Archive for vegetarian

Healing Yourself Naturally Part Two

Okay, time for the second installment of our healing naturally series.  Now that you know all about the different hazards conspiring to keep you from healthy happy living, let’s focus on what you can do to keep yourself in tip top shape when flu season or the cold n’ nasties hit your town.

First, eliminate as many sources of needless electromagnetic radiation as possible from your environment.  Turn off your cell phone when you’re not taking calls, unplug appliances when not in use, turn off your computer whenever possible, and generally try to avoid having more wireless gadgets than you really need.  I know, easier said than done, right?  This is as good a reason as any to try to spend some quality time at the park or other natural spaces where limited numbers of electronic devices dwell.  Not only that, but you’ll be supporting our faltering National Park system, which is crumbling under the weight of budget cuts.  But given that you do probably spend a lot of time at home, consider creating an EMF (electromagnetic frequency) free zone.  This can be done by picking a room and having it outfitted with a screen mesh designed to block such frequencies.  BlockEMF.com sells a “budget radio shield” curtain that only costs $6.  Hard to beat that!  They also sell Flectron copper fabric which can be used to coat an entire room using instructions available on their site.  You can also just protect your person by wearing EMF blocking clothing such as the garments available to LessEMF.com, which are a lightweight silver mesh that slips easily under other clothing.  Check out the page here to see their designs: www.lessemf.com.

EMF shielding clothing

EMF shielding clothing

Now that you’ve eliminated some of the errant frequencies in your daily environs, we can move on to diet, where we spent a great deal of yesterday’s article dissecting the dangers of eating food in the new millennium.  First, and foremost, you should eat locally whenever possible.  While locally produced food is no guarantee that it will be grown organically, by choosing small farmers who personally represent their wares at Farmer’s Markets, you not only get a better sense of where your food comes from and the work that goes into it, you are helping to support varieties of plants that are best suited to your climate, which helps to preserve biodiversity.  And trust me, the food at such markets TASTES so much better than what you get in the Ubermarket.  So if you can’t grow your own, go for this route or the increasingly popular CSA delivery programs instead.

Now that you’re committed to going local, what to buy when you visit the market?  There are a whole host of “superfoods” cropping up (sorry, couldn’t help myself) in markets today, all promising to make you look like Gisele with the skin of a twenty year old.  Hey, I’m all for beauty too, but let’s keep things in perspective.  Here are some foods that WILL help boost your immune system.

1. fresh garlic: garlic stimulates the production of white blood cells in your body, which increases your ability to fight off infections and diseases when they attack.  While eating a whole raw clove is supposedly the best for you, understandably, you may not be up to the taste or ensuing vampire (and loved one) repellent qualities.  So try stir frying a little fresh garlic into your next dinner without overcooking it and you can expect a similar immune boost.  Personally, I like baked garlic, which gets all nice and mushy and sweet as it cooks, paired with fresh tomatoes and some mozzarella cheese with balsamic vinegar.  Mmmmm!  And remember, garlic is an incredibly easy plant to grow, so if you’re willing to venture into gardening, this is a great candidate on many fronts.

2. citrus fruit: yep, good ol’ vitamin C in a convenient to carry biodegradable case.  Citrus is nature’s doctor in a ball.  If the idea of lots of orange juice has you blahed out or feeling heartburn, consider Acai, strawberries, kiwi, cantaloupe, cherries, and other fruits which pack the vitamin C punch without some of the acids.  And when you do feel something coming on, a big dose of vitamin C such as that found in Emergen-C packets will help your body to gain enough strength to cut it off at the pass.

3. zinc-rich foods: shellfish are very high in zinc, but you can also get a respectable amount from legumes such as beans.  You can supplement zinc, but beware overloading on it.  Zinc helps your body produce t cells, the agents that fight off disease in the blood.

Above all else, eating fresh foods as compared to those in cans or frozen will go a long way to making sure that the nutrients that are naturally present in the foods will still be available to you when you eat them.  Don’t overcook, eat raw when possible, and as I just said, avoid canned foods which often leach metals from their containers into the food you you eat.

