May 7, 2014 Category :beverages| Fitness 1

Taking in the beautiful view at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tuscon, AZ right before the fall...

Taking in the beautiful view at the Hilton El Conquistador in Tuscon, AZ right before the fall…

It’s hard to say if my foot slipped on something at the top of the stairs or if I was just so distracted taking in the beautiful pool view, but somehow I found myself hurling down those stairs. The Ipad in my hands is now sailing through the air along with my Iphone and they both kerplunk onto the concrete. My legs are no longer under my body but instead scraping down each stair step and the right palm of my hand immediately hurts as it seems to have taken the brunt force of the fall.

No one saw the event so I just proceeded to collect my thoughts as I sat down by the pool to eat lunch only then realizing my body was shaking as it processed the trauma that had just occurred. I took it as a good sign that I was still hungry for my lunch which I finished in good speed. I told the waiter what happened and he called for the hotel security guard who took pictures of my injuries and then had me sign refusal for treatment papers. After lunch, I just headed back to my afternoon conference session without missing a beat. I had traveled over 2,000 miles to attend this session and I was not about to let a tumble distract me if I could help it.

I was attending Ed Bauman and Lizette Marx’s Cooking For Recovery pre-conference session at the National Association of Nutrition Professionals Annual Conference. Good thing I was at a place where we were discussing how food can support the body’s own healing process. And there just happened to be a slab of raw turmeric available for me to rub on my bruises because we had a food demo on making green beans with ginger and turmeric gremolata during the afternoon session. We also had a handout in front of us explaining how the curcumin, the potent pigment in turmeric, has been shown to reduce inflammation! That evening I rubbed the raw turmeric into the palm of my hand and the bruise that I had the next day seemed not nearly as bad as what I was expecting. Maybe the bone broth I drink on a regular basis also helped save me from breaking my wrist. Maybe I was just lucky– but I am glad to know how to eat food that can be supportive to the body’s own healing process.

My hand and arm looked like this 3 days after the fallphoto and then had recovered to this by 10 days later. 10 days after the fall While I could have focused on being a klutz for falling down the stairs, I decided it was better to focus on the fact that I must have some good resilience for my body to be able to take that blow and not get badly injured. I recently read a book called Mindsight by Dan Siegel and he talks about this concept of resilience as something we all need to work to cultivate. To focus on what we have learned from our struggles rather than just languishing there.

I was inspired by so many stories of resilience when I met people at the National Association of Nutrition Professionals Conference. So many people seem to have found this path of caring about nutrition because of some personal health obstacle that they faced and now want to help others. Patricia Dean-Escoto shared some of her story in being a breast cancer survivor and I learned she founded Pathways2Healing to help others in the cancer recovery process. Jill Troderman is a nutrition consultant who founded Food Tree Guide, a company that makes a fun hands-on tool for helping kids to make good food choices.

My roommate at the conference was Kyrena Robinson and she also inspired me with her passion for helping people to eat healthy whether at home or around the world. I did not meet her personally at the conference but in a large group session Phyllis Johnson shared her story of helping her son get treatment for his Crohn’s disease and they ended up founding the Crohn’s & Colitis Nutrition Foundation. People who have overcome obstacles and gone on to help others are a great inspiration to all of us.

I am thankful for Turmeric today and wanted to share with you a Turmeric drink that can be enjoyed hot or cold.

Tasty Turmeric Tea
(makes one drink)

1/2 cup coconut milk (use full fat)
1 small knob of turmeric root (use the back side of a spoon to scrape off the outer layer), roughly chopped
dash of pepper
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp honey (or one medjul date with pit removed)
1/4 tsp raw ginger grated
1/2 cup water

Place all items in vitamix or sturdy blender. Mix until frothy and smooth. To enjoy cold you can put an ice cube or two in the blender when mixing. For a warm drink just place the blended drink on stove top and warm for a few minutes before serving.

Does it even matter what we eat?

May 6, 2013 Category :Uncategorized 0

“Good friends are like stars…. You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there.” I’m hoping that any “friends” I have from this food blog will accept that sometimes friends have to go — go new places, experience new things and also go deep. And so it has been for me these past few months where I have been so busy traveling, cooking, doing and perhaps most importantly, going inward to better understand myself and what drives me. I have experienced some of the highest highs recently and also have been allowing myself to process some of my lowest lows. Frankly it is exhausting work and for a time it has taken from me the need to say anything. As it is, I am not sure I even have anything worth saying. Or maybe I should phrase that as I don’t think I have the need any longer to convince anyone of anything. For whatever reason, I happen to find that real food, the making of it, the thinking of it and the serving it to people, makes me happy. If you feel the same way, then perhaps there will still be something of interest here. I will use this blog to share with you the foods that make me happy and the food experiences that bring me joy when the mood strikes.

However, I have also realized that there are so many things more important than the food we eat. For example, the thoughts we think. I am not a scientist but I bet if someone took an angry, hate-filled person and looked at their digestion of some fabulous farm to fork food, it would not be as healthy as a peace-filled person’s digestion of processed food. That’s what I learned going out the one of the food meccas of the world in Northern California although it was not what I was consciously seeking to find. The food there is so beautiful and it has almost magical qualities. So yes, I still think that food matters. But I have been “chewing” on this idea of getting the inner part worked out that it has for a time taken priority over the need to share food stories with you.

I do think that perhaps when you eat better food, you help set the stage so that your body and soul can do the healing inner work that we all need to do. It may be that when you just eat the standard fare that the bigger issues stay suppressed and we go along in survival mode.

I want to tell you about some amazing food experiences that I’ve had over the past few months– serving a farm to fork meal to over 200 people in my church and finding a way to do it for $3.50 per serving. And visiting Northern California and the amazing people at Three Stone Hearth and also my surprising new friendship with Bauman College… and I would link to all these if I could figure out how on my wordpress account. Grrrr…. one of the maddening parts of writing is keeping up with all the technology!

