Defining a Healthy, Resilient Food System

Health is a changing state of balance.

A healthy food system is a living network, non-hierarchical and springing from mutual agreements to cultivate health, diversity, equity, and economic balance.

Because everyone must eat to live, it must adapt to environmental, social, and political changes while stewarding the well-being of land, workers, production, and eaters. This food system is grounded in gastronomic traditions, small-scale farming practices, and the need to provide for future generations. 

Its respect for diversity of people, eco-systems, and choices ensures the best practices for cultivation and production in accordance with local need and capacity.

Connected enough to sustain local bio-diversity, cultural identity, nourishment, and sense of purpose, this system provides equal access to whole, contaminant-free ingredients.

When change occurs, the community-minded system, where everyone has a voice, can collaborate to make decisions based on the health of people and planet. 

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How does the media define a healthy, resilient food system?

Mother Earth News shapes its definition around goals:

  1. Focus on community empowerment to grow food and seek out natural remedies to heal friends and family;

  2. Promote research in the field of agro-ecology in order to influence congressional farm policy;

  3. Sell publications and subscriptions to educate privileged members of the food system about gardening, natural health, and consumption.

Through their primary strategy of publishing research and education, this media outlet works to catalyze change among its readers.

I will be working to shape this definition for the Northeast bio-region during the upcoming Food Solutions New England Summit.

How do you define a healthy food system?

Please leave your comments here.


Food Justice, Food Sovereignty

Many who live in Vermont have unique perspectives on food. These voices are the catalyst that can bring a new narrative of health, empowerment and solidarity to the food justice movement.

By interviewing members of this state’s food system, I have learned a great deal about food justice and public health in Vermont. The stories of food shelf staff, migrant workers, and Abenaki elders reveal the need for a new conversation: one that is more radical and inclusive.

Thanks to the Farm to Plate Network (F2P), Vermont is working to connect all people with their sources of nourishment in the way that upholds the values of public health through wholesome nutrition, affordability, and equity. I invited some of those whom I interviewed to share their stories at the F2P Network’s convening in October 2013. Storytelling proved to be an effective way of engaging with the audience on topics of food justice, culinary traditions, and public health.

At an F2P Food Access Working Group meeting, John Sayles, CEO of the Vermont Foodbank, stated that, “we ought to be working to put ourselves out of a job”. This subtle acknowledgment of the way in which the emergency food system has become institutionalized and thus generated dependency is a step in the direction of identifying pinch points in the system and leveraging them for change. A fellow food activist re-iterated that comment to me later in the day and followed it with his belief that, “we cannot accept the status quo anymore, which is stuck in managing and maintaining poverty”.

To this end, the Foodbank has partnered with Capstone Community Action to create the Community Kitchen Academy (CKA), a culinary training program aimed at providing graduates with sustainable employment in the food system. I conducted an interview with a woman who used to visit the Barre Food Shelf to find supplemental nourishment. Now, she manages it.

As a single mom supporting three children, she realized that change was necessary in order to move from poverty to stability and health. By attending the CKA program, she gained the skills necessary to participate in the local food system and support her family. Because she was once a recipient of the services she now provides, she gave the feedback necessary to change the system. The Barre Food Shelf now distributes whole fruits and vegetables and prepared meals made with local ingredients.

Some of those who labor to cultivate these Vermont ingredients are migrant farm workers. These folks are crucial to the success of this state’s agricultural economy. Yet, their voices may go unheard because of their non-resident status. They endure treacherous travels from Mexico to find work on dairy farms. Often, they leave their homes because their land has been taken and there is not any work available for them any longer. Ironically, displaced farmers who are forced to migrate to support their families are working to maintain many of Vermont’s rural farms, which are also barely able to survive.

“It is essential to educate others about the traditional seeds and honor the native people who have grown and saved them”, one farmer explains to me. This is food sovereignty, which respects the right for all people to define their own food systems from the ground up. Originally elucidated by La Via Campesina in 1996, food sovereignty is rooted in the ongoing global struggles over control of food, land, water, and livelihoods. This international peasant movement focuses instead on people re-gaining and maintaining access to their land, enjoying the food they produce, honoring culinary traditions, and valuing all members of the food system.

Food sovereignty is at the core of the radical approach necessary to re-define food access as food equity solidarity, self-reliance, and inter-dependence. The Farm to Plate Network continues to bolster momentum within Vermont’s food system by collaborating on initiatives that leverage food-related successes as stepping stones towards the goal of all Vermonters consuming 10% of the food produced in-state by 2020.

Vermont needs a new narrative: one that is radical – rooted in prevention and empowerment – and more inclusive – acting on the needs of all people who live here. By updating the food access narrative, Vermont can make significant strides in addressing the root causes of food insecurity and engender system-wide behavior change to meet its goals.

With gratitude:

Barre Food Shelf Coordinator Kristin Hall

Vermont Food Bank CEO John Sayles and staff member Michelle Wallace

Farm to Plate Network Directors Erica Campbell and Ellen Kahler

Migrant Justice Network Coordinator Abel Luna and Farm Worker Enrique Balcazar

Interaction Institute for Social Change staff Cynthia Parker and Curtis Ogden

Sources:
Food First: statistics from Director Eric Holt-Gimenez (2013)

La Via Campesina: food sovereignty statistics (from 1196 to the present)

Hunger FreeVermont: food access and poverty in Vermont statistics and report (2012)

Farm toPlate Network Report: statistics about local food distribution, access, consumption (2014)

Gottlieb et al. Food Justice. MIT Press, 2013.

