Category Archives: nutrition

Feeding myself on grass fed

I have tasted the bounty that is farm fresh eggs, and I can never go back to the grocery store. We are Blessed here in Vienna, VA to have a new small business that focuses on delivering grass fed dairy, meat, and eggs. I learned that grass fed bison has much less fat  than other meats, about 2.4 grams per 3 oz. serving, rivaling the leanless of skinless chicken. It is only 120 to 140 calories per three ounce serving. It also has additional Omega 3s. From, “Meat from grass-fed animals has two to four times more omega-3 fatty acids than meat from grain- fed animals.”

We have eaten about 3-4 ounces of grass-fed bison once a week for the last few weeks. Let me tell you, my body notices the difference digesting grass fed eggs and meat right away. When i digest it, I feel this release of energy, instead of the lagging, lower energy, draining feeling I normally get when digesting after I’ve eaten out or some such.  Is it the life energy…the process of photosynthesis, that is digested, processed and released in my body? a on-going sun-giving cycle. even that small change in energy, in my gut, is noticeable.

Grass-fed eggs and meat have a strong connection to my spiritual values, the ones Michael Pollan writes about when he says, Eat food. Mostly plants. If I am meant to eat animal products, maybe I should eat the animals who got to live as Nature intended. This is the gospel of Polyface Farms. Joel Sallatin, one of the family owners, says it is cheaper for him to raise his pigs, cows, and chickens on grass. He does not have costs for grain feed OR all the other maintenance costs it takes to raise animals in feed lots as sanctioned by the USDA. The movie, “Food, Inc.” got at least one thing right. It showed how the food industrial complex is so convinced of the efficiency of its industrialized process that when animals get sick or when the methods produce salmonella and eColi infestations, it doesn’t ask itself about the basic methodology. It just tries to engineer a fix within the existing process. LIMITED THINKING. A very post-World War II approach to our food supply that….well, suffice it to say that I don’t think it has been good for us Americans at all, particularly in terms of the ability to produce cheap hamburgers and soda and keep us so obese.

So, does it cost more than grain-fed meat? It definitely cost more than buying meat produced from our industrialized processes. Chicken I buy at whole foods is much more expensive than what I can get from Perdue at Giant. But is it less from locally farm grown and supplied grass-fed meat? I don’t know yet. I bought sirloin cut bison for $19 a pound. I bought probably six ounces, totally to about $10. I will update this post with two more pieces of data. One, trying to compare ground bison and various cuts with their like counterparts from say, a Giant and Wholefoods. Second, I want to provide a map of where grass fed products are sold for retail in the Northern VA area.

This is a real example of so many principles on this blog. One, where should we put our money? Into our bodies, so that they may keep us. Money is an exchange of time in this American society where everyone has to run around, be productive and live in independent nuclear family units that becomes so stressful that it becomes a challenge to truly feed ourselves. Instead, we become victim to take-out, processed foods from the grocery store, and fast-food. Its difficult, but I advocate taking TIME to buy right, cut and chop, either assemble or cook, and finally FEED yourself and your family. Don’t eat, FEED. let the light of the sun which fills the green blades of grass, reach your body.


well i’ll be cabbaged …and a holiday nog tip

hello everyone. i am gratified to share that we are starting to get some decent viewership on this blog! hopefully we’ll find our way together to getting more of your input and foster some dialogue. but so far, i am definitely feeling a measure of contentment knowing that the three ‘tines’ of taste, health, and low-cost are resonating out in webland. Thank you!!

this is fundamentally a blog about self care. so i must come clean. my last two to three weeks of workload definitely pulled me under. literally it felt like mounds of work came in on some huge tidal wave and landed at the mouth of my office door. well, its been handled. deadlines, quality met…in the process i did the work of 3 people. I leaned on my husband alot who was so cool about figuring out how to feed me and took on nearly every personal and household chore that needed immediate attention. even making my side dish to donate for a work event. (Green beans with coconut and mustard seed. Thank you American Masala!) am i glad that’s over. but also i gave in. we ate some frozen meals…like pizza from whole foods…we ate out more than I would have liked. so, in general, it was a challenge being present. it really was. and i am sad about that.

