Wednesday, July 29, 2009

(Client: Claire) Beefaroni?!

I just made the most amazing dish, quite by accident… I had some roasted veggies that needed to be eaten and I decided to blend them into a dip, a la Dominique’s delicious all-you-can-eat dip. Unfortunately, since I’d not roasted them with Dominique’s special herbs and spices—I just used a bottle of commercial Italian dressing (never again!)—the dip was not as tasty as I hoped. I added a little oregano and pepper, but it was still missing something. So I added some spaghetti sauce! The result was a thick, delicious mixture that would have been great as a dip… but alas, I had nothing to dip except cucumber which is not really the right flavor combo. I decided the cook some elbow macaroni that was tormenting me—“Why did you bother buying me? You have NO idea what to make with me.” Combining the dip and the macaroni created a taste that I’d missed since childhood—beefaroni! There’s no beef in it, but the texture and fiber of the veggies made it seem like the real thing. What a yummy but healthy comfort food! It’s good hot or cold; I may even take it camping this weekend because I’m sure it will keep just fine in a cooler.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

CDC Estimates Medical Cost of Obesity

The cost of treating obesity nationwide is much higher than I thought. The Centers for Disease Control released a study that says, "Overall, persons who are obese spent $1,429 (42 percent) more for medical care in 2006 than did normal weight people."
That's not "someday money", like the increased life expectancy estimates. That's cash money, tax free, that goes into the wallet starting right away. People who are overweight have enough to worry about, and I hope they don't take it as piling on. But people who are trying to change their weight, and undecided about what to do, may be helped by an economic analysis that puts some real dollar figures into their calculations.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guajillo Stew

I have a lot of Guajillo peppers growing in the garden, so it was time to clean out the last few dried ones from the kitchen cabinet. Never heard of guajillo peppers? Well, you've certainly eaten them. They're the foundation of the basic chili sauce you put on enchiladas. This is a fairly simple stew, especially good because I didn't have to go to the store. Everything in it was already in the pantry. (The zucchini was a gift from a neighbor; he overlooked it one day and found himself the next morning with a four-pound monster on his vine. He gave it to us because Zizania can cook anything.)
  • 3 dried guajillo chilis
  • 1 T oil (soybean, corn, canola, whatever)
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper -- seeded and diced
  • 1 zucchini, peeled and diced (use a medium-sized one)
  • 4 cloves garlic -- minced (I love garlic; you can use less)
  • 1 14-oz. can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 11-oz. can sweet corn, drained
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 2 t dried oregano
  • 1 ½ t ground cumin
  • 1 t salt
  • ¼ c red wine
  • water
  1. Make simple chili sauce. Cut off the stems from the chilis and discard the seeds. Put the chilis in a bowl. Boil a cup of water and pour it over them. Put a smaller bowl on top to keep the chilis under water, and leave them to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. In a large pot (I use a dutch oven), heat the oil. Sauté the onion, bell pepper, zucchini, and garlic until the onions turn yellow and the zucchini is tender. Dump the remaining ingredients in the pot, cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot.
  3. After the chilis have been soaking 20 minutes, put them in a blender and purée the heck out of them. The sauce should look like a thick liquid.
  4. Add the purée, reduce heat and cover. Let it cook until the potatoes are tender. (The time depends on how small you diced them.)

A Vegetable Classic from the '80s

"Pass me a plateful, I'll be grateful!"

Monday, July 20, 2009

(Client: Claire) Permissions

It’s occurred to me more than a couple of times that if Dominique said, “No, you may never ever eat this, this or this” I’d want to rebel like a bad kid. But Dominique doesn’t do that… she educates me about how different foods react with body chemistry, and helps me balance my diet so I’m nourished and satisfied. And when I was whining about wanting red meat, she told me to have a steak and enjoy it! Her attitude is so helpful—she helps me remember that this diet is not a punishment, but a way to treat myself to a better life every day.

(Client: Ed) A Fresh Start

I am one of Zizania's clients. I am a recently diagnosed Type 2 Diabetic. I was married to a diabetic for 18 years and I have a daughter who is diabetic, so I understand what the disease can do. My goal is to let you follow me through my coaching with Zizania. Hopefully other diabetics can find a way to treat their disease through what I share. Here are my starting statistics:

Age 46 Height 6' 0" Weight 240lbs HDL 90 (bad cholesterol, pretty low) LDL 40 (good cholesterol, also pretty low, need more exercise) Hemoglobin A1C 10.5 (measure of avg. blood sugars over the last 90 days, should be less than 6) Fasting blood sugars 200+ (should be between 80 and 110) Started on the Zizania program 7/6/2009

For those who don't know what all this means I am over weight and my blood sugars are very high. My personal recipe for bad things in the future. I watched my wife and daughter go through the all of the debilitating effects of diabetes. Loss of vision, kidney failure, loss of feeling in the hands and feed, digestive problems, heart problems, and a bunch of other less obvious issues. I know what my future holds if I don't change. This is pretty good incentive to take action.