Wittman et al, editors. Food Sovereignty. Fernwood Publishing, 2010.

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Gut issues? Try an Elimination Diet + Custom Healthy Eating Program

Do you have a rumbly, uncomfortable belly?

Does your skin itch or give you blemishes?

Do you experience gas, bloating, irregular stool frequency (more or less than once / twice daily)?

Do you have constipation or diarrhea occasionally?

Try an elimination diet.

"Elimination" comes from the Latin word meaning "beyond the threshold".

Move beyond the threshold of your semi-wellness.

Walk through the door of discovery, find the foods and eating habits that cause distress, and let them go, once and for all!

Try this guide to get started. If you would like,

I can tailor your Elimination Diet to your needs and goals.

Clean out your kitchen.

Remove processed, packaged items and those containing sugar in all forms. Let go of coffee and alcohol, too. Use this guide to alternative sweeteners to help you with cravings.

Go shopping.

Buy foods according to the Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen Guide from the Environmental Working Group. Make sure to get plenty of gluten-free bulk grains, hormone / antibiotic free chicken, fish and eggs, and lots of vegetables. 

Start your elimination diet when you have a day or two off to be at home. Set aside time to cook and follow these meal plans and watch these videos to help you with prep.

I can help tailor shopping lists and meal plans to your needs.

Keep a journal.

Write your intention for your Elimination Diet. What do you plan to get out of this two-week period of cleansing? What you will do when cravings hit.?

Eliminate potential allergens.

Start by eliminating gluten, dairy, coffee, and sugar. When you move beyond the threshold of these foods, you will see how many more delicious new ingredients there are to try!

Substitute.

Instead of:

  • gluten, try buckwheat, brown rice, quinoa, amaranth, teff, millet, and oats;

  • sugar, try applesauce, dates, figs, and little bits of raw honey;

  • coffee, try green tea or a coffee substitute like Dandy Blend;

  • dairy, try almond or rice milk.

If you would like to do a more in-depth elimination diet, I can help you by customizing recipes, prep + meal plans to eliminate these common allergens as well: corn, peanuts, soy, eggs, chocolate, vinegar, yeast, low-quality fats + oils, fatty meat, beans.

Re-Introduction

Hello allergen! Nice to meet you again! Does my body like you? Let's see.

After the elimination phase, start re-introducing the foods that you excluded for 2 weeks. You will notice immediately that, when you challenge your body with offensive foods, it will react! 

Itchy eyes, digestive distress of any kind, shortness of breath, swelling, fatigue, and nausea are all signs of a food sensitivity.

Record it in your journal and try to avoid it from now on.

The elimination diet takes a little bit of planning and coordination, but it is simple to do and can make a huge difference in your health!

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Defining a Healthy, Sustainable Food System

Happy New Year! 

This is a time of renewal.

I like to soak up the sunrise, appreciate the sunset, and spend dark nights in peaceful reflection. 

As part of my personal and professional goals for this year, I would like to hear more from you.

What is your definition of a healthy, sustainable food system?

Here is mine.

Health is a changing state of balance.

A healthy food system is a living network, non-hierarchical and springing from mutual agreements to cultivate health, diversity, equity, and economic balance.

Because everyone must eat to live, it must adapt to environmental, social, and political changes while stewarding the well-being of land, workers, production, and eaters. This food system is grounded in gastronomic traditions, small-scale farming practices, and the need to provide for future generations. Its respect for diversity of people, eco-systems, and choices ensures the best practices for cultivation and production in accordance with local need and capacity. Connected enough to sustain local bio-diversity, cultural identity, nourishment, and sense of purpose, this system provides equal access to whole, simple, contaminant-free ingredients.

When change occurs, the community-minded system, where everyone has a voice, can collaborate to make decisions based on the health of people and planet. 

Here is the definition created by 

Mother Earth News

.

  1. Focus on community empowerment to grow food and seek out natural remedies to heal friends and family;

  2. Promote research in the field of agro-ecology in order to influence congressional farm policy;

  3. Sell publications and subscriptions to educate privileged members of the food system about gardening, natural health, and consumption.

These are the strategies they use to bring it about:

  1. Research: They request donations to support non-profits such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, whose research and reports model sustainable farming practices. They promote farm policy by encouraging reader to write letters to congress on behalf of farmers, sound farming practices, and research.

  2. Education: They inform readers about conferences to learn more about sustainable farming practices. This invitation comes with mention of the conferences’ corporate sponsors such as Clif Bar, Nutiva and Driscoll’s.

  3. Access: They work to build community food security by inspiring readers to create the conditions in their lives for equitable food access in their communities through blog posts about personal stories.

What is your definition of a healthy, sustainable food system?

What do you need to participate in the regional food system, cook meals from scratch with whole ingredients, and include more fruit and vegetables in your diet?

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Honoring My Gastronomic Roots

Today and every day, I celebrate my Italian gastronomic heritage. The traditional values of growing, foraging, cooking and eating with which I was raised filled me with reverence for food.