So now that you’re avoiding EMF and eating right, the next step is exercise.  If you’re an off-grid enthusiast like I know you are, you’re probably already above the average when it comes to the amount of daily exercise you get.  After all, those solar panels aren’t going to clean themselves, and you realize that short trips are a great reason to walk instead of taking that pollution spitting car.  By exercising daily in some form or another, you’re not only keeping your muscles healthy and staying in cardiovascular shape, you’re probably also getting a nice healthy dose of vitamin D from the sun.  Studies have shown that vitamin D plays a large role in determining how well our bodies can fight off disease.  And unless you live somewhere in the arctic circles or a constantly rainy clime, the sun is the most consistent way to get this super nutrient.  In winter months, the sun doesn’t shine for as many hours a day, so its extra important to grab rays where and when possible.  This goes for those of you in recovery too.  Florence Nightengale found that the single best indicator of how well a patient will recover is the amount of direct sunlight to which they were exposed.

So there you have it, three easy ways to make sure that this year you won’t be the one sniffling at the board meeting, all without resorting to prescription drugs.  This is especially important as studies roll in indicating that our world’s water supplies are becoming tainted with a cocktail of drugs, many of which are harmful to those who don’t need to be on them.  And you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you don’t support the multinational conglomerates who charge so much for their wares that people in developing countries can’t afford to even take advantage of the lifesaving properties of the drugs that COULD help them.  And that’s a very healthy way to approach your consumerism, indeed!  Here’s to your health!

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Healing Yourself Naturally Part One

Happy New Year, Solarious fans!  Having just gotten over a nasty flu, it seems a perfect moment to discuss natural healing techniques.  The pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest in the world.  Yet despite the trillions of dollars that have been poured into research, marketing, and sales of these medicines, we as a planet are sicker than ever.  We may live longer, but we live on crutches, both physical and chemical, which limit the value of the lives we are leading.  How can this be so?  Well, ask a thousand doctors and you’ll probably get as many answers.  However a few things cannot be denied.  Today, we’ll look at the reasons we have to take better care of ourselves than ever, and then tomorrow, we’ll discuss ways to get ourselves back on our feet without supporting the drug companies, who are responsible for some pretty atrocious acts upon our earth.

The quality of the food that you eat today is nothing like the food your parents grandparents ate.  Even if you consider yourself a healthy eater, a vegetarian/vegan, follow a strict macrobiotic diet, whatever, the quality of the actual food that goes into your body has declined over time.   This is the unappetizing consequence of the industrial farming system, one in which plants and animals are bred purely for their appearance and ability to sit for long periods on store shelves, rather than their inherent nutritional qualities.  Of the hundreds of apple varieties available in the United States at the turn of the twentieth century, commercial growers winnowed down to just five or six different varieties that were chosen for two characteristics: sweetness and the ability to look good on the shelf.  Given that apples are grown on grafted trees, all of the apples you enjoy today are identical genetic clones of or direct offspring of these clones of the aforementioned five varieties.  Seriously.  That Jonagold you crave?  A Jonathan apple and a Golden delicious.  For a really excellent discussion of this whole quagmire of genetic reduction in this noble fruit, check out “The Botany of Desire” by Michael Pollan.  Actually, go read it anyway, you’re going to love it.

But back to the larger point: as we reduce the genetic variety available in the foods we eat, we reduce the possibly helpful combinations of nutrients available to our bodies.  We also increase the chances that our food supplies will all be stricken by some bug or another and never recover, therefore extinguishing that source of nutrition from our available diets forever.  There is talk that the banana plant, the most harvested fruit on the planet, may go extinct within the next fifty years because almost all commercially grown bananas are of only one variety, which has recently been attacked in Asia by a lethal disease that spraying cannot stop.  It is only a matter of time, scientists theorize, until that disease makes its way to South America and poof!  No more bananas for the world.  Scary stuff.  And of course this same scenario applies to things like cows, for you burger lovers out there.

So now you realize how important the quality of the food you put into the system is.  But have you ever thought about the processes to which your food is subjected before you ever get to lay hands on it?  When you microwave food, pasteurize it, can it, or freeze it, there can occur chemical and physical changes within the food that alter your body’s ability to utilize the nutrients within.  Some nutrients are outright destroyed by these processes, all of which are relatively new scientific techniques in the last hundred years or so. Eat a freezer dinner, which has probably been subjected to all of the above processes at one point or another, and, well, I THINK there are some nutrients in there, but…