the weight thing is steady. I have gained about a pound at most since Thanksgiving. That includes about 3 holiday parties we have been to so far. i was present at this fabulous party last night. friends with great senses of humor to the rescue.

so here i am in a weekend where i am restoring spirit. I started the day with some meditation and will go back to it after this post. My wonderful mother in law also lifted my spirits bringing me back to my big picture…Thanks mom! I don’t know what I accomplished the last 3 weeks, it feels perhaps that the sacrifice was a little too much (again). but she reminded of feeling some accomplishment along the way. I did alot!

so today, my husband and I talked about the week’s meal planning (no we don’t usually do this but it went great!)..identifying proteins, vegetables, lunches, fruits, etc. he did the grocery shopping without me!!

in terms of cooking, i am picking up the thread from the last post in that I had a half-head of red cabbage left over from last weekend. I grabbed for it which meant i really relished our experience with the indian crepes. This time though, my inspiration was mixing cabbage wth walnuts which my husband brought home because our stock was getting low. My cookbooks did not inspire and I turned to the web.

Well, its cabbage cabbage everywhere on the web it appears. First, one of my kindred spirits in healthy eating, Margaret Rose Shulman has several cabbage recipes out in December. The one that caught my eye is the one discussing its nutritional contents. Apparently, cabbage is “an excellent source of vitamins K and C, and a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate, manganese and Omega 3 fatty acids.” Another wordpress food blog writer, Jaya, also wrote about these nutrients. She also adds that these nutrients are especially good for women. As a side it seems that Ms. Shulman is also writing about how inexpensive cabbage is as a vegetable…seems like they are starting to finally combine discussions on health and dollars. Will need to investigate this further…Overall, I am definitely curious about more experiments with red cabbage because it seems really versatile in terms of texture and taste…sweet, tart, crunchy, nutty, etc!

The link to the Shulman column is here and it contains a recipe for cabbage and lentil which is essentially a twist of what we ended up eating tonight. See previous post on lentils for their cost per serving. Cabbage just by itself is about twenty cents a serving.

I did want to point you to Jaya’s blog entry on cabbage as well. Her recipe leaves the cabbage crunchy yet baked which is an awesome way to eat it. She also combines it with nuts (savory) and sweetness/tartness (by using cranberries or raisins) which is right on the money. I was not a huge fan of the overall flavor in this one and need to experiment with it more. I would likely need less chili powder in it. It is very simple and gets huge points for that as well being nutritious. Adding a half-cup of walnuts doubles the price to about $0.40 cents a serving; with the grapeseed oil and raisins this recipe goes above $0.50 cents a serving.

Finally, here is my tip on holiday nog. It a product called Silk (soy milk) and its seasonal flavor, Nog (look at the bottom of the page). It has 2 grams of fat for every half-cup serving, so 4 grams total, and it has only 12 grams of sugar which is much better than most processed nogs. You have only 3 grams of protein (in the half-cup). Real nog has more protein because of the egg but you leave out the fat from the yolks. It is so yummy and I am really loving it as my indulgent treat for the winter nesting season. 🙂 Its $2.99 for a quart (yes, its a treat) at Whole Foods. Enjoy!

A bowl, a whisk, a spatula, and a frying pan; or my first fusion dish ever!

I had fun with a new creation this morning. Its made with Indian crepes called cheelas. I was inspired to make it because I had made a savory filling for a tart over thanksgiving that I never ended up making. (Plus, though I brought the filling home, I left the crust in my sister’s fridge!) Cheela batter is healthier than regular crepe batter. Here I fused it with a traditional French (Provencal) based savory filling of red cabbage and onion.

The filling was for a cabbage and red onion tart from the Martha Stewart Living website (i provide the link here). I was nervous about serving a cabbage filling (kind of a departure for me i guess) but it came out wonderfully..sweet and a touch of vinegar-y. They ended up being a perfect compliment to the indian crepes (cheela(s)). Marvelous, and my first fusion concontion to boot! There are a few reasons why I thought it was valuable to share.