This fullness stayed with me throughout the years of exposure to highly processed corporate food during my high school and college years after I moved to the United States.

Dormant until the moment I would resource it, this nourishment allowed me to to heal myself with food as medicine when I was crippled by chronic intestinal amoebas. Now, I am in service to the foods, plants, and traditions that healed me. I honor the healers and health care practitioners who mediated my healing and supported me on my own path of self-discovery.

Not only did I heal myself of chronic amoebas, but I also re-connected with my deepest sources of nourishment, which are ancestral ones steeped in mindfulness.

What are your gastronomic roots? How can you celebrate them? Tomorrow, December 10th, is Slow Food International's Terra Madre Day: the day of mother earth.

Join people all over the globe who are celebrating local food and heritage. Here in Vermont's state capitol of Montpelier, the New England Culinary Institute's students will offer a cooking demonstration of Vermont foods.

Before the colonists came to this region, Abenaki people celebrated gastronomic traditions, which endure today thanks to the revival efforts of the indigenous peoples' Haven Project and Seeds of Renewal.
Fred Wiseman and many more Abenaki guide the movement to revive and honor indigenous seeds, crops, and cooking.

If you are inspired, please leave comments here about your ancestral foods and how you honor them.

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Winter Foods That Heal

The full moon of December is here, and snow covers every last remaining plant stalk and kale leaf in our gardens. This moon is known by indigenous people of North America as the Cold Moon, the moon of long nights, and the Winter Moon. I try to welcome winter with warming foods

Deer are browsing the crab apple branches and chickadees buzz between bee balm stalks to stay warm. I love this time of year. It is peaceful. The snow that blankets everything is a metaphor for stillness. Take ease in this time. There is nowhere to go, nothing to do.

Even if the holiday commitments are piling up, take time to rest each day. Even if you rest for five minutes while sitting at a window or on your couch with a cup of tea, this practice invokes the stillness of the upcoming Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year.

This is the stillness that rejuvenates, respects the spirit, eases the mind, and clears stress from the body. From this calm place, ask yourself what you need to be truly nourished.

I like to prepare soups, whole grains, and delightful, wholesome desserts at this time of year. My husband and I sit, light a candle, and savor carrot ginger soup. I wake up to a simple, hearty breakfast of eggs poached in greens.

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I enjoy baking simple desserts and sharing them at holiday gatherings. This way, I avoid eating lots of white flour and white sugar and having a headache and bellyache the next morning.

Try this maple gingerbread (gluten-free) to inspire your holiday baking.

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Metagenomics

Food choices matter. Gut bacteria can change in a few days

depending on whether you eat more protein, fat, or carbs.

Meta what?

Meta = beyond 

Genome = the genetic material of an organism

Metagenomics is the study of genetic material sampled directly from the environment. This study includes the internal environment of human beings, which can be classified by enterotype

Entero = relating to the intestines 

Researchers in an international consortium including Jeroen Raes of the Flanders Institute in Belgium used human poop samples to classify people into three categories of enterotypes, or bacterial ecosystems.

Three primary enterotype categories recur in the findings of this past decade: Bacteroides, Prevotella, and Ruminococcus.

That's correct! We are all ecosystems.

Of all the DNA we carry around, only a small percentage of it is human. The other DNA belongs to the billions of microbes that live in our gut, among other places. Many are bacteria that take advantage of the protection and food we offer them while making vitamins and digestive enzymes that are essential to the smooth functioning of our body and mind.

Each of these three bacterial ecosystems does things slightly differently. The Bacteroides ecosystem consists largely of bacteria that get energy by fermenting sugars and proteins. The Prevotella ecosystem contains a lot of microbes that digest proteins in the mucus lining of the gut. Ruminococcus, the most common type, prefer both gut mucus proteins and simple sugar.

In addition to their different food preferences, these enterotype groups also have different output profiles. The Bacteroides type makes quite a few vitamins, including C and H, while Prevotella is good at making folic acid and vitamin B1.

Although scientists are not yet sure whether the place we live or the food we eat classifies our gut's microbiome, research is starting to reveal that common traits, such as body mass index, can be markers for enterotypes.

The testing is still very expensive, but I imagine that researchers will make it more widely available and affordable in years to come. If you would like to participate in the Earth Microbiome Project, you can have your have your internal bacteria analyzed, both for public research purposes and for your own knowledge.

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Alternatively, by noticing what you eat and how you digest it, you are more likely to be able to identify your enterotype. Keep a food journal that includes information about the consistency, frequency and type of your stool. Try it for a week.

Please be in touch with questions: lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com

Exercise For Well-Being

Exercise as is as good for your mind as it is for your body. When we exercise, we take the mind off of worries and concerns and gain a feeling of satisfaction.

Physiologically, exercise releases a whole cascade of mood-elevating processes in the brain. As soon as we increase our heart rate, endorphins—stress hormones that calm the brain and relieve stress—are released. Over time, exercise actually stimulates the birth of new brain cells and promotes their linkage to existing brain cell networks. By stimulating that new growth, exercise helps counteract the corrosive effect of stress and helps the brain to continually re-wire itself and adapt to changing life circumstances.

There are hundreds of ways to exercise. Find what you enjoy and make it a consistent part of your life. Whatever exercise you choose, whether it’s walking, jogging, cycling, or something else, enjoy it. Don’t force yourself to stick with an activity that seems like drudgery. Move on until you find something you love.