So your body’s immunity is likely lowered simply because of diet, unless you are eating raw, locally produced vegetables and perhaps small amounts of locally and sustainably raised meats and fish.  Now, what about your cell phone?  What?  My phone, you say?  Okay, not your phone specifically, but the myriad of wireless and electrical devices that crowd today’s home and urban landscape.  Electricity moves in waves, and waves have frequencies.  Most people don’t think of humans as electrical creatures but we, too, vibrate at certain frequencies within our bodies, as electricity is conducted around our bodies.  Every nerve operates this way, and every thought in your brain is an electrical impulse.  Now the thing about waves is that they are affected by each other, either in a complimentary or destructive fashion.  So all that electromagnetic frequency flying through the air DOES affect you, whether you like it or not.  Remember when they started to wonder whether cell phone rotted your brain a few years back?  Well, they never really publicized the results of those studies, because the reality is that putting a wave-emitting device up to your head for hours a day just is not good for you.  The scariest implication of this is that in today’s world, there are really very few places you can go to get away from the invasive waves flying overhead.   Makes you look at that cell phone dead spot in a whole new light.

Add to the above the increased daily stress of living a high paced life in today’s society – we sleep less, work more, travel on germ infested planes, come into contact with more people, take fewer rest periods, and exercise WAY less – coupled with the fact that we have largely lost touch with the natural cycles of the earth such as getting up and going to bed with the sun each day as our ancestors have done since the beginnings of time, and it’s easy to see why our bodies’ defenses are at an all time low when it comes to fighting off what are increasingly potent viruses, bugs, and mutations that cause illness and death.

You can do a lot for yourself just by making sure you eat as well as possible and get plenty of rest.  And DRINK LOTS OF WATER everyone!  Your body has a higher water content than an apple, so if you’ve ever watched one wither away on your countertop, you know exactly what’s going on in your body when you eschew this wonder fluid.  But these are the basics.  Check back tomorrow, when we’ll cover medicinal herbs, electromagnetic frequency stabilization techniques, and other low-chemical ways to bring the temple that is your body back into greater harmony with yourself and the earth around you.

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HOW TO: Create a Seed Bank

As another hurricane bears down on the gulf coast, one has to wonder whether the glass half empty crowd which has been predicting increased damage in upcoming years due to natural disaster is correct. Nature does go in cycles, and we may end up laughing off current pessimism about the planet’s inability to regulate herself. But current data does suggest that we are facing at the least a massive migration of plants and animal species to inhabit new regions of the planet. Global environmental organizations are already seeing plant and animal species move to new elevations of previously frigid territory and dead zones showing up in previously fertile areas.

Perhaps the hardest adjustment we as humans will have to make, provided we don’t all take each other out first, is that of food supply.  When the local soils no longer support the crops to which we’re accustomed, we’ll be faced with two choices: move, or learn to cultivate something new.  This migratory period will be critical to the existence of all life on earth.  By creating and maintaining seed banks, we are helping to sustain the biological diversity of life on earth.  This is the aim of the latest biological depository established in Scandinavia, into which governments from around the world are locking seed samples in preservatory conditions in case of Doomsday.

But while the establishment of such seed banks are admirable, the greatest potential for preserving biological diversity lies with the individual.  After all, your grandmother’s mint patch that grows in your backyard probably isn’t on the seed registry’s radar, and neither are your neighbor’s prize heirloom sunflowers.  For any planet to sustain a wide diversity of genetic material, it is we, the people, who will have to stash away the genetic legacy of our lives thusfar as a gift to the future.  So why not get started now?

Making a seed bank is ridiculously easy.  You could well go from a single set of seeds to more than you could ever plant within the span of a single growing season.  Of course, seeds are most fertile when fresh, but stored under the right conditions, most seeds will last for years.  It is a good practice to plant from your seed bank each year, and replenish the stock with fresh seed over the growing season.  This way, most of your seed stays fresh at any time.

Now, how to get started?  First, buy an pack of little brown paper envelopes, or even just a package of writing envelopes.  Then stash a few in your pocketbook, briefcase, or car, and start hunting!  Every time you see a particularly beautiful tree in fruit, a really nice flower, or healthy looking seed grasses, take a handful of seeds, pat them dry if they are wet (say from being removed from their protective fruit coverings to prevent rot), and place them in the envelope.  Be sure to label the outside of the package with what type of plant (if you don’t know, just describe it as best possible), the date on which you collected it, and ideally, where you found it. Then transfer your sealed envelopes to a cool dry storage place next time you are home, to keep the seeds from germinating and then dying from lack of soil nutrition. Then you simply hit the road again and look for more!  Most people won’t mind you taking a handful of anything from their lawn, but certainly some tact and discretion are in order always.