But for today, since we’re just getting reacquainted, let me just say hello and just let you know I’ll be back to visit soon with more foodie tales. I want to always give you some kind of joy for spending time with me… so let me pass along my EF Hutton secret tip of the day– when I was out in California I discovered Point Reyes Blue Cheese. This stuff is just melt-in-your-mouth magical. No recipe needed! Just go out and buy a hunk. Put it on a salad, spread it on crackers, eat it just as it is! I wish you Point Reyes Perfection until we meet again.

Pate’ Party!

December 12, 2012 Category :Uncategorized 3

I’m feeling risky today.  So I’m going to talk about a subject that frankly scares and/or repulses many.  Maybe even you.  I know this and yet I do it anyway.  Why?  Because I am planting seeds.  I don’t know which seeds will take and I don’t know which if any of my readers might think about a topic with a different point of view after reading my take on it.  But that’s part of what this blog is about and I am willing to take the risk and share a different perspective with you.  If you want only the mainstream version of food then there are many good websites, magazines and newspaper food sections that will tell you the politically correct information.  But since you are here, I figure you might be open to at least hear a different point of view.

So the scary risk I take today is to talk about pate’.  For some you will be thinking ugghh, a heart attack on a plate, what about all those toxins?  I just can’t digest it or even fathom a reason to try.  OK, yes those are the views of some and that may be your story and you’re sticking to it.  I always put people before food and no matter what your views, if you’re my friend then I support you even if we disagree.  I’m also always open to hearing other points of view.  I do believe everyone has to make the choices they think are best for them.   But maybe humor me today and ask yourself if you could think about pate’ in a new way.

One of the things that excites me about liver is the off the charts amounts of vitamin A and vitamin D that are present.  For example, beef liver has 43,900 IU (international units) of vitamin A per 100 grams (or a 3.5 oz serving).  Chicken liver has 12,100 IU for the same amount.  By contrast, carrots (11,000), kale (8,900), spinach (8,100), mangoes (4,800) and canelope (3,400) are good sources but just not the same powerhouse source as liver.  For vitamin D Beef liver delivers 154 IU per 100 gram serving which is a lot more than most vegetables.  Kale, a superfood for sure, does not have enough Vitamin D to be listed as a source according to this Nutrition Data site.  That’s not to say Kale is bad in any way as it has lots of great benefits but it is not a powerhouse vitamin D source.

You might reasonably ask why should you care to get a food with a nice balance of vitamin A & D?  And for this I will defer to Dr. Weston Price, a dentist who did a lot of interesting research on traditional diets back in the 1930′s and 40′s.  He says that vitamins A and D were vital to health because they act as catalysts to mineral absorption and protein utilization.  Without them, we cannot absorb minerals, no matter how much we are eating in our diet.  So if you want all the minerals you are eating in your kale and your veggies to be absorbed and utilized by your body, you need to make sure you are getting enough vitamin A and D in your diet.  Yes, there are dangers to getting too much vitamin A in your diet but that is usually when done in isolation with supplements and not from natural sources and I don’t want to distract too much because that is the message everyone hears.  But also consider that most people are probably not getting enough vitamin A and D together in the right amounts and that your body does need this to properly absorb the minerals in the food you eat!

Regarding the idea that there are all kinds of toxins in the liver, here’s a different perspective from Dr. Cowan, an anthroposophical doctor and MD practicing in California and he mentions how a healthy liver bags the toxins but then the bile takes the garbage to the curb.  So if you are eating the liver of a healthy animal, there should not be the storage levels of all the toxins because they have gone on to the bile.  It goes without saying that you should take care when eating organ meats and any meats in general to eat only healthy and sustainably raised animals, despite what Dr. Oz says.

I recently made a lovely pate’ from chicken livers and even just a small serving once a week could do your body an enormous amount of good.  And not only that, I found it to be just very tasty.  The editors of Food and Wine must agree because their December 2012 issue has a fabulous chicken-liver pate’ recipe that I tried recently and loved!

Donna’s take on Food and Wine’s Chicken-Liver Pate’

2 lbs chicken livers, trimmed

salt and pepper freshly ground

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil * (they called for one cup olive oil and only  2 TBS butter but I like butter … another story to say why! but I added more butter and less olive oil)

1/2 cup butter

1.5 cups Marsala wine

2 large white onions, finely chopped

6 garlic cloves, minced

10 oil-packed anchovy fillets, chopped

2 TBS fresh chopped sage

2 TBS fresh chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp fresh chopped thyme

1/2 cup cre’me fraiche

2 TBS red wine vinegar


Season the livers with salt and pepper and heat 1/4 cup olive oil and 1/4 cup of butter then saute’ half the livers getting them cooked but not so cooked they turn to rubber pellets.  I put in 1/2 cup of the Marsala wine with each batch and let the livers cook as the Marsala wine was reducing.  After setting aside first batch add same amounts of butter and oil and do the second half of the livers and then set aside.

I then added the remaining 1/2 cup of butter and sautee’d the onions and garlic until clear and then I added the capers, anchovies, sage and rosemary and thyme and let it cook for about five minutes and then added the remaining 1/2 cup of Marsala wine and let all that cook down.

Next the onion/caper/herb mix as well as the livers met the food processor and those were puree’d along with the cre’me fraiche and vinegar and then also seasoned to taste with salt and pepper.

I did not serve on toast as suggested but instead on apples!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesdsay




What are You Running On?

