Breakfast of Champions

I’m always searching for a recipe for something “bad” that isn’t bad for you. I avoid high-carb starchy breakfasts, but occasionally crave the filling goodness of whole grains with a bit of sweetness. I found this perfect blend in a recipe for rye pancakes with fruit syrup. I substituted almond milk for the buttermilk–fantastic!

Pancakes:

1 c. rye flour

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1 Tbs. baking powder

pinch salt

2 eggs

1 Tbs. olive oil

1 1/2 c. almond milk

Mix dry ingredients and wet ingredients separately, then blend together. Cook on preheated griddle until brown.

Syrup:

2 c. mixed fruit

2 Tbs. lemon juice

1/2 c. honey

Simmer ingredients in saucepan until thickened, about 10 minutes.

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Spring Time and the Farmers Markets

     I’ve been waiting for this moment like a child anticipating Christmas morning: the opening of the new season at the farmers markets. And with this eager anticipation, I’ve set a personal goal. This year I intend to purchase only local, seasonal produce (except for those near-and-dear necessities for me, such as grapefruit and avocados).      With the opening of the markets this month, I’m looking forward to returning to some of my favorite markets (Rosedale, Shawnee, BadSeed, Merriam), as well as trying new ones each week (Brookside, Westport, City Market, Lawrence and Overland Park). It’s always fun meeting different farmers and sampling their produce—and determining who, for me, has the best of each item.

     The healthiest indigenous peoples create their diets around local, seasonal foods, versus the processed, factory foods Americans consume. Rather than taking an otherwise healthy cuisine, like Asian, Italian or Mexican, and Americanizing it, I plan to create my own local, organic feast.

     A great book I recommend on eating locally is The Jungle Effect: A Doctor Discovers the Healthiest   Diets from Around the World—Why They Work and How to Bring Them Home by Daphne Miller.

     Happy Spring to all—and I’ll see you at the markets!

Winter–The Fresh Food Blues

It has been a rough winter. As I write this, we are experiencing one of the worst snow storms in years. The weather alone isn’t the cause of my distress; rather, the lack of fresh, organic, local produce has caused my dilemma.

     Winter is such a time of scarcity, especially when it comes to fresh produce. I dream of the heirloom tomatoes of last summer. The produce I put up in the fall are gone. I still get sweet potatoes, squash, red kale and a few other items from my year-round CSA, but other than that, all I have are my sprouts to sustain me.

     Through the winter months, with little fresh produce on hand, and much chill in the air, I crave hearty, rich foods, instead. Soups and homemade bread are my mainstay during the winter months. And these “comfort” foods do bring comfort. So until the frost breaks and new growth begins, I’ll savor the savory flavors of winter—and dream of the coming bounty.

Community Supported Agriculture

     This is my first year participating in a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). By buying a “share” of a local farmer’s produce, each week I receive fresh-picked, organic items as they come in season.

     It’s been one of the highlights of my summer. Grocery store produce simply can’t compare to local, organic produce. I never realized how darn fresh food really can taste—and it’s so much fun to see what’s available each week. I was sad when the strawberries were finished, but thrilled that potatoes had come in.

     The greatest fun for me, though, has been trying new foods. These are items I wouldn’t normally purchase, simply because I didn’t know about them. But now I do… Kale, leeks, fennel and so many more items are now part of my cooking repertoire. Jane Van Benthuson offers a great article on the glory of kale this month, so if you’re unfamiliar with this exciting green, she’ll help you give it a try.

     Some of my favorites so far this season include the strawberries, spinach, heirloom cherry tomatoes, chinese cabbage, kale, corn, celery…  Part of the fun has been creating new recipes using whatever is in season. While the tomatoes were abundant I made a tomato-artichoke soup that is probably the best I’ve ever tasted. The recipe is included in this issue.

     And the potatoes! There is nothing on this earth that compares with a home-grown potato. Since potatoes are on top of the must-eat-organic list, it’s even more of a treat.

     With the end of the growing season approaching, I wondered what I would do in the coming winter months for fresh produce. Luckily, I found there are year-round CSAs available through farmers such as Little Muddy Farm. Thank goodness!

Eating Out

It used to be when I would make a really tasty meal, I’d always say, “Mmm. This is good enough to serve in a restaurant.” Or my mom’s famous quote, “Do you know what this would cost in a restaurant?” But since changing my eating habits and incorporating real foods into my diet, I’ve lost my taste for restaurant food–at least most restaurants.

First off, once you start learning what is in the foods served in restaurants, it kills the desire for more. Two great movies to really ruin you on chain restaurant foods are Food Nation and Food, Inc.

Then, when you start cooking delicious REAL food at home, your taste buds are forever changed. For instance, I ate recently at an iconic KC restaurant with my mom. Although I’m currently limiting myself on grains, I figured just about any restaurant serves a plain old grilled chicken salad. I knew going into it that the meats would not be grass-fed, nor the veggies local or organic, but I thought a salad would offer the least of all evils. It was horrible: brown, dry lettuce, chicken that was obviously injected with some sort of “flavor enhancer” and served with a greasy grilled fried piece of bread–think Texas Toast.

I really was surprised that my taste buds, expectations and nourishment needs had changed so quickly. Simply put, it was a horrible “salad”.

So today I decided to have my first pasta dish in nearly a month. As I said, I’ve been limiting my grains, but was ready to incorporate some back in. I made a falling-on-the-floor-moaning treat that is better than anything served in most restaurants. While it seems labor-intensive making the pasta from scratch, the entire recipe (with extras to freeze), took me less than an hour. Here’s the recipe for the lemon whole wheat ravioli with chicken, spinach and artichoke filling, served with a basic tomato sauce. YUM!

First I started the chicken boiling while I prepared the filling:

In a food processor, pulse artichokes, garlic, onion, salt, pepp

er, splash of olive oil, spinach, basil, parmesan cheese and a small tomato. Set aside

I started the simple sauce simmering that included fresh tomatoes, basil, garlic and a little olive oil.

After the chicken is cooked, chop and add to the filling.

Then I started on the dough:

2.5 cups whole wheat flour (or 1/2 and 1/2)

3 eggs

squeeze of lemon juice

Make a bowl in the flour mixture and add the eggs and lemon. Incorporate into the flour and add water as needed to form a dough. Knead until smooth. Let rest for 10-15 minutes. Roll dough into long strips, cut into squares, place a tablespoon of filling in each and crimp with another square of dough. Boil about 4 minutes.

Top the ravioli with the sauce and some grated parmesan.

To Fast, or Not to Fast…

To really solidify my new eating lifestyle I’m choosing to do a two-day fast. When first suggested, I thought, Are you nuts? I’ve never missed a meal in my life–let alone two days’ worth of food. Impossible. Still, I’m willing to give it a try. I’ve seen the benefits in others, for sure.

Many of my friends are raw foodies who frequently fast. It’s common to hear, “I’m on a seven-day fast”. An astounding example is my dear friend, the amazing Dr. Kat Bowie. One day she invited me to lunch with her and her business partner. When I got there, she announced, “I’m on a 30-day juice fast.” Are you kidding me? The thought of going out to lunch with two meat-eating hungry people astounded me. I know I couldn’t do it. The smell alone would have driven me rabid for food. But, as Kat is also a raw foods person, the smell of the meat was probably enough to keep her from getting hungry. Still, I am awed by her determination.

So here I am whining about a two-day fast. I’m mentally preparing myself by reading about others’ experiences. The Lean Saloon offers some great suggestions.

And from my experience eating well the past 10 days, I think I can do it. I’m still amazed at such quick results: I’ve lost five pounds; my skin is smooth and clear; and I have more energy than I know what to do with.

And for the most part, since day two, the cravings are gone–except for when a random thought pops in my head. For example, my daughter, Tara, and I went to the farmer’s market on Sunday (I admit I’m shopping several times a week to keep enough fresh, organic fruits and vegetables in the house). Afterwards, I was telling her about a local hamburger joint that has roller skating on Sundays. I said, “Let’s go!” And instantly, I mean instantly, the image of a juicy, greasy burger with fries popped into my head. I could smell it. So I told her it would be best not to go just yet. But other than that intense moment, the cravings are gone. As I don’t yet have the willpower of Kat, for me, out of sight–out of mind, is still the best option.

So, tomorrow I fast. We’ll see how it goes–I’ll keep you posted!

Cravings and Emotional Eating

It’s amazing what a little awareness can do. As a consequence of paying attention to what I eat and why, I feel empowered. I never fully realized the impact emotional eating has on my choices.

For example, on day two I had a ferocious craving. Not just for something sweet, or fatty, or baked, but for a specific item. And I couldn’t let it go. For hours I was consumed. I wanted Mrs. Baird’s little bitty cinnamon donuts and a glass of milk. And nothing else would satisfy me. Although I felt this passion for a milk, sugar, fat, flour combo for a few hours, it was by paying attention that I found relief.

As the compulsion grew, I thought well maybe I’m hungry? I’ll eat some fruit. But I didn’t want fruit. I really didn’t want anything, because I wasn’t actually hungry. If I had eaten the sugary mess I would have felt an instant of comfort, but it would be short-lived–because I wasn’t really hungry. How many times do we eat out of habit or craving when our body is not truly hungry? I know I’ve done it all my life.

Food has always been a reward, a friend, a way to show love. I am a compulsive cooker and love nothing more than to feed other people. But what I want to feed them are comfort foods: mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade sourdough bread… Not once have I thought, oh, the kids are coming over for dinner. I’ll make them a smoothie! In my mind, previously, healthy foods weren’t nourishing, comforting and ways to show affection. However, I do have to note that we can be conditioned because my grandkids LOVE my smoothies.

Still, it was a powerful moment when I realized that I wanted the donuts not because I was hungry, but probably because my body was going through withdrawal from all those substances–sugar, white flour, fat, dairy. It makes sense. So from this awareness I convinced myself that it would get better. Because I do know the feeling of craving a fresh piece of watermelon, or a grilled veggie kabob. I’ve felt that, as well, and know that once I get past the sugar cravings I will crave natural, wholesome, foods, as well.

I’ve also found that when I want something comforting, a savory dish will feed the craving. Last night I made turkey meatballs simmered in fresh tomatoes, onions and green peppers, plus herbs from my garden, and served it with broccoli. Eating the rich, savory (but low-fat) sauce, was completely satisfying.

Yesterday I didn’t have a single craving. And this morning, a friend told me she had a chocolate croissant recently. Instead of thinking, yum, I thought that sounds disgusting! So, maybe there is hope for me yet.

I’d love to hear your suggestions for differentiating hunger from craving and emotional eating. Thank you to all who have posted comments on my Facebook page. If we’re not friends already, please join me. I’m eager to hear from you!