I hope to reverse my disease, change my future, and by documenting it, help others fight theirs. Loosing some weight would be a nice bonus. In my first two weeks my facilitator, Dominique, has done an evaluation and given me some basic rules for changing my diet, as well as a list of do's and don'ts. Just these simple things have already had some effect. Changing my diet to follow her direction has caused my blood sugars to start slowly dropping. Now we will work on adding selections to my list of foods I can eat. Tomorrow will be my first cooking lesson. Can't wait. Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Taking up the Cudgels

Writing an op-ed piece in the New York Times, Amanda Hesser takes Michelle Obama to task for saying, “I don’t miss cooking. I’m just fine with other people cooking.” She has some faint praise
for the White House organic garden, but is really ticked off by the idea (out of her own head, as far as I can tell) that Ms. Obama thinks cooking isn't worth doing. Worse yet, she goes on to say, "Because terrific local ingredients aren’t much use if people are cooking less and less; cooking is to gardening what parenting is to childbirth."
I sympathize with Ms. Hesser's motivations, but she's working from total cluelessness. There are two reasons we don't go to New York City to get advice on gardening. One is that they publish ungrammatical sentence fragments. The other is that the whole island of Manhattan is a terrarium, disconnected from life and nature. Ms. Hesser was writing on May 31, the beginning of a four-month period when cooking is totally optional. The garden outside my window is going gangbusters, and not a single thing in it needs to be cooked. She should check out some raw food blogs, or talk to some of these people.
For example, this is what I've had for dinner two nights this week:
2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 bell pepper, diced
sprinkling of red wine vinegar
freshly-ground salt and pepper
Mix in a bowl. Eat on the porch, with a big glass of iced tea. (Or a small glass of chianti, if you don't have work to do after dinner.)
Total preparation time, maybe 7-8 minutes picking the vegetables, plus another 5 minutes washing and chopping. No cooking involved. No threat to the stability of the Nation.
p.s. The title of this post is taken from a piece by Robert Benchley, which is one of the funniest science articles ever written.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Blackberry Season

The blackberries are coming in fast, now. Our bush is in its second year; it's about six feet high and three feet thick and ten feet long. It produces about a quart of berries every other day. They're great for smoothies, if you can get them to stay around that long. They evaporate quickly, once I get them into the kitchen.
Of course, they evaporate pretty fast on the bushes, too. There's a catbird hanging around the garden who thinks those berries are there for her benefit. According to the Wikipedia,
Grey Catbirds are not afraid of predators and respond to them aggressively by flashing their wings and tails and by making their signature mew sounds. They are also known to even attack and peck predators that come too near their nests.
I can vouch for the loud mouths and the aggression, but she doesn't have a legal leg to stand on. We have a deal -- anything that's still on the bush when I get home from work is MINE. So she can just shut up, or she can tell it to the cat.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hey, kids! Arugula on a stick!

A chain of gas-station convenience stores in South Africa is changing their merchandise so at least 30% of their space is dedicated to food that's good for you.
Open 24/7, Freshstop stores will offer consumers and commuters seasonal, locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, as well a variety of pre-made salads, smoothies and dairy products.
I've been on a lot of road trips where I really wished I could get some good, fresh food, so I'm 100% behind this idea. I don't get how to make a salad that you can eat while you drive, but that's why they're the innovation leaders, not me.

Friday, July 10, 2009

(Client: Claire) Be careful… it’s catching.

I never doubted the support of people who love me, though I never really expected that they’d eat what I eat without feeling deprived. After all, it’s not their diet, it’s mine. But the food is so good that people want to try it—and they may want a little sample of the resulting energy and weight loss too. A couple of weeks ago, a friend was sweet enough to bring vegetarian sushi to a picnic. A week later, another friend who had sampled it was craving it, so she went on a mission to find it and bring it to another picnic! My mother and sister really liked the tri-color pasta that I whipped up, and it became a fantastic cold pasta salad that we enjoyed for a few days. Of course, I love this. I’m not “poor baby who can’t eat whatever she wants” or someone who limits a group’s menu because of her needs, I’m someone who is making different choices for myself—and it would be great if people I meet along the way decide to make healthier choices too!

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Ok, I know I shouldn't be, but I'm laughing so hard I can't type straight. BeanDiet: it's so true
(In the interest of providing a responsible opposing viewpoint, I had a friend who got a job in Germany, and gained 25 pounds in the first year he was there. His apartment was just above a pastry shop...)

