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Curries, more than just a Pun-gent Taste

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Curry . . .

Curry who?

Curry me back to Ole Virginny, or Curry on Wayward Son, for you Kansas fans.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Curry . . .

Curry who?

Curry –iosity killed the cat.  [Thanks, so much for the groans.  I’m here through Thursday]

The pun is one of the oldest forms of humor.  It is also one of the highest intellectual forms of humor due to depth of understanding a language and its connection to culture.

Curries are one of the oldest types of stew recorded.  The first being documented in Babylon around 1700 BC.[1]  And, according to my hierarchy of cooking skills, curries are one of its highest forms due to the spice complexities melding to a specific flavor.

The word curry is theorized to be an Anglofication of a Sanskrit word, Karli.  However, it appears that there are a number of words theorized to be the origin.  All I know is that the tastes are multi-cultural and multi-dimensional.  Oh yeah, I love them all.

In my search for the biggest health bang for the caloric buck, the spices used in curries are akin to finding The Nutrient Dollar Store.  A pinch of this and a dash of that have been used for centuries to vanquish more than the common cold.  I chose my most favorite flavor enhancers and share their incredible properties.

Cardamom – This spice is used in the most unique ways from Indonesian curries to Scandinavian cookies.  However, cardamom has been researched for use with chelation therapy and for its antioxidant properties with positive results,[2] as well treating hypertension,[3] kidney and urinary disorders, modulating gut activity and acting as a sedative.[4]  The evidence is fairly clear that I need to eat more cookies.

Cilantro/Coriander – AKA, Chinese parsley.  People have a love/hate relationship with cilantro.  Many times I use it in my guacamole when I make it with my garden produce.  It can have a fabulous drying quality to flavors when used fresh.  Be aware that cooking can dull the flavor.[5]

The health aspects are numerous.  The traditional use of cilantro to decrease hypertension is heavily supported in scientific literature.[6]  [7] Historically, it has been used to treat diabetes, indigestion, rheumatism and joint pain.  Current research is supporting its use to decrease blood glucose in diabetics, though the research is not conclusive.[8]  The claims of including cilantro or coriander as part of chelation therapy for high mercury poisoning is anecdotal and based on loosely documented case studies.

Coconut Milk – We have all heard about the problems of coconut milk: high in saturated fat.  Saturated fat is what you find in butter and steak.  Conversely, native cultures which regularly ingest coconut milk do not show that intake has any connection with heart disease.  Studies divided traditional coconut eating subjects into those with coronary disease and those without.  Results showed that animal product intake related directly to risk of coronary events.  Higher carbohydrate intake and low animal product intake was what kept you heart healthy.[9]  Obesity rates among Tanzania adults rose with a lower activity rate and high consumption of dairy milk.  Decreased obesity rates mentioned coconut milk as part of this regular diet.[10]  In addition to heart health, anecdotally, coconut with aloe vera is purported to cure hair loss.[11]

Cumin – That lovely dry heat which goes so well in my Aloo Gobi has been shown to kick butt when it comes to colon cancer cells [Pun intended, See Knock, Knock][12]  The property of cumin playing The Terminator role on cancer cells is Thymoquinone.  Additionally, another fun name, factor-kappaB has been seen to initiate such diseases as cancer, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction, diabetes, allergy, asthma, arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, osteoporosis, psoriasis, septic shock, and AIDS.[13]  Cumin, black cumin seeds in particular, have been put on a list of herbs which stop the manufacturing of this substance in your body.  Thus cutting, “I’ll Be Back” from your metabolic movie quotes.

Fenugreek – Although the most common method of calming infants in the United Arab Emirates was breast feeding, when herbal teas were used fenugreek was in the top five.  Interestingly, 90% of these mothers preferred not to use pacifiers, but themselves and their motherly instincts to help their babies.  Historically, fenugreek has been used in the treatment of diabetes and current research appears to support this theory, although the evidence is not conclusive.[14] [15]

Galangal – Beginning its life in China and Java, galangal is similar to ginger.  Its distinctive flavor not only gives a richness to Thai curries, it has been traditionally used to relieve many GI tract problems such as bad breath, sea sickness, indigestion, ulcers and stomach inflammation and diarrhea.  This may be due to its antimicrobial properties.[16]  Like ginger it increases circulation especially to the hands and feet.[17]  No wonder Tom Yum soup does the trick on colder nights.

Garam Masala – The term, masala means mixture.  There isn’t a garam masala bush or tree.  I include this to help you shop for ingredients found in this month’s recipes.  However, not all masalas are the same.  If you know your store, you can explain your taste preference and they may be able to assist you in finding the heat and flavor mixture for your palate.

Kaffir Lime – In southeast Asian cooking you may use the kaffir rind or leaf in a recipe.  Each has a sour flavor which works so well with the sweetness of coconut.  The vodka company, Smirnoff, makes a mojito with kaffir limes and the beer company, Molson flavors its Blue Moon line with the leaves.[18]  Folk medicine uses the leaves as a gum disease prevention, and a digestive aid.  So far the beverages are covered for this year’s May 8th, Thai Royal Ploughing Day party. [Yes, actual holiday.]

Lemon Grass – The antifungal activity of lemon grass oil has been well documented.[19]  Perhaps that is why it was considered a sacred herb and used by warriors.  Its pungent taste comes from a chemical which also gives it antimicrobial qualities.[20]  The astringent properties not only help in wound healing, but promote gum and hair health.[21]

Turmeric – Not only will it make your tofu scramble a beautiful yellow color, turmeric has been shown to increase detoxifying agents in your body, lessen DNA damage and heighten DNA repair.15  Why does that matter?  When DNA misreads, “I am an Ear Cell” for “Stick it in your ear gel”, the cell can mutate into a cancer cell.  We want our DNA copy machine with a just cleaned plate and no paper clips.

With all of these cleansing, antioxidizing, fungi-eating actions going on inside, it is little wonder why gurus live so long.

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

Curry . . .

Curry who?

Curry up and end this diatribe.  We want to EAT!

[1] Grove P, Grove C. [2008] The origins of ‘Curry’, (Is it really English?)Retrieved from http://www.menumagazine.co.uk/book/curryhistory.html on April 25, 2009.

[2] Yadav AS, Bhatnagar D. [2007] Free radical scavenging activity, metal chelation and antioxidant power of some of the Indian spices, Biofactors, 31(3-4):219-27. [Abstract]

[3] Gilani AH, Jabeen Q, Khan AU, Shah AJ. [2008] Gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering, diuretic and sedative activities of cardamom, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Feb 12;115(3):463-72. [Abstract]

[4] Ballabh B, Chaurasia OP, Ahmed Z, Singh SB. [2008] Traditional medicinal plants of cold desert Ladakh-used against kidney and urinary disorders, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Jul 23;118(2):331-9. [Abstract]

[5] Loha-unchit K, [2000]. Cilantro – Pak Chee.  Retrieved from http://www.thaifoodandtravel.com/ingredients/cilantro.html on April 25, 2009.