October 31, 2012 Category :Fitness| snacks/treats| soup| Uncategorized 0

I am still coming off a runner’s high of completing a 204 mile group relay race from Garner, NC to Atlantic Beach, NC called the Tuna Run 200 that a group of 11 friends and I did two weeks ago.  I ended up running three legs of this thirty six leg relay race which was a 5.61 mile leg at about 9 am Friday, a 9.96 mile leg at about 9 pm Friday and then a 2.6 mile leg on Saturday morning around 9 am.  So that’s almost 18 miles which is a lot of pounding to take.  The question of how to fuel up for something like this is just a fascinating question for me.

The mainstream runner’s world will tell you that you need products like Gu to refuel when you are participating in endurance length runs.  And while I’m not a nutrition expert, I get nervous when I see the kinds of ingredients in Gu listed out.  They include MALTODEXTRIN (GLUCOSE POLYMERS), FILTERED WATER, FRUCTOSE, GU AMINO ACID BLEND (LEUCINE, VALINE, ISOLEUCINE, HISTIDINE), NATURAL BERRY FLAVOR, POTASSIUM AND SODIUM CITRATE, GU ANTIOXIDANT BLEND (NATURAL VITAMIN E AND VITAMIN C), CITRIC ACID, CALCIUM CARBONATE, SEA SALT, SODIUM BENZOATE, POTASSIUM SORBATE, FUMARIC ACID, MALIC ACID, GU HERBAL BLEND [CHAMOMILE< COLA NUT (HAS CAFFEINE) GINGER], PECTIN. Gluten-free. Dairy-free.  I am sure there are science-based reasons why each of these ingredients are listed, but it just feels too “laboratory” for me.   When I googled Maltodextrin, one of the mainstream sites had this to say about it.. Read here.  Even they admit it is not the healthiest thing to eat!  When you google “dangers of maltodextrin” you get this site that explains it can spike blood sugar levels and can have a negative impact on the digestive system including causing vomiting and flatulence and all kinds of other unpleasant sensations.  Somehow if you are doing these kinds of runs to “feel healthy,” then I don’t see how headaches, the runs, stomach upset and all the rest fits into that.

Because by now if you’ve read any of my blogs in the past you know I’m an oddball, I just had to try things my own way. I brought with me lots of REAL food!  I had just made some bone-broth based soup and so I just brought that with me and drank it cold straight from the jar!

I also brought with me canned sardines to get some quick protein along with hard boiled eggs and more straight plain bone broth.  I also downed lots of water and also coconut water.  When I ate the sardines, I had to stand in the corner and was “shunned” as our western tastes generally cannot stand to watch people eat such things!  I was ok with that.  I just stood in the corner and had my fuel.  And I also made some coconut date balls that Jessica Prentice wrote about in Full Moon Feast.  The great thing about these energy balls is that your body will use the coconut oil as fuel and not store it as fat so I find this is a great thing to eat about twenty minutes before vigorous exercise.

Coconut-date Energy Balls (Thanks to Jessica Prentice)

1 cup date paste or 1.5 cups pitted dates

1/2 cup coconut butter

zest of l lemon

3 TBS coconut oil

1/4 cup finely shredded dried coconut (and more for outer dusting)


In food processor, process the dates until mixed.  Then add the coconut butter and zest and pulse a few more times.  Then melt 1 TBS of coconut oil and mix in and then add the dried coconut and pulse again.  When you can form into little balls, roll them all out and then dip the balls in the remaining 2 TBS melted coconut oil and then dip into the shredded coconut mixture.  Put them in the fridge to set and then eat as desired.

I was not sure how my body would respond to my ten mile run (since I had only run 9 miles at one time prior to this event!) and because I had already run a hard 5.6 miles twelve hours earlier.  So I did bring one pouch of Gu with me in case I just felt terrible but I was really hoping I would not need to use it.  I also brought a coconut date ball and I nibbled on one of them about 4 miles into my run.  I have to say I did great with no Gu and my body handled the 18 miles of running in good form.  I actually felt great except that I did do something wonky to my foot (I may have tripped on pavement a bit on my last run and twisted my foot).  But I did not break anything and after two weeks of giving my body some time to rest I feel great.

What do you like to fuel up with on your runs or exercise?  Do you sometimes wonder if it is really even good for you to exert so much energy if you have to resort to fake food to get you through it?  I personally don’t want to get hooked on pain killers or anti-inflammatory pills just to enjoy some exercise.  If your body is telling you to stop, then STOP!!!  If you fuel it right, however, your body may surprise you and take you farther and faster than you ever thought you could go!

I want to leave you with one little gift on how to think differently about food.  Nora Gedgaudas wrote a great piece on top ten food mistakes people make.  I think she has a lot of great points.  Happy Trails!

Also published on Kelly The Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday



Beautiful Things

October 2, 2012 Category :fermentations| Goals/spiritual journey| Organ Meats| soup 0

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about a connection between some of the foods that I am most drawn to.  When I think of the foods that I have some kind of deep attachment to, that speak to me almost on a soul level… these foods are bone broth and soup, organ meats and fermented foods of all kinds including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha and all the rest.  From the moment I learned of these foods and began to make them, I just “knew” that these were special.

What these foods have in common is that they are the “left behind” foods, the ones that come from what most people would consider the throw aways or the junk.  When you look at a big blob of bones like this, be honest are you not just a bit repulsed?  What good could come of this, right?But after a nice long simmer, these bones can make this beautiful broth.

Which in turn if given some loving other vegetables, can turn into a beautiful, delicious, nutritious soup like this:

And this soup can aid in your digestive process, provide warmth and comfort and bring such joy to your life.  Sally Fallon writes about how rich chicken broth, which she says is sometimes called Jewish penicillin, was actually prescribed by a 12th century physician Moses Maimonides as a treatment for colds and asthma.