(Client: Claire) I found the H Mart!

7/8… I may have to learn several Asian languages to reap all the benefits that this great store has to offer. But for now, I stuck with the reason that Dominique recommended it: the fresh, varied and inexpensive selection of fruits and vegetables. It was amazing! I got everything I needed to make parsley potatoes, kale/apple salad, romaine/pear salad, marinated mushrooms, grilled veggies, Dominique’s amazing roasted veggie dip, salsa, and wilted spinach. Plus I picked up some mung bean noodles to pair with peanut butter/ginger sauce when I need a treat. So tasty!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

(Client: Claire) Home Repair and Self Repair

This past weekend I put in two 10-hour days working on my house, including shopping and heavy lifting at Home Depot and Ikea—and even went to a concert Friday and a party Saturday where I danced like I didn’t have a care in the world! It’s amazing to think that just a month ago, my body wouldn’t respond to such demands. Back then I needed naps in the daytime and if I’d done something really strenuous, a late night out would be impossible. But my energy level keeps rising, and the day-after effects of demanding physical tasks keep shrinking. If my blog entries slow down a little bit, rest assured it’s because I’m out living (and loving) my new life.

Dietitians say eating vegetables is OK

The American Dietetic Association has changed its position. It now says vegetarian diets are healthy. Nice to have you on board, guys! Among other findings, “There are many reasons for the rising interest in vegetarian diets. The number of vegetarians in the United States is expected to increase over the next decade.”
Well, if vegetarians are healthier and live longer, that'll take care of itself, won't it?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Do these guys read

Gourmet Retailer magazine has an article based on the recent report from the Trust for America's Health, which says we're all getting more obese. But wait -- these guys are a trade publication for the gourmet industry. What'll they do if people stop eating so much?
Not to worry. They quote Elizabeth Pivonka of the Produce for Better Health Foundation, who says,
If you can only make one diet change right now, your best option is to add just one extra serving of fruit or vegetables each day. You'll find you won't need to eat as much of other foods when you do.
Right on, Ms. Pivonka!

(Client: Claire) Mmmmmexican.

I love Mexican food, but I thought I might I’d never eat it again. After all, what is Mexican Food without grilled meats, heaps of cheese and a dollop of sour cream? In a word: tasty. Last night I had corn tortillas with Amy’s vegetarian refried beans, tomatoes, scallions, romaine, and Trader Joe’s amazing Three Pepper Salsa. Yummy! What I thought would be the most difficult part of this process, “giving up” my favorite foods, has become my favorite part of the process: “remaking” my favorite foods. It’s a double treat to eat things you love and know that you’re eating for your health.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Zizania at Vespucci's

Zizania is pleased to announce that Vespucci Restaurant in Fairfax is instituting a Zizania menu. All plant-based items, designed to complement Vespucci's fine Italian cuisine. We'll even have some gluten-free items. To kick things off, we'd like to see you at our inaugural brunch. The date is Sunday, August 2, 2009, from 11 AM to 2 PM, at Vespucci Restaurant, 10579 Fairfax Blvd. Fairfax, Virginia 22030
(703) 272-8113

For the Fourth of July

From Benjamin Franklin's "Letter to a Royal Academy":
I have perused your late mathematical Prize Question, proposed in lieu of one in Natural Philosophy, for the ensuing year, viz. "Une figure quelconque donnee, on demande d’y inscrire le plus grand nombre de fois possible une autre figure plus-petite quelconque, qui est aussi donnee". I was glad to find by these following Words, "l’Academie a jugee que cette deecouverte, en eetendant les bornes de nos connoissances, ne seroit pas sans UTILITE", that you esteem Utility an essential Point in your Enquiries, which has not always been the case with all Academies; and I conclude therefore that you have given this Question instead of a philosophical, or as the Learned express it, a physical one, because you could not at the time think of a physical one that promis’d greater Utility.
Permit me then humbly to propose one of that sort for your consideration, and through you, if you approve it, for the serious Enquiry of learned Physicians, Chemists, &c. of this enlightened Age. It is universally well known, That in digesting our common Food, there is created or produced in the Bowels of human Creatures, a great Quantity of Wind.
That the permitting this Air to escape and mix with the Atmosphere, is usually offensive to the Company, from the fetid Smell that accompanies it.
That all well-bred People therefore, to avoid giving such Offence, forcibly restrain the Efforts of Nature to discharge that Wind.
That so retain’d contrary to Nature, it not only gives frequently great present Pain, but occasions future Diseases, such as habitual Cholics, Ruptures, Tympanies, &c. often destructive of the Constitution, & sometimes of Life itself.
Were it not for the odiously offensive Smell accompanying such Escapes, polite People would probably be under no more Restraint in discharging such Wind in Company, than they are in spitting, or in blowing their Noses.
My Prize Question therefore should be, To discover some Drug wholesome & not disagreable, to be mix’d with our common Food, or Sauces, that shall render the natural Discharges of Wind from our Bodies, not only inoffensive, but agreable as Perfumes.
That this is not a chimerical Project, and altogether impossible, may appear from these Considerations. That we already have some Knowledge of Means capable of Varying that Smell. He that dines on stale Flesh, especially with much Addition of Onions, shall be able to afford a Stink that no Company can tolerate; while he that has lived for some Time on Vegetables only, shall have that Breath so pure as to be insensible to the most delicate Noses; and if he can manage so as to avoid the Report, he may any where give Vent to his Griefs, unnoticed...