[6] Jabeen Q, Bashir S, Lyoussi B, Gilani AH. [2009] Coriander fruit exhibits gut modulatory, blood pressure lowering and diuretic activities. Journal of Ethnopharmocology. Feb 25;122(1):123-30. [Abstract]

[7] Dhanapakiam P, Joseph JM, Ramaswamy VK, Moorthi M, Kumar AS. [2008] The cholesterol lowering property of coriander seeds (Coriandrum sativum): mechanism of action, Journal of Environmental Biology. Jan;29(1):53-6. [Abstract]

[8] Eidi M, Eidi A, Saeidi A, Molanaei S, Sadeghipour A, Bahar M, Bahar K. [2009] Effect of coriander seed (Coriandrum sativum L.) ethanol extract on insulin release from pancreatic beta cells in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Phytotherapy Research, Mar;23(3):404-6. [Abstract]

[9] Lipoeto NI, Agus Z, Oenzil F, Wahlqvist M, Wattanapenpaiboon N. [2004] Dietary intake and the risk of coronary heart disease among the coconut-consuming Minangkabau in West Sumatra, Indonesia, Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 13(4):377-84. [Abstract]

[10] Njelekela M, Kuga S, Nara Y, Ntogwisangu J, Masesa Z, Mashalla Y, Ikeda K, Mtabaji J, Yamori Y, Tsuda K. [2002] Prevalence of obesity and dyslipidemia in middle-aged men and women in Tanzania, Africa: relationship with resting energy expenditure and dietary factors. Journal of Nutrition Science and Vitaminology, Oct;48(5):352-8. [Abstract]

[11] Retrieved from http://www.wellsphere.com/wellpage/coconut-milk-health-benefits on April 25, 2009.

[12] Gali-Muhtasib H, Diab-Assaf M, Boltze C, Al-Hmaira J, Hartig R, Roessner A, Schneider-Stock R. [2004] Thymoquinone extracted from black seed triggers apoptotic cell death in human colorectal cancer cells via a p53-dependent mechanism, International Journal of Oncology, Oct;25(4):857-66. [Abstract]

[13] Aggarwal BB, Shishodia S. [2004] Suppression of the nuclear factor-kappaB activation pathway by spice-derived phytochemicals: reasoning for seasoning, Annals of New York Academy of Science, Dec;1030:434-41. [Abstract]

[14] Jetté L, Harvey L, Eugeni K, Levens N. [2009] 4-Hydroxyisoleucine: a plant-derived treatment for metabolic syndrome, Current Opinion in Investigated Drugs, Apr;10(4):353-. [Abstract]

[15] Krishnaswamy K. [2008] Traditional Indian spices and their health significance, Asian Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition ;17 Suppl 1:265-8. [Abstract]

[16] Huang H, Wu D, Tian WX, Ma XF, Wu XD. [2008] Antimicrobial effect by extracts of rhizome of Alpinia officinarum Hance may relate to its inhibition of beta-ketoacyl-ACP reductase, Journal of Enzyme Inhibition and Medical Chemistry, Jun;23(3):362-8.

[17] Curry Simple. What is Galangal? Retrieved from http://www.currysimple.com/whatisgalangal.html on April 25, 2009.

[18] Wikipedia. [2009] Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kaffir_lime on April 25, 2009.

[19] Mishra AK, Dubey NK. [1994] Evaluation of some essential oils for their toxicity against fungi causing deterioration of stored food commodities, Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Apr;60(4):1101-5.

[20] Irkin R, Korukluoglu M. [2009] Effectiveness of Cymbopogon citratus L. essential oil to inhibit the growth of some filamentous fungi and yeasts, Journal of Medicinal Food, Feb;12(1):193-7. [Abstract]

[21] Organic Facts. Health Benefits of Essential Lemon Grass OiI. Retrieved from http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-lemongrass-essential-oil.html on April 25, 2009.

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Does your food do what you want it to do?

There I am at a party looking at the food.  I’m looking for guests I know and who looks fun and interesting.

Before I can finish scanning the room.  The host says, “Meet my friend, LaDiva, she’s a dietitian.  LaDiva, don’t hate me because of the food.  I know so much of it is bad.  But it’s a party.”

Great way to meet someone new.  Now, the new person will begin to spew all their guilt about their diet to me.  “I don’t eat THAT much meat.  I mean, why does bad food taste so good?”

Really?  Do you think I care?  Did you notice I had a glass of red wine in my hand?

So here are my mental replies:

  1. “Hmm, interesting.  You don’t eat that bad-ly.  You are using the word, bad, as an adverb.  You need to add an -ly.  Strunk and White have an app.”
  2. “Hmm, interesting.  What else do you think about your food?”
    “Well, it is just hard to make healthy stuff.”
    “Hmm, interesting.  Hard to make.”  I nod my head.
    “Yes.”
    “Do you have a credit card?”
    “Yes.”
    “Great.  The rest conversation is going to cost you $150 for an hour.  I have my Paypal swiper with me.”
  3. “You eat really bad?  Actually you eat BADLY, and have you ever painted a room or anything?”
    “Yes.”
    “Well, this conversation is about as interesting to me as watching that paint dry.  I am now going to put that knitting needle through my eye to divert the pain of this verbal interchange.”
  4. “Okay, I’m going to cut to the chase.  You need to ask yourself, what do you want your food to do for you?  Answer that and the rest is easy.  Excuse me.  Those folks look like they are having fun.  I’m going to join them.”

That’s my bottom line.  What is it you want your food to do?  Here’s an example:

  • I’m a person with high cholesterol.  I have a couple of teen age kids, I want to get through college and off into their own lives.  I know what I eat causes my problem.  I pay my own insurance and if I need more medication, my premiums will go up.  I need my food to lower my cholesterol and make sure I go to my kids weddings.

If this person is chowing down on the animal foods, saturated fat and little fiber, their food is NOT doing what they want it to do.  Their diet is actually supporting their next stroke and decreasing the number of meals the caterer plans for the graduation parties.

  • I’m a person wiling to risk the damage to my liver by having a martini.  I drink my martini after 5:30pm.  The point of the martini is to break the work day from the evening.

This person’s food does exactly what they want it to do.  And if they have an olive, they even get fiber.  If they have more than one martini, it may not do what they want it to do because, depending on their alcohol tolerance, they make get to tipsy and not make dinner or go to bed at a reasonable hour.  If they have 3 or 4, they may have a hangover that REALLY ruins their next day and any relationships they have with people who don’t appreciate their 3 am bad joke phone calls and texting about how their bosses really don’t understand them.

The idea is not rocket science.  It does take looking at yourself, your goals and owning what you do versus what you want.  I come in when you want to get these two – goals and daily life – to work together.  That’s where my expertise gives you strategies to make your healthy life a reality.

So looking at your life and health goals, that’s the question to ask.  And when we meet at a party, tell me a great joke and the most fun thing you have ever done.  Leave the food guilt in the car.  It will wait for you.

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Two ears and one mouth

Darlings, LaDiva here.

Just got back from the North American Vegetarian Society’s Summerfest.  This is a 5 day veg affair in Johnstown, Pennsylvania for everything vegan or raw.  It is where everyone in the plant-based food land launches their books, hangs out and gives presentations on nutrition, environment and activism.  I think even mosquitos are safe here.

I gave 3 presentations – You’re Not Dead, Yet; Why do I have Stubborn Belly fat when I do a Million Crunches a day?; Pregnant? Vegan? FAB! – and was part of a panel on raising vegan kids.

At this conference dietitians [RD-registered dietitian] are royalty.  Which is a good/bad thing.  Great that people respect you enough to ask questions, bad if you want to eat hot food or meet friends.  But I am with the creme of the dietetics world – Brenda Davis, RD; Jill Nussinow, MS, RD; Mark Rifkin, MS, RD; Juliana Hever, MS, RD; Dina Aronson, MS, RD and Myriam Parham, MS, RD and I know I am leaving other folks out.   Then there are the MDs.  Well, who really cares about MDs?  Their wives, and don’t get me started on male MDs telling us all how to eat and cook for families!

Anyway, there I was listening to everyone talk about their book deals and festivals.  And I had nothing to say.  Mainly because there was so much great information about publishers, book deals and other folderol that I have never dealt with.  One RD looked at me and said, “Are you okay?  You’re not saying anything.  You are so calm.”