When we think about organ meats, most people cannot connect how this admittedly somewhat repulsive looking big ‘ol honkin’ beef heart…

Could possibly be the secret ingredient that turns mundane meatloaf into a powerhouse nutritional force.  At the LiveStrong web site, they mention that beef heart contains all essential amino acids, zinc, selenium and phosphorus. It has more than double the elastin and collagen than other cuts of meat and a highly concentrated source of coenzyme Q10, also known as CoQ10.

And don’t even get me started about liver…..

This is a photo of Chef Monica Corrado of Simply Being Well holding a gorgeous pork liver during her cooking class that I attended in Baltimore, Maryland this past winter where we made stock and pate’.  I admire Monica’s mission to teach others how to cook traditional diet based food and she is someone who has inspired me as well.  Monica is treating this liver with the respect it deserves because she knows that the phosphorus, iron, zinc, copper, Vitamin B2, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and B12 counts are off the charts when you look at an ounce for ounce comparison between liver and other “so called” nutrient dense foods such as apples, carrots or red meat.  For example, there are 113.3 mg of vitamin B12 in 100 grams of liver compared to 0 mg in the same amount of apples or carrots and 1.84 mg in the same amount of red meat.

And then we get to our lovely fermented foods, a place where I could percolate myself for years and years.  Some may see simply this humble radish when looking at this vegetable…

But with just a little sea salt, ginger, garlic, coriander seeds and the gift of TIME, these radishes jump into a new category of crunchy, tangy, and kicky and full of probiotics.

So while the masses are rushing for the steak and the other “popular” foods, I find myself drawn to these marginalized, less sought after foods and I see that beautiful things can be made from them.  Beautiful things that have the power to nourish, replenish, renew and bring more to the table than they were before.  I especially love this about fermented food– that you can take something ordinary like a radish or a cabbage and through cultivating beneficial bacteria during the fermentation process you can actually make them even more nutritious.

There’s a song called  Beautiful Things” by Gungor with some lines in the song that make me think about these “marginalized” foods and also “marginalized” people.  Some of the the lines like  “Could all that is lost ever be found, Could a garden come up from this ground at all?   You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.  All around, Hope is springing up from this old ground, Out of chaos life is being found in You.

Even though I doubt this has crossed Gungor’s mind in just this way, I interpret that he’s saying people can “ferment” as well and somehow grow out of their suffering to be better than they were before.  When I think about my life, some of my lowest points were times that I felt marginalized, dismissed, tossed aside like yesterday’s trash.  There’s a quote by Audrey Hepburn that I just love that says “People, even more than things, have to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone.”  And while it is even more important for people, I think it applies somewhat to food as well.  I think if you can take something that is ready for the trash, like a bag of bones, and restore them to create a bone broth that nourishes, then you have done something beautiful.  And I want to do beautiful things.  I want to make beautiful food that nourishes people.

When I think how this applies to people, I have become more aware that there were times that I, too, have marginalized others and I understand better now how hurtful that is.  I keep trying to see in both people and in things, the hidden beauty that is just waiting to come out if given the right ingredients… whether it is salt, or time, or in the case of people maybe just listening better.

So today I give you no recipe.  Just food for thought and a glimpse of why these foods speak to me not just on a body level but also on the level of the soul.  I’ve called this blog my journey in food and I have made some mention of the fact that it actually was through a very personal painful experience for me when I was marginalized by the western medical model that I came to embrace my love of real, unprocessed food.  I believe food, and specifically these kinds of “marginalized” foods have played a huge role in my recovery.  Because this fall marks the ten year anniversary for me to be on this journey, I am feeling sentimental about it and I want to do something beautiful for someone else with everything that I have learned.

And that’s how I found my way to Heifer International, a wonderful organization that provides people in need with animals that can help them both nourish themselves and develop some economic security.  I am seeking supporters as I do this 200 mile relay run in a few weeks and donate funds to Heifer.  I have set up a page on this  Heifer giving site if you want to join me in helping to bring quality food to people in need.

You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of the dust.  You make beautiful things, You make beautiful things out of us.

Also posted at Real Food Wednesday, Fight Back Friday

A Story of Soup: A labor of love

September 26, 2012 Category :soup 0

You see probably several jars of soup… no big deal.  Not unlike something you might see at a healthy food store or a farmer’s market.  You cannot see the beauty at just a glance.  It looks the same perhaps as some store bought brand.  But it is not the same.  When I look at this picture of soup, I see over 40 hours in that soup.  I see the lifting of heavy pots, the boiling of bones, the hour of waiting it took to get my large stock pot up to a boil, the sorting of bones and blobs to be left with clear broth of liquid gold, the dicing, the slicing, the saute’ing of vegetables, the ice baths made to chill the soup to the proper temperature in the proper amount of time (you have two hours to get soup from bubbling down to 70 degrees before it can go into refrigeration), the scooping and pouring, the scouring and scrubbing of pots and pans.  It took all that and more to go from start to finish here.

I suppose some would say it is not worth it.  And while we are still figuring out if we can afford to make this kind of soup for others, for us this is the way we like soup.  Sure there are shortcuts like boxed or canned stock or bouillon cubes that can be used and the stores and our world is full of those choices.  Some bones do better with longer simmers such as beef while fish does not require as long a simmer.  But in principle if you shorten the optimal simmer time,  you also shorten the amount of time for valuable vitamins and minerals to come out of the bones and into your finished product.  You don’t have to search out farmer’s markets to get the freshest and most sustainably raised produce you can find, but if you do you will be rewarded with a better final product.  On a cellular level, your body will recognize the difference.

What is the point of making something special, however, if you don’t try to make it the best way that you can?  My friend and I are not interested in making shortcut soup.  We want to make food that tastes wonderful but also IS wonderful for your body.  We want to make food that has the power to energize and sustain people in the work that they do, not weaken them.  I saw a saying recently that food is not neutral… every item has the power to heal or the power to harm.  There is no middle ground.  We want whatever we make to be something that has the power to heal.

