Archive for tag: food

How to Make Granola

2014-06-25_granolabowl

A friend once asked me if I knew how to make granola. I'm sure I looked puzzled as I answered, "No...I thought granola was...like...its own...thing...?" As in, I thought granola grew out of the ground. Actually, it's not that I was firmly certain that was the case. It's just that I hadn't given it a thought before I was hit with this question.

Wrong! The farmer doesn't harvest a granola crop. Someone has to make it, as in, out of other ingredients. This same friend, who was at that point now fully aware of my ignorance on the topic, was resourceful enough to send me over her family's granola recipe. Turns out, it's easy, quick, and flexible for when I'm out of half of the things the recipe actually calls for--as usual.

2014-06-25_ingredientsHere's the basic ingredients list:

  • 4 cups oats
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup nuts

I translate that as old-fashioned oats (steel-cut definitely doesn't work…oops), turbinado sugar, water, homemade vanilla (we can talk about that another time), sea salt, sliced almonds, black sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Start out by boiling the sugar and water together, and then stir in the vanilla and salt. Combine everything else, dump the wet mixture on top, stir, and spread evenly across a parchment-paper lined baking sheet. Finally, sprinkle cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric on top, then slip into the 275º oven for one hour. Or, as my granola friend said, "sometimes I do 30 minutes at 350º because I'm impatient." 

2014-06-25_granolabefore

It's glorious. After making my entire house smell like Christmas, it comes out of the oven all golden brown and audibly begging me to eat it. I do. I burn my tongue. It's just part of the process. Then, I let it cool unattended on the counter for about an hour, and then we pour what's left of it into Mason jars for the week. Yum.

2014-06-25_granoladone

Why do I make my own granola? I don't trust what any commercially produced granola contains by the time it reaches my mouth. I think mine tastes way better. I'm fairly sure it's cheaper to make your own. Plus, my house smells like Christmas. I think that's just the cinnamon, but I don't want to pin it down and ruin the magic. In a larger way, making granola is just one more small step that I've taken in the direction of natural living. It's a process. I don't know anyone--certainly not myself--who has been able to flip the switch one day from all commercial products to all homemade products. The world in which we circulate today is a mass-produced, globalized society. We want it bigger, better, and right now.

I suggest taking a small step whenever you can. Relax. Make some granola. Smell it. Eat it. Repeat.

How Salads and Evil Qi Can Make You Gain Weight

How could salads cause weight gain? If you have Damp-Cold and you're trying to lose weight by eating cold, raw, veggie salads, you might not shed the pounds. "How can this be?" everyone is now screaming -- probably silently, that's fine. I thought eating lots of spinach, topped with radish, cucumbers, celery, etc. was supposed to help melose weight.

For some people, this might be an effective strategy, particularly if you are swapping out fast-food double cheeseburgers in favor of homemade veggie salads. Certainly, there is the undeniable benefit of increasing the nutrition you're taking in by adding more produce to your diet. I'm sure we all know someone who started eating more salads and less junk food and fairly promptly dropped a few pounds. Great.

So, why doesn't it work for everyone? In fact, why does eating all raw, cold veggie salads even have the possibility of causing weight gain in some people?

No, the answer is not about the dressing that you put on the salad! That would be too easy, not eastern-medicine-related, and frankly, it would probably cast a dark shadow on my consistently whole-fat dietary lifestyle approach.

Instead, my point here is related to one of TCM's six evil qis -- technically, two of them. I used the terms "cold" and "damp" earlier, and this is one of those special moments when normal, everyday words take on more specific meanings in the context of Chinese medicine. I think we call that "connotations." In TCM, Cold and Damp have pathogenic connotations.

A person can be constitutionally Cold or Damp from the get-go, or a person can be invaded by a Cold or Damp external pathogenic factor (actually called an "evil (xieh) qi"). Foods are like people; each food has specific properties, such as Cold, Hot, and whether the food leads to damp retention or drying out in the person who ate it.

In the case of a Cold, Damp person trying to lose weight, we need more hot, drying, acrid foods, and fewer raw, cold, damp foods on the plate. If this seems counter-intuitive, keep in mind that there are plenty of healthy, nutritious foods that have hot and acrid properties. Ginger and peppers, anyone? Yes, please.

What is your favorite food doing for you--or to you? My favorite book on nutrition, Healing with Whole Foods: Asian Traditions and Modern Nutrition, goes into detail on the connections between your diet and your health. Or, quickly check out the properties of some common fruits, veggies, meats, etc. here: http://www.tcmecc.org/foodtherapy.htm

Choose wisely, my friends.

My Loathe-Hate Relationship with Microwaves

I pretty much hate microwave ovens. Everyone who's been to my home knows that I haven't even had a handle on the door of my microwave in the past 5 years. I distrust this appliance. I find them abhorrent. I think they are one of the actual and figurative problems with American society today. Why do people regularly cook food in a box that changes it at the molecular level, rendering the food nearly nutritionally void? Convenience, my friends. Convenience.

Veg2I'm committed to using the oven and the stovetop as my cooking methods of choice. Sure, any heating destroys some of the nutritional content of many foods, but these methods are gentler and less damaging on the goods. Why is a microwave worse? Mike Adams, editor of NaturalNews.com, explains, "Microwave ovens heat food through a process of creating molecular friction, but this same molecular friction quickly destroys the delicate molecules of vitamins and phytonutrients (plant medicines) naturally found in foods."

This isn't groundbreaking news, people. Years ago I was scarred for life after reading that the microwave destroys around 97% of the vitamins and other nutrients in vegetables. Apparently, many people are OK with this, judging by the new microwavable veggies in "steam bags" available at your local grocer. Yuck, and no thanks. If I'm choking down peas, they better have full nutritional value, thank you very much.

Veg1If you haven't faced the hidden toxins in your microwave popcorn by this time, let me offer you a hand up to 2014. One of the most special ingredients in the little bag is diacetyl, which, although derived from butter, acts as an artificial butter flavor in the microwave popcorn. Sounds nice enough, until you find out that when heated it releases a gas that frequently gives popcorn factory workers a condition called "popcorn lung." Actual name--bronchiolitis obliterans. Break that Latin down. "Obliterate my bronchioles?" Yep. Turns out, it can also happen to the consumer who heats and eats this stuff at home, and it can certainly happen to the mice in laboratory settings that are exposed to this heated chemical.

Veg3And that brings me to the reason that I keep my old broken microwave around at all. Well, first of all the gaping hole above my stove would look weird. Mostly, though, the reason that I keep my microwave is because I actually melt butter in it when I air pop popcorn, which, if you know me, you'll know is all the time. I try to lessen the evil of my popcorn addiction as much as possible, believe me. I melt the organic, grass-fed cow butter on low power in a glass dish. I pour it over organic popcorn (to reduce my pesticide exposure). I lovingly tap on a good amount of sea salt, and then I eat it with voracity that only another popcorn addict can understand.

So, I'm guilty. I hope I never said I was perfect, because that would be way off. However, I do what I can to reduce my exposure to some of the health-hampering substances on the market today, including microwave popcorn. For now, the microwave, which I vehemently hate, stays... if only for one small but critical purpose in my life.