Well, I was calm and also overwhelmed by the fact that all these people were doing thingsladiva-outside-cooking-demo-sanctuaryI want to do.  And I was fairly clueless as to how to get into their league.  I felt like a teenager allowed to sit at the adult table. They have “people” like publishers, book designers, literary agents.  I do goofy dancing on videos and LUV immersion blenders. So, I decided to be a sponge.  Also, to use my 2 ears and 1 mouth in that proportion.

Later that day, I ran into one of my esteemed colleagues.  I told them about my email to the publisher for my book because it had been months with no communication.  The publisher did respond to my “maybe we don’t have a fit” email.  They said that they are still interested, but they aren’t picking up anyone’s book at the moment.  My colleague said that they knew this publisher had a reputation of dragging their feet.  My colleague gave me some good advice – Publish it yourself.  I nodded, not totally in agreement.  I mean who wants to do ALL the work?

They said, “The publisher is going to take a large cut.  They are dragging their feet.  You could put together the book as a PDF, sell it, put up the cooking videos yourself and keep all the profit.  Why are you going to wait to make money and then give so much of it to someone else?”

It did make sense, but what about getting me out on a publicity tour?

They said, “Book yourself.  Sell some books.  Get some good response.  Then, go to someone, a publisher, when you have sales to show your worth and have them together the print version.”

For a split second I felt stupid, like I should have known that.  But, then I thought, how cool that these folks think of me as a peer.  There was no “please, god, don’t let that LaDiva person sit at our table.”  There was an expectance that my book would be worth reading and that my presentations would be interesting and well-researched.  One of them even said, “I want to be you!”  And I thought, no, you don’t.  That made me think, maybe I don’t want to be them, either.  But I don’t think I’ll mention it.

One mouth and two ears.  That’s what Abraham Lincoln was thinking when he said, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

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. . . and now about the rest of us

Hello Darlings,  LaDiva here.

Okay, do you live next to one of those “Every ingredient in the World” grocery stores?  Or the “Everything organic and overpriced” joints?  Well, I don’t.  In fact, a lot of people don’t.  I live an hour from anything remotely resembling this.  How about the

“Whole Folks at my local farmers marketPaycheck” market?  Or perhaps the local, “No one that buys here wears anything but organic cotton” store?  Not me.

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Encore! Eggplant Cutlets with a local marinara

When you view, and I hope cook along with, one of my video recipes you will notice that I have boring basic ingredients you can find at most grocery stores in the US.  There are a couple of spices or items that are a little exotic, but 1] I point them out and 2] they are rare.

I cannot stand the game many folks who want to be earth-friendly play that I call, “How Vegan are You?”

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Lean Bean Sandwich Machine

Have you ever been in a conversation with intelligent, nice people, and then someone says, “I had those new black bean burgers at a barbecue last week.”  Then someone else says, “That company is owned by ConAgra.”  Then some other brilliant conversationalist chimes in with, “Well, actually the original owners sold out to ConAgra to start an animal sanctuary in Tahiti when feral snakes are being rounded up for boots made by exploited child workers in Asia.”  And finally, this gal pipes up with a piece of info she has been trying to inject into a chatter of healthy, holistic, horse manure for a month, “Yes, but the owners are cutting down palm trees to make way for the animal sanctuary and displacing the local farmers creating an economic crisis for most of the surrounding island population.  Didn’t you get the email and sign the petition?”

Now the guy that mentioned the new burgers decided to try something other than the planet-killing, artery clogging death slabs or so called by his veggie-fascist sister-in-law who will only graze on his lawn for “real foods” at family get-togethers.  So, do you think he is ever going to mention or try anything remotely like that again?

Look kids, you may eat chia seeds for your health, but the carbon footprint on them is enormous if you live on the eastern seaboard.  Same goes for agave nectar.  Where I live maple syrup is made a couple of miles away.  That’s what I buy.  Okay, that is not all I buy, but it is the major sweetener in my foods.  The people who process the sap have never sang Kumbaya and do not dye their own t-shirts.  I shop at the local grocery store which has an organic section and some other organic products.  My priority is to tell them that my dollars will support local farmers and local produce.  Please bring me more so I can purchase more here in town.

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Insta Party Bean Dip on Pepper with Olives

Most of the folks who live around me do not make 6-figure incomes.  And they are the ones using much of our healthcare dollars because they do not understand what foods are readily available, healthy, cheap and easy to make.  And they don’t have a personal chef to do it for them.  Until recently, insurance coverage did not include nutrition counseling.  Now it does, at least a few times a year with a registered dietitian.  These low 5-figure folks were my target audience when I started making my videos and teaching cooking classes.  There are lots of customers at the “Wholier than thou” shopping extravaganzas, but I am looking for volume to change our national health needs.  That’s who will tip the balance of power in the food processing and marketing sector.

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Our local flower girl

So, I lift my cheap, non-snazzy can of seltzer to all the ShopRite, Aldi, Piggly Wiggly, Hy-Vee, Food Lion, Food Chopper, Kroger, Albertson, Fred Meyer, Meijer, Tom Thumb, Sav-a-Lot folks who just need to know bean burgers are a great first step.  Feel free to contact me when you’re ready for the next one.  I’ll be grazing on the free organic stuff in your lawn.

Click here to subscribe to LaDiva Dietitian’s monthly video recipes.

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You gotta LUV the Squirrel People

Darlings,

I have really missed you.

There is a new business is town, Corporate Wellness and I’m gettin’ me some of the cash.  However, it comes with traps such as, let’s work a million hours and not keep up on blog.  It also leads to questions such as, are the pearls of wisdom coming out of my mouth making any difference?

For the last few months I have been a Health Educator for one of these companies.  The pay is okay, but the work can be grinding.  Some company pays our company to come in and do “health screenings” for their employees.  Sometimes there is a cash incentive for the employee to have the screening done and sometimes not.  Sometimes the cash is only for the salaried employees.  Sometimes the company just raffles off something to screening participants not cash oriented like a small backpack with a company logo.  This does not appear to generate the enthusiasm conceived by the corporate head honchos.Screen Shot 2014-11-05 at 3.19.37 PM

Screenings consists of height, weight, waist circumference, finger stick for cholesterol, HDL [happy cholesterol], LDL [lousy cholesterol], triglycerides and glucose levels.

Then, I, the illustrious Health Educator, reveal all the meanings of life or at least the meanings of your results in less than 5 minutes.  Move’em in, move’em out.  For some companies, the employees are fairly well educated and understand my Readers’ Digest version of how to turn a lousy result into wellness nirvana.  Then, there are the Squirrel People.

I’ve spent a lot of time in rural areas, and I really respect the people I’ve met, but I realized how sheltered I am not having cable TV, watching ads about food, drink and pharmaceuticals and sitting doctors offices reading back issues of People or Prevention magazines.

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Squirrel unimpeded by flashy food ads. Still fits on tree branch.

In contrast, many of the wage-earning folks of these companies located off Highway to Nowhere, America buy into everything on Dr. Oz and the Cartoon Network.  The amount of medication taken is astounding, especially from folks extremely cautious about owning a cell phone or having an email address.  Astounding because the drugs have so little effect and are peddled out with so little education of how they actually work and how you can take care of yourself.  This is where the squirrels come in.

I cannot remember the percentage of folks in the obese weight range who denied they were anything other than”Big Boned”.  Everyone told me, “I eat bad”, like I had put up a confessional when I set up the table and chairs, but resolved to continue with their current regime  and swallow the pills.  When asked about physical activity the answer was, “hunting”.  There was no understanding that sitting in a tree or blind for hours on end really didn’t consist of much activity and there was no cognitive connection with their “kill” and gout flaring up.  Here’s a sample discussion-

What do you eat or drink after you wake up?

“Coffee”

Then what happens?

“I go to work.”

Do you eat anything there?

“Cereal.”

What kind?

“Healthy.”