If you have chores to do around the house or homestead, consider this your exercise. Feel your heart pounding as you run up and down the stairs or carry wood inside. Know that you are healing yourself and fueling your metabolism with every step.

When we eat after exercise, food tastes more savory and we digest better because we are less stressed.

Cacao for Health

Drinking Chocolate at Kakawa in Santa Fe, NM
When I think of chocolate, I picture rich and creamy dark chocolate bars from Equatorial climates all over the world. Chocolate makes a great addition to savory dishes as well, such as the mole poblano sauce I enjoyed at Jardin Escondido in Vilcabamba, Ecuador. 

As this precious fermented food becomes more globally available, I remember my grandfather, who only enjoyed chocolate once a year on Christmas day. When I savor cacao, I try to honor its source and all the work required to get it into my kitchen.


Mole Poblano 
Cacao beans, once harvested, fermented, and roasted, are a particularly potent source of healing antioxidants. Georgetown University studies have also shown that flavonols, antioxidants found in chocolate, help lower your levels of "bad" LDL cholesterol and boost "good" HDL cholesterol. They ease inflammation and help prevent clotting and arterial plaque formation.

Natural unsweetened cocoa powder has the highest level of cocoa flavonols and is the healthiest form of chocolate. Try to buy organic, Fair Trade–certified cocoa powder. Fair Trade certification aims to protect farmers in developing countries from exploitation by large corporations or from price fluctuations for commodity crops. In order to be Fair Trade–certified, companies are required to pay farmers a fair price for crops, enabling farmers to pay their workers a living wage, avoid using child labor and practice environmentally friendly farming methods.

Adding cocoa to savory dishes is a great way to get the benefits of chocolate without all the fat and sugar usually found in sweet chocolate-based treats.
Chocolate Chile Bread

Email lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com for recipes such as: Black Bean Cocoa Soup with Lime Zest; Mole; Chipotle Chicken Stew; Chocolate Chile Bread; Slow Cooker Posole.

Millet Magic

As you may know, I am quite fond of millet. 

Cultivated in central Asia and West Africa for thousands of years, millet is a small-seeded cereal in the Poaceae family, the largest grass family, which gains its name from the Greek poa, or grass. This family includes all grasses grown for their edible seeds, such as rice, wheat, rye, oats and corn.
Click here for a millet 'polenta' recipe.

Although many of these cereals have become annual crops, researchers like Wes Jackson of the Kansas-based Land Institute are working to develop an agricultural system of perennial cereal grasses “with a yield similar to that from annual crops” (landinstitute.org).

Millet is a nutrient dense, hypo-allergenic, complex carbohydrate; offers a balance of B vitamins and magnesium to support digestion and balance blood sugar. It is useful in countering the mucus-forming effects of bread/cereal. 
Click here for an apple onion tart recipe with millet.

Some nutritional philosophies, such as Chinese Five Element Theory, tout it as ‘the queen of grains’. Indeed, millet is light, bright, and easy to digest. Incorporate this grain in your summer dishes to dispel heat and rejuvenate the digestive system.

MILLET FRITTERS

You will need:
1 cup milk (almond, rice, or cow)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
3/4 cup cornmeal
2 cups finely chopped kale
1 cup finely chopped dandelion leaves 
2 cups cooked millet
3 large eggs
To cook the millet: 
Combine 1 cup dry millet with 3-4 pinches of salt and 3 cups water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes or until water is almost absorbed. Stir vigorously for a few minutes to start making a porridge, as you would with oatmeal. Once all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and cover until ready to use (or serve).

To prepare the fritters:
In a large saucepan, combine the milk, 1 cup water, 1 tablespoon of the oil, shallot, and sea salt. 
Bring to a simmer, remove from heat, and whisk in cornmeal. 
Stir until combined, add the kale and dandelion, return to medium heat and stir for about 5 minutes until cornmeal thickens.
Remove from heat and stir in the millet. Taste and adjust the seasoning with more salt if needed. Allow this mixture to cool for at least 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to release heat.

Meanwhile, oil a 9 x 13-inch baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Whisk together eggs and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl.
Add a pinch of salt.
Whisk into cooled millet/cornmeal mixture.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Delicious!
Serve with kimchi or other lacto-fermented vegetables and enjoy spring's coming.


Women in Food

March is Women's History Month, and I invite you to honor the role of women in food. How do you see this role in your life, family, and community?

Here are some accounts of women in food history from historian Alice Ross.

It has been suggested that the division of food responsibility was a consequence of women's limited mobility, resulting from childbearing and extended periods of childcare. In any case, their familiarity with plants and their own identification with creating new life (the male role having been as yet unrecognized) were undoubtedly factors in their monumental innovation, the formation of the first organized agriculture (c. 8000 B.C.E.). Women often cooked grains and vegetables, singing songs about the food as they prepared it as a way to bind family and community as well as pass on food preparation methods to children.