The next step in a successful seed bank is to increase the diversity through exchange with others. In most towns there are groups of seed savers who get together periodically to have exchanges, in which you give a little to get a little of something else.  This is the true gem of seed collection. You are gaining access to the best of all local areas, all of which should be relatively well suited to cultivation in your area, simply for having an eagle eye in your own neighborhood.

As with all great ventures, the best time to get started is before everyone else catches on. That way, when seeds become more scarce, you’ll already be a practiced veteran of the seed trade.  This is truly a return to the simpler life our parents parents experienced, and is a selfless act of philanthropy you can complete without spending a dime.

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BOOK REVIEW: Fresh! Seeds of the Past and Food for Tomorrow

Fresh! Seeds from the Past and Food for Tomorrow

It’s been a big week of reading, trying to stay ahead of the library due dates.  This was a great book, a bit different from any I’ve read before in the general gardening arena.  Brian Patterson takes a scientific look at human history’s tenuous relationship with the foods we eat and illustrates how cultivation of seeds created the culinary landscape we take for granted today.  Part science, part history, and very interesting, he goes beyond the superficial facts and examines cultivation on a chemical level. How did we learn that potatoes, though poisonous when green, can be eaten when cooked?  Or that by fermenting grape juice and adding it to flour, we can enjoy light, fluffy leavened bread, but only if that grape juice doesn’t turn to vinegar first?  When viewed through the lens of science, even the most mundane of foods take on a magical quality.

It’s not a super long book (160 pages) but it’s surprisingly full of facts to be so easy to read.  I especially enjoyed the sections on the global spread of foods from one culture to the next and the final section which contains his look toward to future of plants and humans.  For those considering gardening as a nutritional endeavor, I can’t recommend this enough. Though not expressly a gardening book, you’ll find plenty of solid tips on how to get the most from your plants in terms of flavor and nutrition.  And who doesn’t want either of those?  You’ll also get a clearer understanding of the miracles that led to the availability of foods in your favorite seed catalog, and it may inspire you to try a few new exotic varieties.

There’s also plenty here for those interested in botany or cultural anthropology. After all, seeing what detailed culinary data we can glean from Egyptian society based upon their meticulous burial practices, one can draw some interesting conclusions about how we might preserve our own history for future generations.  For the general reader, and especially for those interested in going off-grid, knowing more about locally grown foods and their health properties can only be helpful in today’s 1500 mile to plate global food culture. And it might make you befriend a local farmer or two for their floral insights.  Strawberries never tasted so sweet as when you know that the farmer used sustainable scientifically sound growing practices to deliver them to your kitchen.

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BOOK REVIEW: Skinny Bitch in the Kitch

Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (Rory Freedman and Kim Bardouin) – 2007 (excerpt)

The Bitches are Back!

For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll remember how excited (and grossed out!) I was by the book Skinny Bitch, a treatise on eating vegan and treating yourself like the queen (or king) you really are. (read the review here) Soon after turning the last page of that book, I ordered the new companion book, Skinny Bitch in the Kitch from the library and sat back to wait, and wait, and wait, for it to come. Guess it’s just as popular as the original!

While I did enjoy the book, it lacked the hard-hitting feeling of the first book. Much of this is due to the different format. After all, this is a cookbook, so the focus is on recipes, not pep-talks. I guess they figure they’ve already hit you over the head, no need to do it again. I read through it in an afternoon, copied the recipes I liked, and sent it on its way. No grossed out dreams the next day, not even a squeamish look at the supermarket meat aisle. Perhaps after the first book, my expectations were too high… I actually MISSED this feeling of being punched in the stomach, and felt like I’d been let down. The book sort of assumes that you’ve already read Skinny Bitch, and for those that haven’t you’re relegated to three pages of summary and an order to get off your ass and purchase that book too.

That being said, the recipes look very good, and admirably, they stick to a relatively normal palette of ingredients that you probably already own (or should). And they look pretty tasty too. Most don’t travel to the culinary ends of the world, but are instead vegan revamps of classic recipes. The organization was funny and there are some cute little quotes peppered here and there for good measure.