What does that mean?

“What?”

Healthy.

“You know Honey Nut Cheerios.”

What makes it healthy?

Blank stare.  “I don’t know.”

Anything to drink with that?

“Gatorade.”

What’s the point to the gatorade?

“What do you mean?”

If you are doing heavy work in a hot environment you can lose some minerals and stuff from your body that is really important, but you can replace it fairly easily.  Are you working that hard?

“Gatorade is good for you. . . or that’s what everyone says.”

Pause.

Then, what happens?

“Lunch”

What’s for lunch today?

“Ham and cheese sandwich.”

Anything on it?

“No.”

Anything else?

“Maybe an apple.”

Anything for a snack?

“Maybe a bag of chips.  Sometimes.”

Then what happens?

“I go home.”

Do you have dinner?

“Yes, pork chops.”

Anything else on the plate?

“Vegetables.  I don’t eat carbs.”

How many vegetables?  Is it like this? Make small bowl with hands. Or this?  Spread arms apart like a casserole dish.

“Like this.”  Hands scooped like 1/4 cup.

Any dessert?

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Same size as vegetables eaten for entire day.

“No”

Do you know that every vegetable is mainly carbs?

“No.”

Did anyone explain to you the connect between gout and game meats?

“No.”

Has anyone explained to you the use of fiber foods and whole grains to help with your high cholesterol?

“No.”

How long have you been on Lipitor?  Crestor?

“Five years.”

Fiber can help with cholesterol and also constipation, if that is ever a problem.

“Oh, I take Metamucil every day.”

Did anyone tell you that by having more fruits during the day you may not need Metamucil?

“Really?”

Gatorade is high in sodium.  Not having enough water in your system can also make you constipated.  Do you think you could swap out half the gatorade for just water?

This person is WAY into the obese category.  Their cholesterol is fairly high, and according to them, they eat about 800 calories a day.  That’s when I ask if they drink alcohol.  Of course, 90% only have, maybe one or two drinks a week.  I am amazed at the hundreds of people defying biochemistry and gaining weight on 800 calories a day and being at least 5 feet 7 inches.  I’m around 5 feet 5 inches and can’t make it through the day on less than 1200.

Here’s another problem.

When is the first thing you eat or drink?

“That depends.  I do swing shift.”

Swing shift means you work all the shifts for about one week each.  So your schedule is constantly changing.   This week you start work at 7am, in 12 days you will start work at 5pm, then in another two weeks you may be back at 7am or onto nights and start at 11pm.  This wreaks havoc on sleep, gastrointestinal health and the cohesion of a family.  But these are the only jobs in town that have benefits.  No one is going anywhere.

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At least squirrel can see the trap.

There I am counseling a few hundred people at 5 minutes each on how to turn around these trends that are the heart of our national state of disease.  What am I really doing to help them and their families?

They need an onsite program that changes the entire community’s dynamic. We need to support time parents need with their kids, support long term health and educate on basic nutrition needs even if it includes squirrel stew.  It needs to be around for at least 5 years to make any long term impact.

Of course, there was one gentleman who was explaining how he dealt with his rotundity.  As he was sitting in the chair next to me, he explained.

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Couldn’t leave you with just the “kneading” image. Here is nice, healthy squirrel.

“I get into my bathtub in some nice hot water.  Then, I massage my fat.”  He began to demonstrate on his stomach.  “I massage the fat so it breaks down.”  He is slowly kneading fat through his fingers.

” That’s how I am getting rid of it.  But, I don’t know if it scientific or anything.”

Just thought you might want to know what I’ve been up to.

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The New Slave?

Darlings,

Happy New Year!

The first weekend of the New Year found me at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, PA.  Perfect for a cold, damp, rainy day.

Truly a fantastic place filled with interesting facts about how and why the American Revolution happened.  For a fact wonk like me, heaven on earth.  In addition to the permanent exhibit detailing and exploring the full document, was an exhibit about Thomas Jefferson and his home/plantation, Monticello.

Monticello was Jefferson’s experiment in architecture and agriculture.  But one can also learn a great deal about the mentality of that era and how it is still reflected today.

On the grounds of Monticello were 200 enslaved people.  Within the exhibit is a large sign in naming most of the enslaved that were born or bought, worked and died on the premises.  Many names are repeated for various workers, including several John’s and three Sukey’s, plus more Sukey’s with variety of second names.  People with names no one remembers who had little to no hope of being in charge of their own destiny due, mainly, to circumstances beyond their control.

The signers of the Constitution were smart, caucasian, male, land and business owners.  Many believed that the entire economy, not to mention their own wealth, would collapse if slavery were abolished.  What would happen to their inferiors – women, the poor and non-whites?

At the time of the revolution, 1 in 5 citizens in the colonies was enslaved.   Currently,1 in 5 US citizens goes to bed hungry, 1 in 31 citizens of the United States is on parole, probation or incarcerated, 1 in 3 has a criminal record, 1 in 2 homeless are under the age of 18.

screen-shot-2015-01-07-at-1-29-04-pm

Signers of the Constitution

If you have read this blog you will know that I work in a small residential treatment facility for teens with “anger management challenges.”  That’s the politically correct or let’s-keep-positive-at-all-times term for problems.  They and their families are represented in the statistics listed above.  Many encompass all categories.  What are we doing, as a society, to give these folks hope for a better future?

I am a big believer in the idea that I am in control of my destiny, but I had help.  I was not born in poverty or had to live with multiple families because my parent, the one not incarcerated, couldn’t keep a decent roof over my head.  I never had to figure out how to get to school from a new homeless shelter.  I never had to go to bed hungry as a child or without a winter coat, albeit my coat was a hand-me-down.  I was never sexually abused as a child or beaten into submission.

What is the long term outlook of those who have grown up with these “challenges”?  When the kids I work with made posters of occupations they would like to have, the jobs were: bereavement counselors, hair and nail stylists, parole officers, therapists, lawyers and basketball players.  Where were the doctors, nurses, pilots, actors, writers, business owners, teachers, real estate agents, chefs, journalists, mechanics, welders, engineers, hospitality professionals, architects, scientists and designers?

These kids see themselves as a cog somewhere within one of the fastest growing businesses in the country – the prison system.

The United States has, by a wide margin, the largest amount of its own people in lock up.  Being at the Constitution Center, I read this incredible, historic document put together to govern a country, not by rule of a family or separate section of the populace, but by the people as a whole.  The difference of 1700’s slavery and 21st century poverty is apparent.  Yet, we share the same percentage of the citizenry who have little notion of liberty to pursue their happiness.  Now a paycheck deems where they live, what foods they can eat, life expectancy and future possibilities, or lack thereof.

Even though Wall Street is having a huge resurgence, the notion of increasing the minimum wage is shunned because it will “put businesses out of business.”  Again, the wealthy few breed fear of a collapse in the economy for the majority of minimum wage workers – women, the poor and non-white.

Is this the modern form of slavery?

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4 Tips on Spotting BAD Research

Darlings,

LaDiva here – Totally annoyed!

Here is an article about NEW Fascinating research important about kids with cow milk allergies having bone problems.  The original article is from Pediatrics magazine, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Please open it and read along.