Evidence of the high regard women earned is reflected cross culturally in the stories of universal origin even up to and including subsequent patriarchal systems. For example, in ancient Greco-Roman mythology, the story of Demeter (Ceres), the goddess of agriculture and fertility, and her daughter Persephone (Proserpina) acknowledge women's responsibility for developing agriculture, the origin of growing seasons, and the agrarian skills that they taught people. In distant Mexico people worshipped Ceres' counterpart, the pre-Aztec Great Corn Mother known as Chicomecoatl; variants of her story abound. She is Earth Goddess who teaches how to grow food from her body. Often her body was sacrificed, as she demanded, so that her children could grow food on it. This is a constant reminder to her descendants to treat the land as their Mother.

Mardi Gras Foods

Dear Friends,
I just returned from New Orleans, where Carnival season is in full swing! Locals celebrate with music, dancing, parades, and, of course food.

This is the traditional time of feasting before the 40 days of lent and simple living, which lead up to Easter.

This year, Mardi Gras, which translates as 'Fat Tuesday', is March 4th.
Enjoy these healthy versions of celebratory foods and consider eating more simply for the days that follow. From a seasonal perspective, this practice is a wonderful way to prepare body, mind and spirit for spring, which makes its first appearance around spring equinox, March 21st.

Corn Bread

To prepare, preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Grease a square baking dish with oil and set aside.
In a mixing bowl, combine:
2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour (rice, spelt, or millet)
1 teaspoon each: baking powder and baking soda
1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
1/2 teaspoon salt

Make a well in the center and add:
1 cup milk (almond, rice, or cow)
1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil
2 eggs (or 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal soaked in 4 tablespoons water)
1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
Whisk these together, then incorporate with dry ingredients until barely mixed.
Pour into baking dish and bake for 25 minutes.

Try it with molasses, black-eyed peas and greens for a complete meal.

***
Another classic recipe of coastal people who celebrate Mardi Gras is Jambalaya. This one-pot wonder often includes spicy sausage and seafood. Prepare it according to your palate and tradition.

Jambalaya

In a stock pot, heat 1/4 cup olive oil. Brown 1 pound boneless chicken breasts on both sides, season with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Using the same pot, saute together for 10 minutes:

3 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon gumbo file (made from sassafrass)
1 teaspoon each: cumin, coriander, paprika, turmeric, oregano

Add shrimp and/or andouille sausage if you like and cook until done, about 5 minutes.
Add cooked chicken.

Then, add 2 cups chicken stock and 1 cup crushed tomatoes with juice. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook 1 cup long-grain rice in 2 cups water.
Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon olive oil as rice is cooking to add flavor.

Serve jambalaya over rice and breathe in the amazing aromas of this traditional dish.




Wolf Moon Recipes for Warmth and Comfort

As the January full moon wanes and we sink into the simple beauty of white snow and cold nights, enjoy warming foods to strengthen your spirit and your immune system.

Turkey Meatloaf

1/4 cup quinoa
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
1 egg
1 teaspoon each: salt black pepper, coriander, thyme
1 teaspoon each: mustard and lemon juice
1 Tablespoon each: olive oil and water

Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and carrots cook for another 5 minutes; remove from heat to cool.

Stir the turkey, cooked quinoa, onions, carrots, egg, and spices in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture will be very moist. Shape into a loaf on a foil lined baking sheet. Combine mustard, lemon juice, olive oil and water in a small bowl. Rub the paste over the top of the meatloaf.

Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink in the center, about 50 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F. Let the meatloaf cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

New Year, Healthy Eating

Would you like to reach your wellness goals in the new year?

Do you need help navigating the waters of food choices and fad diets?

With this step-by-step program, you will lose weight and learn healthy habits that last a lifetime.


A healthy diet is essential to achieving and maintaining well-being.

This simple program includes:

Recipes: Taste good health with delicious recipes that are easy to prepare and highlight food as medicine.

Updates: Receive customized advice based on your health assessment.

Tools: Gain tips to stay healthy and keep eating well for life.

Resources: Read articles written by food experts that relate to your wellness goals.

"Lisa's Healthy Eating Program gave me personalized content, including information on how to cook and eat better, reduce stress, breathe, and more! Her simple, weekly guide helped me implement changes at my pace and maintain the new way of being. Thank you!" Christie W.


International Dumplings

This is a rich and nurturing time of year where you can slow down, enjoy the company of friends and family, and prepare one of these delicious dishes.
Be well in the new year!

Golabki
From the Polish and Lithuanian traditions courtesy of Anjali Budreski

1 yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 pound ground tukey, beef OR ¼ cup toasted walnuts
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 head green cabbage

Place a skillet over medium heat and coat with 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
Sauté onion and garlic for about 10 minutes, until soft and translucent.
Add the meat or walnuts and sauté until cooked, about 15 minutes.
Add parsley, then take it off the heat.

In a large mixing bowl, place the egg, the cooked rice, and the onion mixture. Toss the filling together with your hands to combine, season with a generous amount of salt and pepper.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
Remove the large, damaged outer leaves from the cabbages and set aside. Cut out the cores of the cabbages with a sharp knife and carefully pull off all the rest of the leaves, keeping them whole and as undamaged as possible.

Blanch the cabbage leaves in the pot of boiling water for 5 minutes, or until pliable.
Run the leaves under cool water then lay them out so you can assess just how many blankets you have to wrap up the filling.