Organics and the Government

The Washington Post published an article yesterday about the "USDA Organic" certification. The Inspector General is looking into the fact that it doesn't mean anything. (For instance, you can make organic beer from non-organic hops.) Really, you can't trust that certification. Some good products have it, but they also have another more reliable certification as well. "100% Organic" is a better certification, but it's also under the control of government bureaucrats, and susceptible to lobbying. Non-governmental organizations frequently do a better job.
This is a well-known problem. Michael Pollan blew the lid off it in The Omnivore's Dilemma, and in magazine articles. The word "organic" is a powerful sales tool. The USDA's job is to promote agriculture, so they have no interest in excluding anything from their certification. Products certified "organic" can cost twice as much as their regular equivalents, which brings us to the real issue here: price.
It's true that organic food costs more to produce, so it's perfectly fair for the store to charge more, right? Not so fast. According to the Undercover Economist, the farmer sees very little of the price you pay. You can ask farmers, too. They'll tell you, for as long as you care to listen, that the brokers and shippers make all the money. If they were able to get 10% or 25% more for their crop, that should only change your price at the store by a couple of pennies. But look around at the supermarket. Compare the prices of organic and non-organic foods. It's not easy -- the experts who design stores never put them next to each other. Organic foods are frequently on their own aisle. Why? Because they don't want you to see that they're using the "organic" label to jack up prices by 30-100%. Not everybody does this, of course, and not on all products, but caveat emptor.

Friday, July 3, 2009

(Client: Claire) Still going strong.

Loyal readers of this blog must have wondered what happened… did she fall off the wagon? Did she return to her poor eating habits? NO! (Thank goodness.) I had a family situation that involved stress, long hours, lots of driving and living at someone else’s house. There was plenty of not-so-good-for-you food in the house, but I brought two big shopping bags of groceries and a cooler with lots of stuff from my fridge. I successfully got through my first order since the diet change at a burrito joint, prepared food for others that I would not eat myself, and even enjoyed a bowl of berries with agave while I watched other people eat ice cream. At each fork in the road, I was strengthened by my good choices—and I was rewarded! I’ve lost 25 pounds overall and my sugar has dropped 20 points. I decided to ‘shop’ in a bag of clothes that being sent to charity because they were too small, and found that half fit me—and the other half will fit in a couple of weeks.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

The End of the Lettuce

This is the time of year when I turn locavoracious. I spend a lot of time in the garden, so I've decided to post a bit about it when something of note happens.
Zizania's motto is "Delicious, healthy, ethical eating", and a garden fits all four words. Delicious, because things you grew yourself taste better than things you buy. It could be because of a biochemical harmony among the minerals in the ground nearby, the flavor of the vegetables, and the smells all around you in the air. Or it could be because of all the work you put in. Doesn't matter. Healthy, because nothing is added that you didn't add. And you get a lot of exercise digging, weeding, mulching, and harvesting. Ethical, because you have 100% control over what goes on in the garden. Nobody's exploited. Nobody's eating something they don't know about.
I pulled up the lettuce plants from the garden today. All spring, it was wonderful stuff. Tender, green leaves that tasted perfect with any kind of salad dressingI cared to put on them. But on the first full moon after the summer solstice, they turn into huge beasts, shoulder-high and leather-tough. It's a kind of botanical lycanthropy. So they had to go.
This year, my lettuce was a commercial mesclun mix. The green leaf lettuce and red leaf lettuce were great for sandwiches, the romaine was nice and sweet, the arugula was crisp and spicy, and the mustard greens were good as always (can't kill mustard greens). There was also lots of a bizarre maroon-and-blue triffid that tasted so bitter it should only be eaten at dinner with your ex. Most of that went straight to the compost pile.
So the lettuce was successful, and true to the Virginia climate, it's all gone, just as the cucumbers and tomatoes are starting to plump up. Never knew a "local tossed salad" was such a contradiction in terms.