  1. Scary Headlines – Here’s the articles headline: Cow’s Milk Allergy in Childhood May Lead to Weaker Bones: StudyWhat you may miss is the subtitle:screen-shot-2016-04-22-at-1-03-09-pm
    But one expert contends that difference in bone density wasn’t enough, on average, to worry about fracturesSo, what is the point to this article?  Or what does one person’s opinion mean?  What should I look for in this article?  You should look for the supporting evidence that clearly states that my kid, or kids I know, that have cow milk allergies will have weaker bones or may have weaker bones later in life.Scary titles are a red flag for me.  This usually means I will have to read between the lines to figure out what is really being said.  A prime example is “Butter – Great Again!”  This was completely flawed meta-analysis research.  Please contact me if you want the skinny on it.
  2. Be clear on what is actually being studied or compared.
    Here’s the first paragraph:
    Children who are allergic to cow’s milk may have weaker bones than kids with other food allergies, a small study suggests

    Ok, in the first paragraph the writer totally backpedals.  The kids may have a bone problem, but only when compared to kids with other food allergies, not most kids.  So, what does that mean to the kids I know?  I have no idea.
  3. How many people?
    Then, the article continues with “small study suggests”.  Again, this is a suggestion, not an actual truth for the average kid.  So, for how many kids?  This is a small study, but how small?  52 kids.  Yep, that’s it.  So, 56 kids studied have this problem.  Oops, I’m wrong.  Only 6% of 52 kids.  That’s 3-4 kids.  THREE or FOUR KIDS?  Why is this even making news?  This data would not even qualify you for a graduate term paper much less a published article in an internationally recognized journal.
    Alright, I’m just jealous.  Anyone know the submission protocols for Pediatrics magazine?  I need some cash and am going to publish my own study.  I work with kids in a residential treatment facility.  There are at least 10 out of a 100 kids where I work that are allergic to tomato sauce.  This is a bigger population than the milk study and would be classified as a more “Robust” study.  Tomato sauce contains lycopene.  Lycopene decreases risk for heart attack and different cancers. If I tested for inflammation [there is a biomarker we test for to show whether there is inflammation in the body] in these kids, I would probably find it increased.  Increased inflammation is one risk factor for heart disease.   If I published this as a study the headlines would be:
    Tomato Allergy in children may lead to increase heart disease: Study
    But, what about what else is going on in their diets and lives?
    Absurdity on wheels.  But I will cash the check and do the book tour.
  4. Does the methodology of the study make sense?
    How long did they study these kids?  For 5 years?  10 years?  Did this condition persist?  That would possibly mean something.  Nope. Testing was done once.  Now, the kids did have lower bone mineral density, but bones need 17 nutrients to be built.  This just talks about calcium intake.  What about the other 16?  The study mentions that Vitamin D levels were taken, but we have no idea what they were.  The article only states that the intake [which we don’t know if that was from 1 day or 4 weeks] was lower than recommendations.
    Here’s another statement from the article:
    Long-standing cow’s milk allergy in adults has been linked to reduced bone density.
    Um, many studies of Asian and African women, prior to urbanization, who have many children and have no cow milk source have great bones.  Where is evidence to support the article’s statement?
  5. Are the outcomes repeatable?  This means that you should be able to find other studies doing, basically, the same thing showing the same result.  Okay, “study suggests” is part of the original article language.  So, we are not to take this as established fact. On the other hand, what can we take away from 3-4 kids?  FYI, Kathy Doheny [writer of this], repeats the idea of low calcium intake is equated with negative bone health.  I have two thoughts on this:
    1. Where the most amount of calcium from cow milk is drunk or eaten is also where there are the highest incidents of hip fractures.  Part of my evidence is this little study from Harvard where they looked at milk consumption in the teen years for 96,000 people for 22 years.  In fact, an article from the British Medical Journal including many, many participants showed that the galactose [sugar found in cow milk (“gala” is Greek for “milk”)] led to increases of all causes of mortality in women and men, especially those drinking 3 glasses a day.
    2. The study researchers state that these 3-4 kids had low bone mineral density, however, they DID NOT have low bone density.  There is a profound difference.  The kids bones appeared just fine.  And there is a mountain of evidence, including my cited studies, that cow milk or calcium supplements do not support older bone health.  The World Health Organization recommends around 350 mg of calcium daily for kids, not the over 900 mg stated in the article.  Kids can absorb that amount of calcium from legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits.

Not everything in this article is terrible.  Luckily, it’s short.  I’m glad Ms. Doheny cites someone saying this doesn’t amount to much.  It’s great that she gives some alternative sources for calcium. However, she doesn’t mention that tofu, collard greens and bok choy all have more absorbable calcium than cow milk without the galactose complications. She does mention that cow’s milk is fortified [has added in] with Vitamin D because cow milk does not come with Vitamin D.  Other milks are also fortified.  Any milk that has Vitamin D will equally supply the kids.

Now, Darlings, I know that Ms. Doheny is NOT a researcher, but if she is going to take on the role as science expert she should know how to report on what really counts.

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4 Tips on Spotting BAD Research

Darlings,

LaDiva here – Totally annoyed!

Here is an article about NEW Fascinating research important about kids with cow milk allergies having bone problems.  The original article is from Pediatrics magazine, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.  Please open it and read along.

  1. Scary Headlines – Here’s the articles headline: Cow’s Milk Allergy in Childhood May Lead to Weaker Bones: StudyWhat you may miss is the subtitle:screen-shot-2016-04-22-at-1-03-09-pm
    But one expert contends that difference in bone density wasn’t enough, on average, to worry about fracturesSo, what is the point to this article?  Or what does one person’s opinion mean?  What should I look for in this article?  You should look for the supporting evidence that clearly states that my kid, or kids I know, that have cow milk allergies will have weaker bones or may have weaker bones later in life.Scary titles are a red flag for me.  This usually means I will have to read between the lines to figure out what is really being said.  A prime example is “Butter – Great Again!”  This was completely flawed meta-analysis research.  Please contact me if you want the skinny on it.
  2. Be clear on what is actually being studied or compared.
    Here’s the first paragraph:
    Children who are allergic to cow’s milk may have weaker bones than kids with other food allergies, a small study suggests

    Ok, in the first paragraph the writer totally backpedals.  The kids may have a bone problem, but only when compared to kids with other food allergies, not most kids.  So, what does that mean to the kids I know?  I have no idea.
  3. How many people?
    Then, the article continues with “small study suggests”.  Again, this is a suggestion, not an actual truth for the average kid.  So, for how many kids?  This is a small study, but how small?  52 kids.  Yep, that’s it.  So, 56 kids studied have this problem.  Oops, I’m wrong.  Only 6% of 52 kids.  That’s 3-4 kids.  THREE or FOUR KIDS?  Why is this even making news?  This data would not even qualify you for a graduate term paper much less a published article in an internationally recognized journal.
    Alright, I’m just jealous.  Anyone know the submission protocols for Pediatrics magazine?  I need some cash and am going to publish my own study.  I work with kids in a residential treatment facility.  There are at least 10 out of a 100 kids where I work that are allergic to tomato sauce.  This is a bigger population than the milk study and would be classified as a more “Robust” study.  Tomato sauce contains lycopene.  Lycopene decreases risk for heart attack and different cancers. If I tested for inflammation [there is a biomarker we test for to show whether there is inflammation in the body] in these kids, I would probably find it increased.  Increased inflammation is one risk factor for heart disease.   If I published this as a study the headlines would be:
    Tomato Allergy in children may lead to increase heart disease: Study
    But, what about what else is going on in their diets and lives?
    Absurdity on wheels.  But I will cash the check and do the book tour.
  4. Does the methodology of the study make sense?
    How long did they study these kids?  For 5 years?  10 years?  Did this condition persist?  That would possibly mean something.  Nope. Testing was done once.  Now, the kids did have lower bone mineral density, but bones need 17 nutrients to be built.  This just talks about calcium intake.  What about the other 16?  The study mentions that Vitamin D levels were taken, but we have no idea what they were.  The article only states that the intake [which we don’t know if that was from 1 day or 4 weeks] was lower than recommendations.
    Here’s another statement from the article:
    Long-standing cow’s milk allergy in adults has been linked to reduced bone density.
    Um, many studies of Asian and African women, prior to urbanization, who have many children and have no cow milk source have great bones.  Where is evidence to support the article’s statement?
  5. Are the outcomes repeatable?  This means that you should be able to find other studies doing, basically, the same thing showing the same result.  Okay, “study suggests” is part of the original article language.  So, we are not to take this as established fact. On the other hand, what can we take away from 3-4 kids?  FYI, Kathy Doheny [writer of this], repeats the idea of low calcium intake is equated with negative bone health.  I have two thoughts on this:
    1. Where the most amount of calcium from cow milk is drunk or eaten is also where there are the highest incidents of hip fractures.  Part of my evidence is this little study from Harvard where they looked at milk consumption in the teen years for 96,000 people for 22 years.  In fact, an article from the British Medical Journal including many, many participants showed that the galactose [sugar found in cow milk (“gala” is Greek for “milk”)] led to increases of all causes of mortality in women and men, especially those drinking 3 glasses a day.
    2. The study researchers state that these 3-4 kids had low bone mineral density, however, they DID NOT have low bone density.  There is a profound difference.  The kids bones appeared just fine.  And there is a mountain of evidence, including my cited studies, that cow milk or calcium supplements do not support older bone health.  The World Health Organization recommends around 350 mg of calcium daily for kids, not the over 900 mg stated in the article.  Kids can absorb that amount of calcium from legumes, vegetables, nuts, seeds and fruits.