This love story starts at mid-day when I first came in to load up our bones in a large pizza oven at our school.  We started with hotel pans and apple cider vinegar from Braggs along with filtered water and loaded up the pans and let them boil and then simmer for about 30 hours.  Here’s what it looked like as the bones were simmering.We next had to separate the bones from the broth and were pleased to see a golden yellow hue that looked like this below.As the broth cooled, the fat all rises to the top and this is tallow or beef fat that can be skimmed off and used for saute’ing vegetables or other uses calling for fat.  While saturated fat gets a bad rap in the popular press, this kind of pure tallow that comes out of the stock making process is a very stable fat that can be heated to a high temperature and is something that your body will be able to use.  People forget that fat is one of the essential macro nutrients that the body needs and your body will be able to use this for good.

We were rewarded with a stock so thick and gelatinous that we had to admire it on its own plate.  This was so concentrated that we knew it would be something special.  There is a lot of gelatin in this and this gelatin is good for your body’s digestive process and also helps your body utilize protein more efficiently so that you don’t need as much.  It is also full of vitamins and minerals.  Kind of like liquid vitamins once in the soup.

Once we had our stock made it was time to prepare our vegetables.  When you are just making a few quarts at home, this just takes a few minutes.  But we were experimenting with trying to make some larger quantities and were aiming to make about 16 quarts.  The prep for this looked like this when we had done all our chopping: 

After that we got our big pot on the stove and started to saute’ the onions and celery and leeks in some of the tallow.And then came the carrots to join the fun…

And after the carrots were ready, the cabbage wanted to come in to play

And then our boquet garni’ (bag of fresh herbs) and tomatoes jumped in too.

And then the stock could resist no longer and had to join in as well.

And along the way our dried mushrooms and then some of the parsley and celery leaves were hopping in.

And then some of the small bits of meat from the broth making process were added for extra flavor.  A little meat goes a long way when you have gelatin in your stock.

This recipe was from Jessica Prentice’s book Full Moon Feast and is a dish called Shchi (Russian Peasant Soup).  I find some irony in the fact that these peasants are eating quite well if they are eating this soup.  I dare say most meals we eat in the United States have not nearly the range of vegetables and nutrition that this soup has.  To be eaten in all its glory, this soup should be served on a bed of sauerkraut and topped with a dollop of creme’ fraiche.  I had some Monday night and I was in soup heaven.  Yes, it was a lot of work and we don’t know where it might lead.  But it is wonderful to learn more about scaling up recipes for feeding crowds at church or just a group of friends and there is great satisfaction in knowing that you have made something of inherent value and hopefully something that will be appreciated by others.  We are hoping to find people who appreciate this kind of food and recognize that slow food is good food for both body and soul.

We are still seeking like minded folks who are interested in brainstorming with us how to make the kind of food we can all be proud of.  I was in a supposed healthy grocery store last week and just happened to see the ingredients in a soup for sale….I am reading things like corn syrup solids, vegetarian broth powder, maltodextrin, vegetarian chicken flavor…. (hmm.  How can vegetarian food have chicken flavor??), autolyzed yeast extract and a lot of other scary things that I don’t think need to be in chicken and rice soup.  And this is supposed to be the good stuff… not even any cans.  I think we can do better, that we all deserve better.  We just have to decide if we value it enough to make it happen.  What do you want in your soup?

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday

Soup is Good Food

September 19, 2012 Category :dinner| lunch| soup 3

If you are wondering what to do with the last of the season’s tomatoes, you just might want to think of tomato soup.  This week soup and stock have been front and center in my mind as my friend Claire and I are in a research and development mode in the commercial kitchen at The Natural Chef Program as we learn more about making larger quantities of soup.  We made over twenty quarts of this beautiful Tomato and Dill soup this week.

You probably don’t want to make over twenty quarts of soup and I will caution you that what we have learned so far is that it takes a really, really long time to make honest to goodness good food for people.  We started earlier in the week making chicken stock from pasture raised chickens.  Then we came in another day after the stock was made and we chopped…. and chopped onions and celery and scored and peeled tomato skins.  I read something recently about how the food of the future will be easier to make because people will have concentrated food pellets with vitamins and minerals added.  I really just don’t think that is the world I want to live in.  This soup that we made took time but it has natural vitamins and minerals from the bone broth and the inherent goodness of the tomatoes and celery and onions and garlic that we chopped ourselves.  You can take shortcuts but you get what you pay for.  A soup made from boxed stock or shudder, shudder bouillon cubes is going to have chemical additives that your body will not recognize as healthy in the same way that homemade stock is.

The photo of tomatoes represents quite a bit of work in itself.  It is one thing to be at  home and peel and seed eight or twelve tomatoes and it is quite another thing to do this times eight or ten.  That’s probably why you won’t find soup made this way in most restaurants or anywhere.  People don’t want to take the time to do things the right way or simply can’t afford to because no one wants to pay the true cost of what it takes to make truly healthy food.  I believe that character is how you act when no one is looking.  Claire and I want to make soup that is the best we know how to make.  I am not saying that using puree’d tomatoes cannot be a good solution sometimes, especially if you want tomato soup when tomatoes are not in season and you have put up your excess tomatoes from the fall to use through the winter.  But the gold standard of course is to use fresh ingredients from when they are in season.

The same could be said about stock making.  I am not sure most people could tell if you used bouillon cubes or took the time to make real stock, but your body’s cells will know the difference.  Your body, if given the chance to receive it, will know that real bone broth will aid in the body’s digestive process and provide a good source of minerals like calcium, silicon, sulphur, magnesium, phosphorous and trace minerals.  There will be no MSG to wreak havoc on your cells.  The benefits of just how important bone broth is for good health are so important.  There is a great link here on Divine Health that lists many benefits of bone broth.  This site also refers to an article by Kaayla Daniel that lists eleven pages of why this bone broth is so important for our overall health and how many good things it can do for your body.  Most people are not going to remember all of the benefits but simply just remembering that it will improve your digestion and add countless valuable vitamins and minerals should be reason enough to seek out ways to get bone broth regularly.