  • Indian crepes are made out of chickpea flour (besan) so they are full of protein.

I checked the nutrition data tool (LOVE THIS!) and it says one cup of chick pea flour contains 21 grams of protein. I made 8 crepes which meant about 175 calories each for my husband and I, just for the crepes without the filling. The total distribution from these crepes are about 61% carbs, 25% protein and 14% fat. That is from the flour alone. It also seems to contain thyamine and is a good source of manganese and folate. So good for all you pregnant woman right?

  • The batter does not contain fat. It contains spices, chopped up chili peppers and herbs (like cilantro) and it is thinned with water. Chick pea flour can be tricky to make tasty (I used to find it so) but with a few standard Indian spices, it is getting easier. I used the recipe from American Masala (of course) for the crepes (cheela). I am not going to duplicate the recipe here since I definitely encourage people buying this lovely book. I did add black pepper to the batter since my filling was something based in French flavors and i wanted to compliment that. But I also added garam masala and cumin seeds since I did not have some of ingredients on hand that he recommended. My mom has her own recipe but it saved me a phone call. I did want to say that over time, you will evolve your own mix of spices to add to the batter. You basically whisk the batter together to a thin pancake like consistency.
  • Using Sarvan’s technique, I used only 1/4 tspn of oil for each crepe during cooking. As I progressed I was able to use less and less since the oil from the previous crepe would remain at the bottom of the pan to assist with the next one.
  • Notes, tips and observation on cooking the crepes. I originally made the mistake of putting in way too much batter…i also subconsciously thought i had to put oil in the pan to cook the crepes. The whole thing just stuck together to the bottom of the frying pan like bad eggmaking can sometimes do. I had to scrape the whole thing off and start over! The second time I used a non-stick pan and heated it with no oil at the bottom. I was careful to use about 1/4 cup of batter like Sarvan suggested and quickly circled the batter from the center out to make it as large as possible. Once I did that I drizzled a 1/4 tsp of oil over it. and then I let it cook until the bottom turned golden brown. Now, I still have room for improvement. I need to learn to make the circles thinner and wider quickly. My crepes were likely smaller than they needed to be. The heat has to be right because the chick pea flour cooks quickly and while you want to get the bottom golden brown, you also want the get the whole thing dry on the top too. Still, i’m so happy with my first batch. I have never succeeded in getting them off the pan and these turned out to be eminently flippable.

Thanks to both Sarvan and Martha Stewart for my first fusion creation! This was a perfect breakfast/brunch dish coming home from Thanksgiving.

Cost per serving: Chick pea flour and cabbage and onion. Oh my god, this is like the mother of all staples. I am going to the math quickly on this, rather than too precisely. I included the price of the cabbage, red onion, 1 cup of besan flour, the thyme in the cabbage red onion filling, and the oil in the whole recipe for four servings (each serving is 2 stuffed crepes). I come up to $0.40 cents a serving

An Eventful Passage

The first three weeks I was away from writing this blog, it was mostly because I was pretty sick (taking two doses of antibiotics), then because I was busy preparing for a vacation and then because I was on a vacation for 10 days. That vacation in itself was something to write about because I went, with my husband, to Hawaii, for the first time ever. I would like to write about that in a separate post. We went to the Big Island and Kauai and ended up in some pretty remote, undeveloped spots. Let’s just say it was a healthy reminder of how small and human I am! It was wonderful, calming, even restful.

Coming back, my workload has increased dramatically from the summer. I would say I am in a test period (or at least, that is what it feels like); I had so much time this summer because my workload was not demanding and as a result, I was at peace, I had energy and I found inlets and outlets of ways to feed myself (physically, spiritually, mentally). I had been hoping that all those habits could find a foundation and keep growing through what I knew were going to be busy times. Why did I know they were going to be busy? Because I have been wanting to be involved in opportunities that use my talents for a while now. and if everything I was doing to ask for it was going to work, I was going to be getting busy. And the other area that got “busy” is social activities. For the last 3 years, we have stuck pretty close to our inner circles, not really spending money, time or energy on acquaintenances or even professional relationships. November is changing that too. So its a tricky tricky time. I have made very little time to cook, instead relying on my mom’s leftovers and who knows what. The challenge on all fronts is to keep asking the same questions. In the midst of the responsibilities I have taken on, what feeds me? What gives me energy versus what drains it? I am obviously on shaky ground, I find myself quite sick once again, my body begging for rest. I have allowed myself to indulge in some old stresses at work in hopes of working out good solutions for my client. that doesn’t feed me. i’m not sure what to do about it though.