Not everything in this article is terrible.  Luckily, it’s short.  I’m glad Ms. Doheny cites someone saying this doesn’t amount to much.  It’s great that she gives some alternative sources for calcium. However, she doesn’t mention that tofu, collard greens and bok choy all have more absorbable calcium than cow milk without the galactose complications. She does mention that cow’s milk is fortified [has added in] with Vitamin D because cow milk does not come with Vitamin D.  Other milks are also fortified.  Any milk that has Vitamin D will equally supply the kids.

Now, Darlings, I know that Ms. Doheny is NOT a researcher, but if she is going to take on the role as science expert she should know how to report on what really counts.

Posted on

Cooking Demo Ultimate – Forget the food

Hello Darlings, LaDiva here.

Yesterday I had the ultimate cooking demo.  It was for a FAB fundraising group.  This was their regional conference and they hired me to be the comic relief.  Of course, I was NOT going to disappoint so I got two LaDiva dancers to come along and the Incredible Mr. Fitz.

Since it is nigh on Mother’s Day, I decided to make some dishes someone could use to avoid the restaurant scene.  Mom’s day is the WORST day of the year in a restaurant.

Insta' Party Bean Dip
Insta’ Party Bean Dip

The demo has three recipes: Almost Fatless Flapjacks [brunch], Insta’ Party Bean Dip [cocktail appetizers] and Vital Vanilla Creme [dessert].  I would tell the group to fill in the dinner course with take out.

The dancers were new to the LaDiva gig, but they were smart and enthusiastic.  The day before I filled 75 goodie bags with a business card, LaDiva button, 1/4 page advertisement about my book with blurbs of the reviews by authors, Victoria Moran, Dr. Neal Barnard and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame guitarist, Lenny Kaye as well as 2 ginger snap cookies I had made that morning to give it a ‘homemade’ touch.  These were sealed with a LaDiva sticker thanking the receiver for coming to the demo.

All of the equipment was labeled with the recipe for which it was needed – spatulas, skillet, 2 food processors – down to the smallest detail.  All the ingredients were measured out into containers also labeled as to which recipe needed them – 2 types of flour, baking soda, flax meal, black beans, salsa, silken tofu, vanilla extract, sugar, 2 different containers for salt used in 2 different recipes, etc.  You name it, it was labeled and coordinated.  Everything that could be packed was packed the night before.  I showed the dancers the food and the equipment and explained the recipe codes when they gathered at my house. They would only have to put their recipe’s components on the demo table.  I had three crew people and three recipes.  Easy-peasy.

Earlier in the week, my music was sent to the fundraiser AV staff along with my photo for the screen which would be behind me.  I wrote when the music would be used for the program.

While at my house, the dancers learned the dance and how to throw leis at the crowd, got their costumes and we left.  We got to the venue at 1:38pm for a 2:30 show.  All we had to do was meet the AV guy and set up the demo table.  My makeup was on and I just needed 5 minutes to get ready.  My male dancer was already dressed and the female would take about 5 minutes.

We ran through the sequence of intro, music, dancers, my entrance and exit with the AV guy – Arnold.  Arnold showed me where he had my music cued and said that he was excited to see the cooking demo.  The introducer, Mr. Introducer, was charming.  I even had a separate room across the hall from the event in which to change.  I told the crew to start setting up and I left to set up the dressing table.

That’s when it hit me.  Where was the food?  That’s right.  In packing the car, we had taken everything from the kitchen, but by-passed the refrigerator on the back porch where the ingredients were twiddling their thumbs ready to go.

Panic set in for about 10 seconds.  “Mr. Fitz, what time is it?”

“Two o’clock.”

We had 30 minutes to get food.  Could I buy it?  Where was a store?  Okay, there were no samples going out so could I get food that LOOKED like our ingredients?

I told Mr. Fitz to set up the equipment table and I would think of something.  I went out to the hallway to see if anyone could tell me how close a grocery store was.  Then, I saw a hotel server and stopped her in her tracks.

“Hi, my name is LaDiva Dietitian.  I have a food demo in 25 minutes and I have no food.  Do you have any beans, like black beans on your menu?”

“Wow, no food?”

“No.  But maybe you have something in your kitchen.”

“Okay, come on in the kitchen.”  She wasn’t sure what to do with me, but whatever I needed was not in the hallway.

She introduced me to a manager, “This woman needs some help.”

“I’m an event manager, how can I help you.”

“I have a cooking demo and I forgot all the food.”

“Well, I’m sure we can help somehow.  I can set up a meeting with our chef and we can see if we can sort anything out.”  She was very nice and manager-y and I truly appreciated her intent, but was not the conversation I needed.

“Um, I have this cooking demo in 25 minutes, so I don’t really have time to set up meetings.”

“OH!”

Just then, Jared the Wonderful, passed by.  “Jared, could you help this person?  She has a cooking demo and need some things from the kitchen.”

Jared is a chef that should be from a surfer community.  He was very laid back and said,”Yeah.”  I began to tell him my plight.  He not only said yes to having legumes, he opened a #10 can – one of those big, industrial-sized suckers for me.  Then, he asked the prep cooks about leftover salsa.  Insta’ Party Bean Dip – Done!

Next we had to figure out the pancakes.  He had a pancake mix that we could put in bowls to look like flour, then some small ramekins with salt, salt to represent sugar, high protein gluten flour to represent flax meal, an actual small amount of vanilla extract, an empty bowl to be my “magic” bowl with all other ingredients that I needed, but was for the moment forgetting.  Now, silken tofu?  He was at a loss.

I said, “Do you have any vanilla pudding?”  Close enough for jazz.

I, quickly, amassed my goodies on to a full sheet tray and walked into the event ballroom.  Except, that I didn’t know how to get out of the kitchen.  Oh, and, the tray was astonishingly heavy.  I finally found a door to the hallway, but it had a door handle that had to be turned.  Balancing the tray on one knee, I steadied it with one hand and used the other to turn the handle.  I flung it open about 10 inches, turned my foot into the open space and slammed the door into my foot in to keep it open. I put my knee holding the tray down.  Turning my torso towards the door, I used my other foot to open it enough to get my leg through.  My rear end bumped it wide enough to get the tray through.

The Incredible Mr. Fitz had the table set up and figured out how I could use the extension cord for all three electric pieces of equipment.  Great!  This was going to move right along.