To make this soup at home, the ingredients are simple:

Nourishing Tomato Soup

(makes about 3 quarts)

2 medium onions, peeled and coarsely chopped

3 celery stalks, coarsely chopped

3 TBS butter

8 ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped

4 cups chicken stock

sea salt and pepper to taste

fresh dill (about 1/4 cup)


Saute the onions and celery in butter until tender.  Add tomatoes and stock and bring to a boil and skim.  Simmer about 30 minutes and then pure’e the soup with a blender or hand held wand.  Add salt/pepper to taste.  Add fresh dill and if you have it, ladle in a scoop of creme fraiche as you serve in the bowl.  This recipe is adapted from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon.

I guess I want to seek out readers and good forces from the universe to see if you value soup that is made this way.  I know that when I am in a restaurant, I usually avoid soup because I fear that they have not made soup in this type of way and that there may be lots of chemical additives it it.  Is soup made this way something that you value?  Is this something that you think should only be made this way at home and that you don’t care as much how it is made when you go out?  I ask these things because I want your opinion.  As I mentioned earlier, my friend Claire and I are looking at ways to make food in the most nourishing way possible, but so far we are finding that the time it takes to do this on any scale is just so great that we are not sure anyone would be willing to pay for it.  I know that I actually would but I am just not sure if there are enough people like me out there.  If I had a really busy week and I didn’t have time to make my own stock and soup, I would be glad to pay whatever it cost for someone to make it the way I knew was best.  What about you?

We are investigating making soup on a scale of 50 – 100 quarts per week for sale but also we are looking for other options so that we can at least make a living wage in making this soup because as it turns out it takes a really, really long time to make soup this way!  Maybe we should think about offering a service where we go into people’s homes and teach them one on one how to make soup like this.  I have been influenced by so many wonderful people and one of the things I read lately from Dr. Larry Burk (who just wrote Let Magic Happen ) is that when you are not sure which road to take to ask the “universe” to guide you.  Anyone who has found their way this far into my blog, I welcome your insights.  This much I know to be true… I love making soup this way and I believe that the world needs more food like this to be made and shared by all.  But I also know that I need to find a way to make a living wage doing this and I am not sure we can make enough of the soup this way to get the scale we need to make it feasible.  I also love teaching people about making food this way and while many on this blog may already know how to do this, there are so many people that could be reached and helped by learning how to cook this way for themselves.  So I ask you sincerely for any words of encouragement or support or ideas on how to proceed.  Who do you think is the best target for soup like this?  What suggestions do you have as to how to use our talents for good?

For now we continue to investigate.  Today I start making a new batch of beef broth with about twenty pounds of beef cartilage and marrow and meaty bones.  We’ll see how much gelatinous stock we get out of that and next week we will make beautiful soup and learn some more.  Every day I want to keep learning new things.  I wish to send you the wonderful aroma of a great broth and with that well wishes to you that you soon sit down to a nourishing bowl of soup!

Also posted at Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday 


Soothing Stew

August 15, 2012 Category :dinner| Uncategorized 0

Momentum is a powerful force and it works in the food/body connection also. When things are going in a good direction, they keep going that way. When you start eating good food, it is easier to stay on that track and all kinds of good things happen. I continue to be intrigued by this notion and am always looking for new approaches to try. This week for some reason I started reading Nicholas Perricone’s Weight Loss Diet book which is really an anti-inflammatory diet. The same diet that helps you lose weight is the diet that also helps lessen wrinkles and improve your mood and add vitality again under the theory that when good things happen, they happen all over.

He is a firm promoter of the benefits of Omega 3 fatty acids and explains how Omega 3 fatty acids help us burn off extra calories before they get stored as fat. He also discusses how people eat too many Omega 6 fatty acids and how these become pro-inflammatory to your body when you have them in excess, as most Americans do. Perricone explains how omega 3 essential fatty acids can help you improve athletic performance, make muscles stronger and more efficient and build muscle — all the things that people who take steroids are looking for– but in this case the Omega 3s deliver all the goodies without any bad side effects.

Some of the the foods that Perricone really likes for anti-inflammation are cold water fish such as wild Alaskan Salmon, sardines, anchovies, North Atlantic Mackerel and trout. In the fruit category he likes apples, pears and grapefruit the most followed by berries. He’s also a fan of avocado, Acai’, olives and coconut. For spices, Cinnamon, tumeric, fenugreek, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, chili peppers, cayenne and bay leaf are top choices. For nuts, sesame seeds, flaxseeds, almonds and walnuts are among the most anti-inflammatory. He’s also a bean fan and a fan of yogurt, kefir and whole grains such as buckwheat, oats and barley. Garlic, kale, broccoli, parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme, basil and oregano are all also star students in the anti-inflammatory world.

He has a lot more in his plan about supplements and such, but from a simple food perspective, I thought it would be interesting to try to eat more of these anti-inflammatory foods for a week or two and just see what happens.

The recipe that I made this week is an adaptation on an African Groundnut Stew that Perricone adapted from Cherl Furberg, a registered dietician who wrote Stop the Clock. I didn’t have all the ingredients handy so I tweaked that recipe and made my own anti-inflammatory stew. I really enjoyed it and found that it was great to save the leftovers and have them as a lunch during the week.