Next, carefully cut out the center vein from the leaves so they will be easier to roll up. Take the reserved big outer leaves and lay them on the bottom of a casserole pan, let part of the leaves hang out the sides of the pan.
Put about 1/2 cup of the filling in the center of the cabbage and starting at what was the stem-end, fold the sides in and roll up the cabbage to enclose the filling. Place the cabbage rolls side by side in rows, seam-side down, in a casserole pan.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
For the Polish version, drizzle rolls with olive oil, cover the casserole pan, bake for 30 minutes and serve with sour cream and applesauce.

For the Lithuanian version, pour tomato sauce over the rolls, cover the casserole pan, bake for 30 minutes and serve.

***
Moon Pies
Adapted from an Amish recipe by Emily Hershberger

1 cup flour (spelt for a wheat-free dough or white rice for a gluten-free dough)
½ teaspoon each: allspice, cloves, cinnamon
Pinch salt
Mix these ingredients together. Then, add 2 Tablespoons butter OR coconut oil, hardened and diced into small cubes. Let the flour coat the cubes.

Slowly add enough cold water to make a dough. Place in fridge to cool for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Prepare the filling: 1 cup applesauce; raisins if desired.

Make golf-ball sized balls from the dough and then roll out each ball between 2 pieces of waxed paper.
Fill one ¼ of each circle of rolled dough with a spoonful of applesauce.
Fold over the dough into a half moon shape, pinch the edges closed, and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes, or until edges are browned. 


*** 
Rice Wrapper Rolls
Adapted from a Vietnamese recipe for Goi Cuon

8 rice wrappers (8.5 inch diameter)
For the filling:
2 ounces thin rice noodles
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 carrots, grated

For the dipping sauce:
4 teaspoons tamari (wheat-free soy sauce)
2 Tablespoons lime juice
1 clove garlic, minced
2 inches ginger root, minced
1 Tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon finely chopped peanuts or cashews

Bring a medium saucepan of water to boil. Boil rice vermicelli 3 to 5 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.

Fill a large bowl with warm water. Dip one wrapper into the hot water for 1 second to soften. Lay wrapper flat.
In a row across the center, place a handful of vermicelli, basil, mint, cilantro and shredded carrots, leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side.
Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper.
Repeat with remaining ingredients.

In a small pot, heat Tamari with 4 Tablespoons water, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and tamarind paste.
Add peanuts or cashews, turn off the heat, and serve as a dipping sauce alongside the rolls.

***
Padan Nasi
Sweet or savory dumplings I learned to make in Bedulu, Bali

You will need to set aside 1 cup cooked brown rice.

For savory dumplings, mix together in a large bowl:
1 Tablespoon tamarind paste
1 Tablespoon tahini (roasted sesame seed butter)
2 Tablespoons ume plum vinegar
1 teaspoon each: salt, cumin powder, coriander powder
½ teaspoon each: cinnamon, turmeric root powder
Fresh green onions or chives, minced

Add the rice to the bowl, incorporate with sauce, and shape balls with your hands.
If you like, you can roll the finished dumplings in toasted sesame seeds before serving.
These make a great appetizer!

For sweet dumplings, mix together in a large bowl:
¼ cup pitted dates, soaked in hot water and drained
2 Tablespoons brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cardamom
Pinch salt
2 Tablespoons shredded coconut

Add the rice to the bowl, incorporate with sauce, and shape balls with your hands.
If you like, you can roll the finished dumplings in coconut before serving.
These make a delicious dessert or snack!

Food Allergens

Food is such an emotional topic in our lives. We need it to live, we feel good, bad, or somewhere in between when we eat it, and its nutrients, or lack thereof, deeply impact the well-being of all living beings, including the planet.

I believe that cooking my own food is a radical and revolutionary act. I try to grow some of my own food, too, which requires a profound lifestyle shift. It is neither the way of convenience nor of instant gratification.

The more I research processed food, the more I realize its potentially harmful health impacts. Here are my latest findings.

In summary:
Read the labels on packaged foods.
Try to cook more of your own, additive-free food.

The details:

Xantham Gum:
A polysaccharide secreted by the bacterium Xanthomonas campestris 
used as a food thickening agent and a stabilizer. It is produced by the fermentation of glucose, sucrose, or lactose. It may be derived from a variety of sources that are common allergens, such as corn, wheat, dairy, or soy. Anyone with known sensitivities or allergies to these foods is advised to avoid it

Tapioca Starch:
This root vegetable is native to Brazil and spread throughout the South American continent by way of Portuguese and Spanish explorers. It is now cultivated worldwide. In Brazil, the cassava plant is call mandioca while its starch is called tapioca. The name tapioca is derived from the word tipi'óka, the name for this starch in the local Tupí language. This Tupí word refers to the process by which the starch is made edible. Today, the commercial process of extracting starch from cassava root is highly chemical and requires class 3 solvents akin to rubbing alcohol. Over time, the residues of this starch can affect overall health, both of the human body and of the groundwater surrounding processing plants. 
What questions do you have about other strange and mysterious ingredients? Email me at lisa[at]harmonizedcookery.com and I will research them for you.


Indigenous Vegetables

Dear Scientists,
Instead of putting our energy into GMO research and production, could we try to highlight the abundance that is already present?

Thanks to Food Tank for this list of 15 indigenous vegetables, which are nutritious, delicious, and contribute to the livelihoods of people around the globe.