I grabbed the female dancer and told her to come with me to get dressed.  We whipped ourselves into shape and I sent her to get my mic and tell Mr. Fitz we were ready to ROCK!!

She returned with the mic pack and left to get ready for the music cue.  We bad!

That’s when we found that he speaker who was before the food demo decided to give the War and Peace version of his slide show about water.  Now, I like water as much as the next person, but at 2:30 I had risen above all challenges and was prepped for launch.  The dancers had the plastic leis on their arms, wigs on, but no where to go.

So, I stood in the hallway learning about – and I do appreciate what this guy does – water filtration in third world countries via watching through a crack between the double doors.  For 20 minutes.  Having no idea when he would run out of slides of various world leaders exonerating his program and the wonderful things it did for their nations.  Oh, but wait, there is another president.  And another prime minister.  And this is how much cash the group, for whom I was being paid, could raise for this very useful filtration project.

I should have been interested.  I should have thought, “How amazing that this project is doing so much good in the world.”  But I kept thinking, “Dude, I have one crew member who has to leave at 3pm for another gig, and two people who know nothing about breaking down a cooking demo and the skillet behind you is getting hotter by the second even though it is on medium HEAT.  I hope it doesn’t start smoking.”

Finally, Mr. Filtration realized what Tolstoy did, that even War and Peace had to end. Cue the applause.  It is now 3pm.

Mr. Introduction takes the stage.  I can’t really hear what he’s saying, but I know it is about me.  The dancers are by the doors ready to start as soon as Arnold hits music.  Mr. Introduction finishes, AND… nothing happens.  Finally, through some freak of nature, Arnold starts the music.  The dancers start throwing leis at the folks at the tables and encouraging them to get up and dance.  The crowd thinks this should be an after lunch polite chat.  Zumba was at 1pm.

Then, I come in with more energy than the Sun and get folks on their feet.  YAY!  We all swim and back stroke and then hold our noses and pretend to go underwater.

“That’s great everybody.  Let’s get started.”  All of us applaud ourselves to the music playing. The crowd begins to sit.  And the music keeps going.  I finally look at Arnold and give him the international-“Cut the music”-hand-slicing-across-the-throat-sign.  The music stops.

I decide to be honest with the folks about the lack of demonstration ingredients and they laugh.  This is a good sign.

“How many of you have worked in a restaurant?”  A few hands go up.  “What is the worst day to work at a restaurant?”  One woman pipes up, Mother’s day.  Another good sign.

So, I start into my spiel hoping I won’t forget anything really pertinent because I don’t have the recipes with me.  I use the ingredients to remind me what goes into what, but those ingredients are at home in the back porch refrigerator.  Snickering at me.

The pancake batter is going swimmingly.  People are giggling when I use the same white powder for flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.  They are really listening when I am describing the need of fiber in the diet and how it works with diabetes.

Everyone smiles or laughs each time I sing out “I want to keep My Girl-ish Fig-ure!”

Then, poof, I have ready-made batter to pour in the skillet, [mixed up by Jared the Wonderful, I told you he was wonderful], from a little pitcher.  The skillet which I turn off because it starts to smoke.  Then, I realize I have no oil for the skillet and the batter I have just poured onto the skillet is going to stick like crazy.

I blather on about how you can decrease the sugar on pancakes by mashing fresh fruit with a little bit of maple syrup.  This compensates for the inevitable berries that are over-ripe or just not good tasting.  Everyone plays along with me when I ask them to put on their “pretend hats” and see the blackberries in this empty plastic bowl.  Then, I begin using a real potato masher to mash imaginary berries.  I get so caught up in pretend-land, that when I am done talking about the berries and mashing them, I tap the masher on the side of the bowl as if there were berries stuck to it.  No one noticed.  Yay team.

Then, I have to get the pancake off the skillet.  Comedy ensues, but I manage to wrestle it on to a plate.

Next is the bean dip, easy because I have bean and salsa.  Slide right through the information about legumes and blood sugar stability.  And on to Vanilla Creme.

This is really going well.  I finish the vanilla creme with miming smooshing a strawberry in the creme and eating it.

I give a shout out to the LaDiva Dancers.  I give a shout out to the Incredible Mr. Fitz.  I turn to Arnold.  “Hit it, Arnold.”

Arnold is nowhere to be seen.  In fact, there is NO ONE at the sound board.

Do this with me.  Let your jaw drop and leave your mouth open for 10 seconds.  While your mouth is attracting flies, think about the fact that you have no idea on how to get off this stage.  You don’t have a pithy tag line.  You don’t have anyone else to thank.  You can’t grab anything to eat or hand out as you leave.  You have just blown the momentum of the entire demo.

Close your mouth and move on.  “Wow, so thank you so much for coming to this.  Ta-ta, Darlings.”  Grab your boa and shake it around your shoulders viciously as you leave the stage and head for the door.

Oh, you forgot to tell everyone to get goodie bags as they leave.

Now it is time for a martini or a hot bath or 75 stabs from LaDiva buttons followed by 150 cookies.  Screw your girl-ish figure.

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Ancient Grains and how to cook them

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

When I meet a new plant-based convert, they immediately tell me about their food intake.  I will hear about salads, stir frys, and their unprecedented ingestion of beans [including their negative musical enhancements in the digestive tract].  However, other than rice, cous cous or the comment “they take so long to cook” grains are completely out of the menu.  According to my buddy, Dr. Reed Mangels, grains are, “the seed-bearing fruits of grasses.”   Her article, Vegetarian Journal’s Guide to Grains, has a table on it scoring different grains on their nutrient content.  Amaranth and Quinoa are at the top with the highest values of fiber, riboflavin, vitamin B6, zinc, copper and iron.  More information is given in the section on each grain.  On this website, you will find a lot of great recipes.  What I would like to add to the dialogue is that with grains, everything old is new again.

Quinoa – Quinoa is native to South America and is technically a “fruit”, not a grain.  In fact, it was cultivated in the high regions of Bolivia and Peru long before the Spanish showed up.

The name Quinoa [Keen-wha], is a Spanish pronunciation of the Quecha word, kinoa.  There are a lot of names for quinoa within the various native languages of the area.  Personally, I’d opt for the Mapudungun title, Dawe.  Comes off the tongue easier and is shorter to type, but then I’m just lazy.

Due to its excellent adaptation to difficult growing situations, quinoa was called, “Mother of Cereals” by the Incans.  However, when the Spanish pillaged the treasures of the area, quinoa was also a victim replaced by barley and wheat.[1]  Quinoa was considered sacred, and therefore, used for various religious rites.  The native pagan religions, and all of their food or lifestyles connections, were considered substandard to the conquering Europeans and brutally suppressed.  Post- World War I saw a surge in Eastern Europe of quinoa cultivation because of its high protein content.  However, that was short-lived.

There are three types of quinoa, but the most common is Chenopodium quinoa.  It is domesticated, but stems directly from the non-cultivated plants of ancient Andean peoples. Planting quinoa is not restricted to South America, but also, eastern North America.  There is a strain which grows well despite quinoa’s need for a long growing season.  Currently, the quinoa leaves are not eaten as a green as they were a few centuries ago.

What we have found new in this ancient food staple is the terrific source of protein it has.  The nutritional analyses of quinoa show that it has a similar make up as the milk property of casein.    I read about sprouting quinoa to enhance its nutritional status, but I found no references to support this point.   Even without the sprouting, quinoa has a high lysine content.  Lysine content of a food is used to determine whether it is a “complete protein” and whether it can be used to stave off malnutrition.[2]  The huge biotech company, Monsanto, is developing seed products with a gene to increase the lysine in its corn.[3] Of course, it would do no economic good for Monsanto to have poor, third-world farmers grow non-patented quinoa.  Consequently, their company is focused on marketing their patented, GMO corn product on a global scale. Luckily, even if we can’t grow this product locally, we can take advantage of this nutritional powerhouse via our local healthfood store.