the weekend after coming back from hawaii was great. we were so calm and so together and so happy to be home, it took us very little time to get settled back in the house. We had been moving around quite a bit on the vacation and so we had gotten very good at keeping track of our stuff. So getting it back in the house was a no brainer. The house was totally uncluttered and we spent the weekend reconnecting to our home, our TO-DOs did not seem like a brick wall we kept bumping our heads against, they just got done peacefully. gosh how i long for that. the following week at work was wonderful, some new highs.

but then, beginning Halloween, a nose dive. Complete drop down off the cliffs in terms of my personal energy levels. Life turned into a lot of running around. YUCK. Sleep deprivation began. i can’t figure out how or when to stop but its not working. its causing me to enjoy my time less on all fronts–social, otherwise. so, as laurel used to say to hardy, “this is another fine mess you’ve gotten me into!”

Some shining moments: World Series, GO PHILADELPHIA!!!!! I am so happy for that town. Another was Election Night. I have been on FB to share in the collective glory. We had a wonderful evening with friends. We were all beaming by the end. Instead of Yes we Can; Yes We Did. It feels wonderful to beat back the tide of executive secretship, beat back any more Dick Cheney time, to have someone as our leader who values education and achieves excellence. Personally for me, it hits very close to home that this leader was influenced by Saul Alinsky and the principles of community organizing, as I was in my life. Its kind of a wake up reminder actually. It was a beautiful night and my husband and I were able to go to the White House and participate in the spontaneous block party that erupted there. But the hard work begins now, bringing everyone to the table, whether they were for or against Obama to make sure they work constructively to bring this country back.

And now I get to the point of this post which I only have a couple more minutes to write. I am woefully late posting this since it was written in October. However, if there is one person who speaks for many of the principles on which this blog was conceived, it is Michael Pollan. I have mentioned him and at least one of this books previously on this blog. Pollan has written an open letter to the President-Elect. I am a big fan of his writing. Its not just what he writes about, its how he writes it. His writing is so clear and objective. Each sentence links to form garlanded paragraphs.  In this letter, he shows the President-Elect how health care costs, energy independence, and climate change are all linked to food policy. Its a marvelous piece and a must-read. Definitely gets to my issues with the supply chain of our food and the trade-offs we’ve endured in order to have our food produced from the industrialization process to keep it cheap.

By the way, if anyone wants to give their input or vision for the new administration, you can simply go to  Yes, we can.

Great tool

This is a shout out to a valuable tool I found on the internet. I haven’t fully analyzed it yet but it has a boat load of nutritional information on most generic foods. It goes beyond the traditional “food label” (it has that too) and provides useful charts and graphs. My favorite right now is the amino acid structure of a food and how to complement it in order to receive your full protein in-take. Does that rock or what? it also highlights the wealth of vitamins and other nutrients that your food may have. It works for me at the ingredient level, rather than what I’ve made out of that meal.

Making lentils manageable

Cooking lentils, for my friend Suzan! I have already written about the powers of the lentil on my “Getting Healthy” page, as a fat-free source of protein. However, getting to a place where I could incorporate this most traditional of Indian foods into my daily American lifestyle took a while! I don’t see too many of my friends cooking lentils on a weekly basis and I thought writing about what works for me may make it more accessible.