1. Amaranth: This versatile plant, which grows quickly in the humid lowlands of Africa, is a leafy vegetable typically consumed in Togo, Liberia, Guinea, Benin, and Sierra Leone. The plant thrives in hot weather and is an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and essential minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

2. Bunya Nut: Bunya nuts have long been a prominent food in the culture of Australian Aboriginals - so much so that, prior to European settlement, Aboriginal tribes would travel long distances to attend festivals celebrating the Bunya season. The Bunya nut is similar to the chestnut, both in appearance and taste. The nuts grow on enormous Bunya pines in the few rainforest regions on the continent.

3. Cowpea: Originating in Central Africa, this legume is one of the region’s oldest crops. It is also drought resistant and can thrive in poor soil conditions. In addition to the peas, the leaves of the plant are also consumed.

4. Enset: Also known as the false banana, enset is native to tropical regions of Africa. The plant’s outward appearance resembles that of a banana tree, but the two actually are very different. Fruit of the enset tree is inedible, so the plant is primarily grown for the meat inside its trunk and roots. The pulp inside the tree is similar in both taste and appearance to a potato. Enset has been a staple crop in Ethiopia for thousands of years.

5. Filder Pointed Cabbage: The cruciferous vegetable provides a rich source of beta-carotene, vitamins C and K, and fiber, and it serves as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. Cabbage can be stored cold for months at a time and is eaten in the winter when other vegetables are dormant.

6. Formby Asparagus: Formby asparagus is notable for its coloration: white base, green stem, and purple-tinged tip. The vegetable is rich in protein, fiber, vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium, and zinc. It aids in protein synthesis, reduces calcium loss, and has antioxidant properties.

7. Hinkelhatz Pepper: The Hinkelhatz pepper has been cultivated by the Pennsylvania Dutch since the 1880s. The plant produces small, heart-shaped peppers with a red or yellow color. Hinkelhatz peppers have a stocky, spicy flavor, so they are frequently pickled or pureed into a pepper vinegar used as a food topping. The pepper is important because it is cold-tolerant, pest and disease-resistant, and a prolific producer.

8. Kumara: Also known as the sweet potato, kumara is cultivated in many Pacific Islands and was a staple crop for hundreds of years. The vegetable is a great source of protein, vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, and fiber.

9. Lifou Island Yam: This starchy tuber plays an important role in both nutrition and food security in many Pacific Island nations. The vegetable is also very versatile--it can be roasted, fried, grilled, boiled, smoked, or grated. Yams are important because they can be stored for long period of time, and the vegetable has a social and cultural significance on many islands.

10. Målselvnepe Turnip: This hardy, root vegetable variety has been improved over the years through selective cultivation in Norway. It has a strong and distinct taste compared to other turnip varieties. It can be eaten raw, roasted, baked, and boiled, and is frequently used to enhance the flavor of soups, salads, and side dishes. The turnip is an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.

11. Mungbean: The mungbean is important in Asian diets and valuable for its easily digestible protein. High levels of iron in the vegetable can help improve the diets of the most vulnerable women and children, and mungbean production offers an opportunity for increased income for small-scale farmers. In addition, the vegetable can fix nitrogen in the soil, making it valuable for crop rotations.

12. Okra: The edible green seed pods of this plant are a common ingredient in soups and sauces and popular in Indian and Pakistani cuisine. Okra is also an important export crop in The Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. The vegetable is a rich source of vitamins and minerals and the seeds provide quality oil and protein.

13. Papalo: This popular herb, known for its strong skunk-like smell, is used in the American Southwest, Mexico, and South America. Papalo, typically eaten as a garnish, is valued for its medicinal properties, including regulating blood pressure, relieving stomach disorders, and addressing liver problems. This unique herb has a hardiness to heat, allowing it flourish in hot climates.

14. Perinaldo Artichokes: This popular thistle vegetable, valued for its tasty center, is native to the Mediterranean region and originally cultivated in ancient Greece. The edible flower bud is a good source of fiber, vitamin C, folic acid, and various minerals. This variety of artichoke is drought resistant and very hardy.

15. Rourou (Taro Leaves): In a number of Pacific Island countries, including Fiji, taro leaves are eaten and used in various cooking techniques. The leaves provide an excellent source of vitamins A and C. The leaves also have a social importance in ceremonial feasts and are a good local cash crop. In addition, the corms of the giant swamp taro plant have the potential to help feed a large number of Pacific Island countries.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Based on research by two scientists, UC Berkeley’s Ignacio Chapela and former Scotland Rowett Research Institute researcher and plant genetic modification expert, Arpad Pusztai, the health effects of genetically modified organisms (GMOS) are questionable.

Click this link to read Pusztai's controversial research on the potential threats of GMOs.

According to Chapela and Pusztai's studies, when a transgene functions in a new cell, it may produce different proteins than the ones intended. They may be harmful, but there’s no way to know without scientific testing. Even if the protein is exactly the same, there are still problems.

Arpad Pusztai and other scientists were shocked at their results of animals fed GM foods. His results were cited above. Other independent studies showed stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, abnormal and potentially precancerous cell growth in the intestines, impaired blood cell development, and more.

To read an article about the potential threats of GMO foods, visit Mother Earth News.