Donna’s Take on Anti-Inflammatory Stew:

1 TBS coconut oil
1 red onion finely chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
3 garlic cloves finely chopped
2 TBS minced fresh peeled garlic
1 TBS curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
4 cups homemade chicken stock
3 TBS almond butter
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup chopped basil
1 cup chopped kale
1 can of sardines in olive oil drained

Heat oil in pan and add onion, pepper and saute. Then add garlic, ginger, curry powder and tumeric. Next add tomatoes, bay leaf and then cook until the tomatoes are slightly reduced. Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce to low heat and add almond butter and cook until blended. At end add kale and then when kale is bright green add the basil and cilantro and add in the cooked sardines just to warm up at the end. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.

While I am not sure this is the prettiest stew ever, I really enjoyed the complex flavor. I realize that some people might wince at putting those ugly little sardines in at the end but with all those flavors I did not even notice the sardines as they were cut up and I really liked them. If you can’t take that, you could add salmon or any fresh fish as well. And if you really can’t do that, then I guess there is always chicken but you are not getting the full anti-inflammatory package unless you man up and put some of those little squiggly fish in there. The choice is up to you and either way you are the one who lives with the consequences.

I am trying to do a better job of reaching for any of these anti-inflammatory foods as my “goto” snack and eating choices.

Drink up!

August 9, 2012 Category :beverages| Fitness| Goals/spiritual journey 0

How does a nice frothy cold one sound to you right now?  Well, it may not be the frothy cold one you have in mind, but it is frothy and cold nonetheless.  I’ve been thinking about one of my “food” friends, Kelly the Kitchen Kop and how she was saying that she got a rude slap in the face from her scale this week and she’s going on the austerity program, so to speak, in terms of limiting some of the “funner” but “expensive” foods in terms of weight control.  Because I am of her generation and have also entered the metabolism betrayal stage of life, I could feel her pain.  But of course, we can’t eliminate the “fun” fully from our life or it is no life at all, rather, we have to find ways to seek the “fun” in new ways.

For me this is a simple drink that gives me just enough pleasure that it could stop me from foraging for nuts or chocolate later in the evening or might keep me from a mid day fridge raid.  It’s a simple drink, really and there are a few variations that can be made depending on your mood for the day.  The essence of it is summed up with a simple lemon and a lime.  You could either add a medjool date or a tablespoon of maple syrup to get your sweetness fix and then you need water and ice.  Somehow with the magic of the Vitamix or another strong blender, you get a cool frothy drink that will keep you hydrated and keep you busy enough that you won’t miss some of the other treats so much.



(makes 3 cups which would be 3 eight ounce servings)

Juice of one fresh lemon (yields about 1/4 cup juice)

Juice of one fresh lime (yields slightly less than 1/4 cup juice)

1 TBS maple syrup OR 1 medjool date

Handful of ice

Three cups of filtered water

Juice the lemon and lime and even consider zesting some of the lemon or lime first if you want even more flavor.  Add the date (make sure to take out the pit) or the maple syrup and then the ice and water and just puree in the blender.  If you don’t have a strong blender, you may do better with the maple syrup or cutting up the dates into very small pieces before trying to blend.

When juicing the fruit, I learned a handy tip from one of my cooking instructors.  She showed me how to just put a fork into the lime and twist around to get all the juice out so you really don’t need a special tool to do this.  The same could be done for the lemon also but you will have to strain out the lemon seeds.

All of these amounts can be “tweaked” according to your mood.  If you are really craving something sweet, then you could add a bit more maple syrup.  A TBS of maple syrup has 12 grams of sugar so that would be 4 grams per serving for this drink if you follow the ratios I give you here.  Four grams of sugar is really not bad if you compare that to most beverage options.  The date has 16 grams of sugar in each date but does add 2 g fiber so the date option would be a bit over 5 gram/sugar per serving.  Today I also added about a half TBS of flax seed oil to my drink and I didn’t notice the taste at all.  So if you are seeking optimal health, limit the maple syrup to the minimum to give you the tolerance to take the tartness of the lemon and lime and maybe add the flax seed oil.

The benefits of adding a bit more lemon and lime into your life are many.  The benefits of eating Lemons are discussed in great detail here and benefits of limes are listed here.  They are great sources of vitamin C and bioflavenoids and are helpful for your immune system.  I’ve heard good things about starting your day with some lemon juice and warm water and it can spice up your hydration options to add a little lemon or lime to the water you drink throughout the day.

I’m not trying to tell you that drinking this is the same by any means as eating chocolate cake or having an ice cold beer.  But watching the Olympics these past several days has me thinking more about what we can learn from the Olympic spirit.  I am inspired by people who choose to be dedicated to something and give up short-term benefits for a greater goal.  And it does not have to be at the Olympics to be inspired by the greatness of people all around us.  This week I was inspired by a woman named Daphne who at 65 chooses to work out in one of the most strenuous boot camp classes offered at my gym.  She sometimes has to modify the workouts to fit her own personal situation, but she is out there sweating, giving her all, putting it all out there when a lot of other people her age have stopped trying.  And that inspires me to put more out there when I’m working out and it also inspires me to try to reach more for refreshing drinks that have the power to build me up rather than drag me down.  Some days I do better than others, but I keep on keeping on.

Cheers to you on your beverage choices and may they help  you reach your dreams!




Salad Dressing: Home-made or Go home!

August 1, 2012 Category :Eating Out| lunch 1

What is ON your salad is far more important than the salad itself.  This is a really, really big deal in terms of the “health” of your salad and ultimately the health of you.  This piece of information, however, seems to fly under the radar and is not something most people think about.  Yet this is the part that can make the difference between a salad that is going to contribute to inflammation and poor health or a salad that can refuel and energize you.

