. some 'experts' say soy is grand and healthy, the second coming of food and others weigh in that soy will...oh, i don't know...make our brains smaller, our sex life disappear, our breast cancer become virulent and life as we know it will end.

i'm being sarcastic, obviously, but soy vey, what a big to-do over the humble soybean. so let me explain with the information that i have gathered over the years...and then the decision to soy or not to soy is up to you.

soybeans and their byproducts as food sources are ancient, with their beginning in ancient china. from edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy sauce, natto, soymilk, miso and dried soybeans, this incredible bean gave us concentrated nutrition in the form of protein, fiber, carbohydrates and other essential nutrients...and these little beans still do...and they're low in fat and easy to use.

as time went on and we discovered 'nutrionism,' breaking all our food down into its teensiest nutrients, we made note of the soybean's concentrated levels of compounds called phyto-nutrients, which are present in all plant foods...but soy was a bit unique in that one of the phyto-nutrients it contained came to be known as phyto-estrogen, which led people to believe that it is a plant form of estrogen. and the problems began...

as marketers discovered this information, soy became an ingredient in everything from hand cream to energy bars, soups, salad dressing, cereal, bread and pastry...yikes! but how did they do that? how did they get tofu into every single product we purchased (and marketed to women...). well, they didn't. they took a chemically compromised version of soy protein and put that in all those products...and if that wasn't enough, they began cultivating genetically modified versions of soybeans...and they marketed them to us in droves, so now, as a culture, we were sucking down more soy that mother nature ever really intended.

so simple, pure, nutritious soybeans, meant to be a part of a healthy diet have become the bane of our existence.

is there anything wrong with eating edamame, tofu, tempeh, miso, soy sauce, soymilk, natto or dried soybeans when they are in their natural, organic form? nope. should you eat these pure products every single day? nope.

so here is my scoop, if you will on soy. in it's pure, organic form, soybeans are just fine for your health. do you really think that tofu is the reason for the increase in the rates of breast cancer? trust me; there are not enough people eating tofu for that to be true.

tofu and tempeh and soymilk are quite tempting to be an everyday thing, aren't they? it doesn't get easier, really. with those ingredients and a few veggies, you have dinner in minutes. but try not to fall into that trap.

in my view, the healthiest way to incorporate soy into your diet and to benefit from all of its nutrition is to use it 2-3 times a week, in the form of tofu, tempeh or soymilk...not three times each, in total. on top of that, using miso occasionally, soy sauce, natto and other forms of pure soybeans are just fine.

if edamame keep you out of the chip bag, let them be your treat once a week.

compromised soy products like that found in a lot of processed foods, even natural ones, should be skipped over in my view. those isolated soy compounds are soooooo far from what nature created that it should come as no surprise that they can compromise your health.

should you eat soy if you have breast cancer? only you can make that call...i know what i think...see above...but you have to be comfortable with your choices. do some research; read; study and then make an informed choice. i can tell you this. phyto-estrogen doesn't behave in the body as estrogen. it behaves as your body's own estrogen receptor cells behave, meaning that they do the same job...which is this. when a body needs estrogen, estrogen receptor cells open and search the body for estrogen sources to keep the body hormonally balanced. if the body has more estrogen than it needs, then estrogen receptor cells 'close,' blocking the absorption of this excess estrogen, again making the body hormonally balanced.

but will soy shrink your brain? or bring on dementia? kill your sex drive and your kids? will it give you cancer? no...and it won't wax your car, either.

have a lovely christmas!

Friday, December 12, 2008

tis the season

hi guys-

sorry to be late this week...it's been one of those, ya' know?

quick answers to some questions before the blog...

kombucha is a very good thing...if you can get it down, which i can't...hahahahahahahahaha...my hubby swears by it and i know it's completely healthy, but it's too strong for me...

raw spinach is the best way to eat it, as long as you wash it well...using it raw inhibits the release of oxylic acid that can inhibit your body's ability to use calcium, so have at it...raw mushrooms, i am not so sure...organic or not, i lean toward cooking...but if they are clean, you might be okay...

okay, now...it's the holidays and i have been working like crazy, which is normal and i love my work and am completely blessed, so i have no complaints.

but i have been thinking...in these economic times, most of us can't shop like we usually do for christmas (that may be a good thing...) and many are wondering what they can do to make the holidays special without a lot of stuff.

in our house, we spend most of our holiday money on food and having people over...a lot...it seems to me that i am having people over for meals more than i go out...making a meal for friends and loved ones allows you to nurture in a way that no gift could. and if you can't have people over, then make some delicious food and knock on a neighbor's door and share it.

if cooking is not your thing, then try doing a good deed for someone each day of this glorious season...you will find yourself doing it all year round, trust me. run an errand for an elderly neighbor; watch a busy mom's kids for an hour so she can hit the gym or get a manicure; do someone's grocery shopping; bake cookies for a friend or your child's class...and if all this fails, just smile at a stranger...you will make their day...and yours.

enjoy the season...for all the right reasons.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Q and A

hi guys-

well, first let me say thanks for all your questions, because i was wracking my brain to find a topic to write about, but with all of your queries posted, i think i will just go for some of them and see if i can't give you the guidance you are looking for...i'll rant about the commercialism of the holidays next time...hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha...

okay, first agave nectar is a sweetener made from cactus...it has a very similar nutritional profile to brown rice syrup, but the texture is a bit looser and to me, it is much sweeter, but it works just fine in any recipe that has rice syrup in it with great results.

now on to cranberry sauce or chutney, whatever we are calling it...christea, your recipe looks just fine and no one should notice too much difference if you use agave...but...and this is big...if you use agave or rice syrup, the texture will be much looser as you noticed, so you might want to ditch the orange juice and just use orange zest...you may find that the texture is chunkier, which is what you want, i think. as for the grand marnier, well, it's a bit of an indulgence, but it's the holiday, so enjoy it if your family loves that flavor...

the pumpkin squares should have turned out fine with the eden blend...it is part soy and part amasake, so you should have had nice results...the only thing i can think of is that the amasake is sweeter than the blend and you may have lost sweetness in changing up...but just adjust your spices, vanilla and add a touch more sweetener and you should be just fine.

now on to my knives...which i love, love, love...i have used a lot of different knives over the years, but none have won my heart quite like the ceramic blades from kyocera...i love them so much; i wish i could permanently attach them to my hand, but i suppose that could be dangerous! anyhow, i love their light weight; i can work all day with them. i love their razor sharp edges...i love the fine work and delicate slicing i can do without effort. they are expensive; i will admit, but to me, they are the tools of my trade and i think that they are well worth the investment...and since they do not need sharpening for several years, they are pretty much perfect in my view.

h-h-m-m-m-m-m-m-m...i think i have covered all the questions posted...let me know if i missed any...and i will be back blogging soon...

be well and enjoy this glorious season.