Getting started
Now, I do rely on making traditional indian dal, which is quite flavorful and can be eaten like soup. It requires indian spices, but only a handful, and once you establish a stock, you don’t have to think about it anymore. These are: tumeric (halthi), cumin seeds (jeera), asofetida (heeng), cayenne pepper, and small green chili peppers (mirch). I have seen jalapenos substituted effectively for the latter. Salt is key. There are several lentils to choose from and for the most part, I am able to flavor them similarly. Most common for me is yellow split pigeon peas (toor dal), masoor dal both with skin (brown on the outside, disc shaped) and without (orange on the inside), and sometimes split yellow pea and dehusked mung bean (moong dal). There is also a French green lentil that I have cooked with this summer. There are many other types (Wikipedia can tell you). The easiest way to get started is to get started is get one-half pound of the orange washed masoor dal in at Whole Foods, in the bulk section.

Speaking of which, I love how cost-effective this food is. I just called Whole Foods. They sell this dal for $1.79 per pound! When you consider that typically, it only takes a half-cup to feed two peopel for a meal, this is a food that stretches your dollar. Also, water is the main ingredient required to cook lentils. This increases the volume considerably and comes from the tap. If you find you can handle a bigger quantity, you can purchase them in bags from an Indian grocery store (they sell 1 pound, 2 pound, etc.). As I got better at making dal and eating it a couple of times a week, I found myself going through more of it. But even getting a pound at Whole Foods in bulk can easily last 6-8 weeks in my two person household.

Now, cooking it. Note, most people are told to pre-wash their lentils before cooking it. Me…I don’t have time for things like this so I only tend to use those lentil types that don’t necessarily require it. (this is the philosophy of Simplify, Simplify, Simplify!). The ones I noted above fit that category. I also used to be told to make the dal in a pressure cooker. BIG MISTAKE for me. For whatever reason, this really held me back from making good dal for a long time. It was messy, hard to clean the pressure cooker afterwards, and I would have to keep cooking it for an undetermined amount of time afterwards to really make it come out. Yuck.

There are two techniques that have worked for me. My mom and sister told me get a $8.99 slow cooker from Walgreens. It has an OFF, HIGH, LOW and WARM setting. (Can you believe it?) It is small but does the job and then some for the two of us. I then place a half-cup to one cup of lentils, three times the water, a half-teaspoon salt and about one-quarter teaspoon of tumeric in the slow cooker, set it to low, and go out the door to work. I come back home to find the daal cooked. (I then transfer the dal to a small pot on the stove to flavor it.)

The funny thing is, after all that wrestling with a pressure cooker, you can actually cook some dals on the stove in about 30 minutes, depending on the type of dal and the portion. So no more day to day use of the pressure cooker for me and good riddance. Now, its strictly me against the heat (or should I say “with” the heat) without the added pressure (hah, another pun!). Here, one way to go is to duplicate the steps with the slow cooker except with a pot on the stove. That is, you still mix the lentils, with three times the water, and the tumeric and let it boil on the stove until the dal has cooked (is all soft). Now, I’m at the same point as if I had used the slow cooker and came home. I still have to flavor it which I do by using a butter warmer. In it, I heat up grapeseed oil with cumin seeds, asofetida, cayenne papper and cut-up green chili peppers. I heat over a low flame until the cumin seeds start to sizzle. Then I pour it into the dal and cook another 20 minutes until that flavor has made its way through the whole pot. This is the most basic way to make dal.

I just learned another way from my new face cook, Survir Sarvan. (More on him later) In his book, American Masala, he has a recipe for “Not So Dull Dal.” In it, he develops the flavor first–heating jeera, tumeric, jalapeno and even salt with onions in oil (he has other flavorings too which I’ll post when I get home)–then allows the lentils to roast in that heat for a few minutes (with a splash of water) and then adds the lentils with the water. It only takes about 35 minutes for it to cook after that but the flavors are nicely diffused through the entire pot and its DELICIOUS.

I bet my next step will be to cook the flavoring first, dump that mixture into the slow cooker, then add the lentils and water so that its slow cooked thoroughly by the time I come home. Slow cooking does seem to increase the flavor for most foods, and the slow cooker frees up that wait!

Cost effectiveness of Cooking:
Cost per serving (with oil, without spices): sixteen to eighteen cents a serving (?)(will update when I measure out).

From my cost per serving spreadsheet:
Masoor lentils: $0.22 per serving, including grapeseed oil and salt, but not indian spices.