I am very disappointed in restaurants that take the easy way out and just throw a pre-packaged dressing at you instead of taking the five minutes extra to whip up a homemade salad dressing.  Take for example Newman’s Own Family Recipe Italian Dressing.  That sounds lovely, doesn’t it.  What could be wrong with Newman’s family dressing?  Well, if you look at the ingredients there are the following:  Vegetable Oil (Soybean Oil and/or Canola Oil), Water, Distilled Vinegar, Romano Cheese (Pasteurized Milk, Cheese Cultures, Salt, Enzymes), Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Contains 2% Or Less Of: Sugar, Garlic*, Spices, Anchovies, Barley Malt Extract, Citric Acid, Xanthan Gum, Hydrolyzed Soybean Protein, Molasses, Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Onion*, Tamarind, Natural Flavor, Oleoresin Paprika (For Color)  *Dried   Contains: Milk, Anchovy, Soybean

There are many problems with the above ingredients.  The website lists “good” and “bad” soy products and the hydrolyzed soy protein is in the “bad” camp.  Here’s what they say about it on their site:  Hydrolyzed Soy Protein – The extraction process of hydrolysis involves boiling in a vat of acid (e.g., sulfuric acid) and then neutralizing the solution with a caustic soda. The resultant sludge is scraped off the top and allowed to dry. In addition to soy protein it contains free-form excitotoxic amino acids (e.g., MSG) and other potentially harmful chemicals including cancer-causing chemicals in many cases. A newer method of hydrolysis involves the use of bacteria by itself or in addition to the chemical processes described above. There is a possibility that genetically-manipulated bacteria may be used.  The food industry sometimes uses large amount of hydrolyzed proteins as a “taste enhancer” because it contains significant amounts of MSG (monosodium glutamate). This is what is known in the food industry as “Clean Labels” — adding MSG to food, without having to list it as “MSG” on the label.  In almost all cases, hydrolyzed soy protein contains a significant amount of genetically-manipulated soy. The hydrolyzed protein products currently added to foods should be considered a detriment to one’s health. There are much healthier sources of soy protein and soy nutrients.  Recommended Reading: Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Neuroscientist Russell Blaylock, M.D.

In addition, the “vegetable oil” has too many Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats.  Our body does need polyunsaturated fat, but most Americans are eating too many Omega 6 polyunsaturated fats in the form of corn oil, safflower and soy oils and not enough Omega 3 polyunsaturated fats that you would get from cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel and herring.  For example, Corn oil has 59% Linoleic acid (an Omega 6 polyunsaturated fat) and 0% Alpha-linolenic acid (an Omega 3 polyunsaturated fat) compared to flaxseed oil that has only 14% linoleic acid (Omega 6) and 58% Alpha-Linolenic acid (an omega 3 polyunsaturated fat).  The Wellness Mama blog has a nice discussion on the dangers of vegetable oil that might also be worth a look.

Now if you eat that packet of Newman’s dressing, it is not that you will fall ill at that moment.  But rest assured your cells will notice and there will be small assaults to your system.  These are insidious because you don’t notice the true harm of these foods for years to come and then you wonder what happened when you have some type of inflammatory illness twenty years after consistently eating like this.  But by that time, the food marketers have taken your money and robbed you of your health but all the evidence is long forgotten.  It is the perfect crime.

But if you make your own dressing, which is really not hard to do, you can control the oils that go into your body and give yourself a better chance at long-term health.  Sally Fallon lists her basic dressing in Nourishing Traditions as 1 teaspoon of a Dijon type mustard, 2 TBS plus one tsp of raw wine vinegar, 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil and 1 TBS of expeller pressed flax oil.  The olive oil provides oleic acid, which is a very stable monounsaturated fatty acid.  The flax seed oil provides linolenic acid which is an omega 3 fatty acid.  From there you can customize to make most other dressings.  For example for a creamy dressing just take the basic dressing and a 1/4 cup of creme fraiche or for a specific herb dressing just add some herbs to the basic dressing.  You don’t have to follow the ratios to the letter– just taste and mix until you find a balance that is right for you.

I have settled into a variation of this dressing as my “everyday” dressing.  Mostly I use about 2 TBS of lemon juice, 1/2 cup of olive oil and then put in a TBS of flax seed oil.  From there I usually put in a pinch of sea salt and maybe some dijon mustard and then sometimes a teaspoon or two of raw honey.  Once you get into a routine, it is not something that you need to think about and you will wonder why you ever thought you had to buy salad dressing of any kind.

One of my favorite salad dressings is Tahini dressing which does have a few extra ingredients.  I get this recipe from Sally Fallon also and it is listed here:

Tahini Dressing

1 small onion chopped
1 stalk celery chopped
2 TBS naturally fermented soy sauce
juice of 2 lemons
1/2 cup tahini
4 TBS extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS expeller pressed flax seed oil
1/8 – 1/4 cup water as needed to get the right consistency

You can put all this in a food processor and just pulse until well blended.

Generally for most dressings I just put the ingredients in a bowl and then add the oil last and drizzle in as mixing to get the dressing to “gel” well together.  Another one of my favorite “go-to” dressings this year is my Ginger-Miso-Orange dressing that is an Omega 3 powerhouse salad dressing.

Ginger-Miso-Orange dressing:

3 TBS Miso paste (white)
2 TBS rice vinegar
4 TBS water
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
zest and juice of one orange
1 – 2 TBS flax seed oil

Mix miso paste and vinegar and water until smooth and then add rest of ingredients until blended together.

Once you get the dressing right, then your salad is going to be very healthy whether you put arugula, romaine, spinach or any other greens in the salad.  Even iceberg lettuce, which is not my favorite, will still do you some good in a salad if you are eating those healthy oils on top of it.  If you are out in a restaurant and they have no healthy dressing options, ask if you can get some olive oil and a lemon wedge and you can make a simple dressing from just those two ingredients if all else is not available.  May your salad deliver not only a tasty meal for you but also a meal that makes you stronger and ready to take on the world.  Go natural on the salad dressing or just go home and eat something else.

Also posted on Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday