Sunday, April 18, 2010

Diet and Body

I know that I have talked in length about my love for beans but I must also share my love for the Bean cousin, The Lentil.  My life has been very hectic recently, I have been feeling stressed and my energy levels have been a roller coaster of inconsistency.  While I am in a very happy place and feel as though I am finally putting most of my energy where I want it to be (FOOD!)  I often remind myself that my diet is one of most important places to take control of how my body may be reacting to the stress I put it under.   
In that I am a big advocate for Self Medicating Diets.  At the very least I believe that people should look toward their diets when they are dealing with mild discomfort and/or specific illness.  I am not saying to avoid doctors or to not take symptoms seriously, I am only suggesting that our diets are a key place in determining how we feel.  For instance, when I am feeling low and in need of energy I look to complex Carbohydrates like Oatmeal in the morning and other whole grains. And when my stomach aches I am often soothed by a mug or three of mint tea.  The more I get to know food the more I am impressed and not surprised by how powerful my diet is to my general condition.  My constant ache of food knowledge has recently led me to finding and reading Super Food Pocketbook by Michael Van Straten.  For any curious readers out there--I found this book to be an interesting and informative reference on many common foods.  Van Straten explores 100 foods alphabetically examining their nutritional properties and highlighting health benefits and medicinal uses.  Van Straten Also goes through Vitamins and Minerals explaining how the body absorbs them, why they are important and what foods contain them.  As a Foodie with a strong curiosity for Nutrition I would definitely recommend this little handbook. 

I am interested in sparking your curiosity and would like to challenge you to being more mindful of what you are eating, what your conditions are (stress? no stress?) and how you feel.  See if you are able to find more peace by being more aware of these things.

And in that vain I will share with you one of my favorite recipes.  Sran Style Dhal ripped right from the pages of my roommate Venice's Mother's handwritten cookbook. 

Sran Style Dhal
Serves 4 
- 1 cup red lentils (if you can find yellow lentils mix half and half)
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 tbspn cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1tsp salt
- 1-2 inches of ginger (I find that less is more)
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 tsp Graham Marsala
- 1 tsp coriander 
- 4 cups of water

1. In a frying pan: heat up a couple tbspn of oil, once heated well turn the heat down to low and fry the cumin seeds for about a minute.  Then add the onions and allow to cook for a minute or two.  Then add the garlic and allow to cook for another minute or two.  Finally add the ginger and allow all things to be cooked through until the onion is nice and limp. Turn off heat!
2. In a sauce pan add the lentils and the water (Ratio is 1:4::lentils:water) bring to boil and add turmeric, coriander, and salt ( Hold off on adding the Graham Marsala until the end).
3. bring down to simmer and add the Tharka Mixture (which is the onions/garlic/cumin seeds/ ginger)
4. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, you want to avoid soggy lentils! however if they do get soggy they still taste good and you will get better next time
5. At last add the cut up tomato and the Graham Marsala and allow to heat through.
6. Turn off heat and enjoy!

I find Lentils to be a great food when I am feeling stressed.  Dhal especially is energizing, filling and comforting.  

Beans Beans the Musical Fruit

I love beans!

I love beans because they taste good, have an excellent texture and are versatile.  I have learned to love beans also because they are rich in Protein, Fiber, Essential minerals, B vitamins and Folic acid.  And I love beans because they are low in fat and good for cholesterol ( which happens to be a big issue in my family!). 

Due to my exxesive love of beans I often begin with beans when planning my meals.  This week I bought a bag of dried organic black beans and thought Hmmmmmmmmm wherever will these little tiny flavor pockets take me this week? True to form (and inspired by my very good friend Lilian Galante) They took me to Mexico. 

Last Year I ventured down to Mexico to celebrate in the wedding of my friend Lilian and her lovely partner Pape.  While I was down there I joined 50 of my new Mexican best friends and enjoyed three breathtaking days on the Pacific Ocean.  As usual, I was very excited about the food we were eating.  For the first time in my life I didn't feel a hint of guilt snacking on the Avocados that only ventured a small distance to the beach property we were camping on.  Lilian and Pape hired some lovely local women from the nearest village (a 20 minute walk away) so come and cook the meals for us.  These meals were very much centered on BEANS (i was thrilled!).  So long story short here is a meal that was inspired by this journey and by beans...i suppose you can call it a partnership between Mexico and Beans.  Yes..

My main Dish was Moosh's Mexican Beans and Rice...Vegan style

Black Beans
1. Soak 3 cups of black beans for 2-4 hours
2. Drain and rinse beans taking out anything out of the ordinary (rocks? weird looking bean?)
3. Put in a pot with 6-8 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Once you have reached boil bring the heat down to simmer.
4. Allow to simmer for 1 hr or until don't want the beans to get too mushy so keep an eye around the 60 minute mark and take a few test bites!

1. Sautee Onion and garlic for several minutes.
2. Add Rice and coat with the mixture, when heated through add the needed amount of water for your rice variety
3. Follow the directions on your rice package as far as proportions of water to rice and to timing ( I used Brown rice which took about 45 minutes and was 1:2::rice:water
4. While bringing rice to a boil add 1-tbsp of chili powder (depending on how spicy it is and how spicy you like it), 2 tsp of salt, 1 tblsp of Paprika, 1 tbspn of cumin, 1-2 tblspn of cayenne pepper.  Allow the rice to cook regularly with these spices added.
5. Once the rice is cooked add those beans! along with another batch of spices (this varies depending on how spicy you like your food...for me I didn't add too much more cayenne pepper, but I did add several teaspoons each of coriander, paprika, salt and chili powder).
6. Add chopped coriander along with half a can of whole tomatoes. 
7. Turn up the heat and bring to a small boil so that all of these tasty things can mix together.
8. Turn heat off and mix well.

When cooking for myself this dish would be plenty for a meal but I was lucky enough to have three hungry guests over so we added several other things to our menu.


- 3 tomatoes
- 1 red pepper
- 1 green chili (for mild spice...add more for spicier foods!)
- 1 onion
- 1/2 lime
- 4-8 tbspn of fresh cilantro
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- salt and pepper to taste

1. Chop everything and Put it in a bowl!
2. Mix it together
3. Eat it!

The thing about that it shouldn't be an intimidating thing to make.  You really only need several basic ingredients, some way to flavor it (either with fresh cilantro and chilis or with dried spices..whatever you have available)  Tracy is pictured on the Right Showing us the most important to Eat the Salsa!

Our last component of our Mexican Inspired Fiesta was some crumbled up tofu sauteed with mushrooms onions and garlic (oh my!)

BBQ Tofu Crumble 
- 3 cups of mushrooms
- 1 Block of Tofu (nice and locally produces from Essence of Life Organics!)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 onion
- 2 tsp Paprika
- 1 tblspn Cumin seeds
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 tsp cayenne
1. Saute Onions and garlic for 2 minutes.
2. Add Chopped mushrooms and cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Crumble in tofu so that it is a "ground beef like consistency"
4. Season and allow all things to cook through.  The tofu will be done when it has shrunk has dried out a bit.

We made little fajitas with Corn Tortillas like the ones I encountered while eating in Mexico.  Added some chopped avocado, cheese and lemon to turn into one heck of a filling meal. 


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Urban Agriculture: Breaking Ground!

As you can see above I have been engaging in a little Urban farming here and there.  As a follow up to my last post I wanted to share some pictures showing how a boring old back yard can be transformed into part of an urban patchwork farm.