One of the best things about quinoa is how fast it cooks – about 15 – 20 minutes.  This makes it perfect for summer cuisine as it keeps the heat in the kitchen down.  Its nutty flavor can be used in a number of ways – as a cous cous or rice substitute, breakfast grain, or in gluten-free cooking.  Quinoa flour is being used commercially to create smoother, creamier products without the allergens of wheat.  I even put it with other grains to create different textures.  Quinoa is considered Kosher when processed correctly.

Amaranth – Like Quinoa, amaranth is also a fruit, not a grain and is a native of South America, in addition to Africa and Asia.[4] The name amaranth is derived from the Greek word, amarantos, meaning, unwithering.[5]  In India, amaranth is known as “rejeera”, or the “King’s grain”.

Unfortunately, amaranth, too, was considered an enemy of the conquistadores.  One religious ritual had amaranth, honey and human blood mixed together, then formed into idols.  The idols were eaten by the believers.  The Aztecs believed amaranth gave them super strength.  But, idols  containing human blood are not on the top ten menu selections for hungry Spaniards and missionaries.  They banned the growing or possession of amaranth with punishments that entailed severing the hand.   That was a real bummer for the natives of Peru who made “chicha”, or beer, from the grain.[6]

Although there are 60 different species, the one most used in the United Sates is a derivative from the original food incorporated into the Incan, Aztec and Mayan cultures.  Today’s amaranth was cultivated from the wild varieties which have survived over the centuries.  This makes it a very hearty plant and easily rivals any weed that dare try to take its space.  Amaranth is such a good plant for the soil and the marketplace that it is being referred to as “the grain of the future.”  It maintains moisture for the soil and helps the farmer.[7]  The leaves of the amaranth plant were also eaten as a green, however, not at the present time.  Next, what it does for you.

Amaranth is wheat-free and gluten-free which makes it a perfect choice for individuals or food production companies looking to improve their ingredients without increasing allergens.  According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, amaranth has 14g of protein per dry half-cup.  That puts it above the protein contained in either a chicken thigh, regular size fast food burger patty, frozen chicken pot pies, two slices of salami or ham, or Morningstar Farms Grillers. What quinoa is missing is the fat and cholesterol content.   It is also high in lysine, an essential amino acid explained in the quinoa section.  The calcium content is equal to a cup of boiled dandelion greens.  Again, another naturally occurring grain that could be used instead of altered corn to feed masses of people and assist in sustainable agriculture.

Amaranth cooks in about 20 minutes making it an excellent breakfast or salad grain.  Since it has no gluten, it can be added to baked products [either pre-cooked or not], but it needs other flours to create the structure of goodies such as, cookies, cakes and breads.

When storing amaranth, keep it like quinoa in an airtight container inside a cool place like your refrigerator.  I buy grains in bulk and keep them in an extra frig.  I transfer them to one quart jars in my kitchen for a timely turnover of use.

Kamut – Unlike the previous two grains, kamut doesn’t have a groovy name from an ancient language you can’t pronounce.  Its taxonomical [science] name is QK-77.  Don’t despair about the sci-if moniker, it does have a long history of being on the planet in its current form.  It just got lost for a while.

After reading lots of sites, scientific and not, I found that kamut is also called Khorasan wheat.  The Spanish have no ties with the loss of the story and cultivation of this grain. No one seems to know exactly where it came from.  It appears to be a variation of grains grown in Asia Minor.  The story goes that khorasan wheat was originally from Egypt.  After World War II, an American service man in Portugal was given or was sold [8] the grains and sent them to his father, a Montana farmer.  The father grew the crop, showed it as a novelty at a country fair.  The grain was almost lost again, except that a jar of the seeds was given to the Quinn’s, who were and are also Montana farmers. [9],[10]   The Quinn’s found out that khorasan wheat needs less water than other wheats.  This property allows it to be more insect resistant and grow well in drought conditions.  In addition, the low moisture content maintains nutritional status better during processing.  It also contributes to the stability of the products made from the grain.  Bob Quinn, son of the guy with the jar of seeds, is a farmer and plant scientist who coined the name, Kamut, meaning Soul of the Earth, and registered it as a trademark. [Pretty smart guy.]  What is really remarkable about kamut is that it moved the Quinn’s from a conventionally run farm, [AKA lots of chemicals], to a profitable, organic business working to develop more sustainable agriculture outfits by way of a naturally occurring nutritional powerhouse.  Kamut International, Bob Quinn’s company, claims they do not feel it is possible for one company to “own” a grain.  The wheat is named Khorasan wheat.  The trademark, Kamut, was garnered to ensure a certain standard of products which bear the term Kamut on their list of ingredients.  The standards include being grown organically, containing certain levels of selenium and protein, being unmodified, and having low levels of disease.

As with quinoa, kamut is now considered a food with a complete register of essential amino acids.  In fact its protein content is 40% higher than wheat.  The USDA has incomplete information about kamut’s nutritional density.  The protein content is just below that of quinoa.  Unfortunately, the chart does not get specific on which amino acids and how much of each are contained.  The official kamut website shows a chart supporting their claim that kamut is high in lysine, however, the independence of the lab where the analysis was done was not ascertained.[11]  What is available from the USDA supports a claim for high fiber, high protein and abundant B vitamins.

Kamut has a nutty flavor and spongy mouth feel that my dinner guests find interesting and quite palatable.  It does take a while to cook, about 90 minutes.  However, you can cut that almost in half if you soak it overnight in the frig.  It is an extremely filling grain, so a little goes a long way when feeding a family, thus making kamut well worth the price.

Here is your chance to dive into some fantastic new food ideas with some oldest cultivated grains in the world.

[1] Crop Research Institute. [2002] Prague, Czech Republic.  http://www.vurv.cz/altercrop/quinoa.html. Date accessed July 20, 2008.

[2] Zhao W, Zhai F, Zhang D, An Y, Liu Y, He Y, Ge K, Scrimshaw NS. 2004. Lysine-fortified wheat flour improves the nutritional and immunological status of wheat-eating families in northern China. Food Nutr Bulletin, Jun;25(2):123-9.

[3] Frizzi A, Huang S, Gilbertson LA, Armstrong TA, Luethy MH, Malvar TM. 2008.  Modifying lysine biosynthesis and catabolism in corn with a single bifunctional expression/silencing transgene cassette, Plant Biotechnology Journal, Vol: 6, No: 1, pages: 13-21. US: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-7652.2007.00290.x

[4] USA Emergency Supply, Amaranth, All About Grains, https://www.usaemergencysupply.com/information_center/all_about_grains/all_about_grains_amaranth.htm. Date accessed July 30, 2008

[5] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amaranth. Date accessed July 30, 2008.

[6] Early, DK. [1997] Amaranth Production in Mexico and Peru, http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/v1-140.html. Date accessed July 30, 2008.

[7] Meyers, RL, Putnam, DH. [1988] Growing grain amaranth as a specialty crop, University of Minnesota Extension. http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC3458.html. Date accessed July 27, 2008.

[8] AAOOB Storable Foods. http://www.aaoobfoods.com/graininfo.htm#Kamut. Date accessed July 30, 2008.

[9] Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamut. Date accessed July 24, 2008.

[10] SARE 2000 Conference Proceedings. [2000] Profile: Bob Quinn. http://wsare.usu.edu/pub/sare2000/114.htm. Date accessed July 23, 2008.

[11] Kamut International. [2008] Allergy and nutrition. http://www.kamut.com/english/index.htm. Date accessed July 30, 2008.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17174226?ordinalpos=4&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

Copyright Marty Davey, 2008.  All Rights Reserved.