Medicinal Culinary Spices

Health is a changing state of balance. Illness, pain and food cravings are signals of the body’s disharmony. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a centuries-old healing modality that persists today with doctors, naturopaths, and acupuncturists, explains that food is medicine. To satisfy the whole being, TCM encourages including five flavors in each meal: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, and bitter.


The five flavors correspond to five elements: Earth is sweet, Metal is pungent, Water is salty, Wood is sour, and Fire is bitter. Each element maintains balance with a moderate amount of its corresponding flavor, but illness occurs when a flavor is used in excess.

Each flavor also corresponds with a time of year. See how you can incorporate foods to match the season. Spring is sour. Summer is bitter. Late summer is sweet. . Fall is pungent. Winter is salty. The sour flavor and the wood element influence the liver and gall bladder.


Try cooking with these herbs and spices to support the transition into fall:

Garlic: high in Vitamin C and pungent sulfurous compounds, which reduce inflammation in the body; nature’s strongest anti-biotic; contains polysulfides, which trigger blood vessel dilation to reduce blood pressure; anti-microbial and anti-bacterial, controls overgrowth of Helicobacter pylori bacteria in the small intestine thus helping to reduce heartburn and eventual ulcers.
 
Ginger -  warming, anti-inflammatory, soothes stomach cramps, reduces flatulence, alleviates common cold and flu symptoms.



Parsley – Rich in Vitamin C to decrease inflammation, beta carotene to help prevent infection and strengthen immunity, and folic acid (B vitamin) to support cardiovascular health. Contains volatile oils that can help neutralize particular types of carcinogens as well as ease the burn of insect bites and stings.


Rosemary – antiseptic herb that contains rosmarinic acid, which stimulates the immune system, increases circulation, and improves digestion and concentration. Anti-inflammatory, digestive, and aromatic, the potent herb both aids in digesting fats and decreases the risk of infection from contaminated foods.

Sage –Improves memory by decreasing the growth of neurovascular plaque in the brain. Soothes the digestive tract, dries excess mucus from all membranes, and provides crucial phytonutrients which counteract the effects of oxidation, not only in human blood but also in cooking oils and nuts.
 
Thyme –Contains thymol and other volatile oils, which have antimicrobial activity against bacteria. Helps preserve foods and protect them from microbial contamination. Thymol helps increase the percentage of healthy fats, such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid) in brain, kidney, and heart cell membranes.

 

Roast Rabbit and Pomegranate Risotto


I understand why American people become enamored of Italian culture. Although a reverence for local foods can be found in many places world-wide, the Mediterranean climate allows such traditions to shine through the variety of ingredients available year-round.

In Vermont, we cultivate beautiful vegetables, tend to winter-hardy fruit
trees, pasture healthy animals, and grow an impressive variety of grains. Because our growing season lasts five months at best, we do not have access to fresh foods all the time. As supplies dwindle during the cold months, so do I feel a growing desire to visit the warmer places where these foods grow year-round. 

Certain parts of California may reflect the Italian peninsula's growing season, but the scale on which food is raised does not compare to the small production to which Italy must adhere due to its mountainous geography.

With the Apennine mountains running a spine north-south and the Alps holding the northern part of the country, there are few places to cultivate anything on more than a handful of acres. Hence, even though the growing season here is luxurious, Italian food acquires a precious quality due to its small-scale production. Regional recipes are integral to the cultural paradigm. 

One of my childhood memories of is marked by the truckloads of blood oranges and clementines that make their way North from Sicily. Here in the Po River Valley, my father and I discovered an agritourism that raises rabbits and grows pomegranates, both of which get sent to other Italian provinces so that others may enjoy them. 

In honor of our local foods, we decided to make pomegranate risotto and roast rabbit with white wine and chestnuts. Risotto is a rice dish that hails from Italy and has myriads of regional variations. To make this beloved primo piatto, or first course, with the tangy crimson-seeded fruit that informs the length of Persephone's stay in the underworld, it is essential to remove the seeds from the fruit body, boil them briefly, and spin them through a sieve in order to catch the brilliant juice. This succus becomes the broth with which we cook the rice.

Rabbit meat is rich and lean, but can often profer a gamey flavor unless and retained water is removed first. We seared and rinsed the rabbit before placing it in a roasting pan with garlic and much of the rosemary and sage we collected when we visited the hill village Arqua Petrarca. These herbs, when minced, create a paste that can coat the rabbit and help it to retain its juices while roasting. We poured a quarter bottle of the whine wine made by one of my dad's university colleagues into the roasting pan and sent it on its way into the hot oven. 

Meanwhile, we sliced crescents along the rinds of chestnuts gleaned from Imperia, a nearby town on the ocean. We placed them on a baking sheet and roasted them until the nut meat began to escape from each sliced section. We wanted to peel them immediately, savor some of their sweetness as a prelude to our meal, but we had to allow them to cool. 

Instead, we sampled some of the rye bread we had baked with flour from my family's home town in the Dolomite mountains of Trentino alongside a few of the tangy, tiny black olives that my father picked and pickled in Pienza, Tuscany last year. Bread and olives can provide enough temporary respite to any hungry Italian. 

When we added the chestnuts to the rabbit, gave the risotto its final stir, poured bubbling glasses of Serprino Prosecco from the nearby Euganei Hills, and sat down to dinner, we were satisfied by the process before we ever ate one bite.