Overall, I liked the book, but felt that I’d have liked it better with a little less expectation. I found myself photocopying chapters from the first book and handing them out to everyone I knew while breathlessly expounding on the vegan lifestyle. That won’t be happening with this one. As a producer in the movie business, I know well the daunting challenge these ladies faced in creating the sequel to such a popular book. Truly, living up to high expectation is never easy. If you’ve never read either, I recommend getting the two books together and trying out the recipes while you read Skinny Bitch and other food is totally turning your stomach. That way, the yummy vegan meals you prepare will taste that much better, and will have a greater chance of ending up in your regular cooking repertoire.

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BOOK REVIEW: It’s a Long Road to a Tomato

It’s a Long Road to a Tomato (Google Books) Keith Stewart (2005)

Any home gardener out there know that the title of this book is indeed truthful. For every fruit or vegetable harvested from your garden, hours of time and plenty of resources went into cultivation. As Keith Stewart so eloquently describes, things get even more extreme when you turn to commercial gardening, and even more so when you commit to gardening organically.

This book was extremely entertaining and educational. What I liked best was the honest depiction of the amount of work it takes to be a farmer in the 21st century. Next time you go to a farmers’ market, take a moment to talk to a vendor about their farm: you’ll really appreciate how hard they work when you hear stories of 4am waking and hand weeding in a commitment to earth-friendly growing practices! Suddenly, paying $0.50 more for an avocado doesn’t seem like such a bad deal.

The story is a personal one, outlining Mr. Stewart’s journey from city-dwelling ad man to wildly successful organic farmer at NYC’s most famous farmers market. You’ll read about the stringent hoops one must jump through to call produce organic, the unglamorous life of digging in the dirt, current governmental and policy landscapes for the independent farmer, managing a staff of farm workers, and many interesting little unrelated tales from the journey. When the cover quotes “you’ll laugh out loud”, they aren’t kidding.

I was inspired from reading this book to plant some garlic, which Mr. Stewart praises as perhaps the best plant on earth. True to his word, the plants have done very well even under my inexperienced care. It was nice to see his progression from a hobbyist’s garden to a commercial venture… it makes the leap seem that much more tangible for those of us looking to break into that market.

All in all, I have nothing but praise for this book. If you’ve ever considered growing professionally, you really should read this book first. Not that it will scare you off (on the contrary, I found it very inspiring), but it WILL give you a much better idea of the things you need (a garden, a good accountant, and a dream) and the things you had better not need (like sleep and a social life!). And even if you aren’t trying to change careers, it will help you connect the food you eat to its source, and encourage you to buy local and support your local independent farmers as they battle the giant conglomerates who control our global food supply. So go on, savor that local tomato, it will be so much sweeter!

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Cooking: Refining the Recipes

Here’s a few pics of my “new and improved” Banana Pie, now featuring Ginger and mixed berries. By eliminating the extra juice and adding fruits that I foraged and some shredded ginger, I was able to both increase the sliceability of the pie and add a crucial taste dimension. It kept very well covered at room temperature for a day. If I had a fridge, I’m sure it would have kept longer and tasted good chilled.

Yum. This was a drastic improvement over the past recipe, though both were tasty. This time, I added: 1/2 ginger root, shredded; 10 blackberries; 3 ripe bananas, mashed; 2 passion fruits (foraged); flax seeds (enough to coat top of pie); and graham cereal to top (a nice thick coat, added after cooking, to cover the browning of the bananas). Cook covered for 1 hour. Make sure you shred the ginger very fine, and mix well or spread evenly, unless you like your desserts “spicy”.

Crab and Artichoke Frittata. Next, I attacked the egg “jello” recipe, hoping to solve a little of the texture problem. This time, I used: three eggs, lightly beaten, but not totally homogenized; 1 small can crab meat; 1/2 can quartered artichoke hearts (not the marinated kind, the kind packed in water); two pinches crushed sea salt. Cook covered for 1 and 1/2 hours. The result? The eggs did have a slightly better texture, but I’m thinking that the texture is something iherent in the solar cooking process. The color issue did not improve (eggs turn brown in the solar cooker), but the result tasted good, especially when an additional pinch of sea salt was sprinkled on top before serving. No pictures here, as it wasn’t too photogenic, but it was a solid meal, and my cats went nuts for it, (and ended up eating a few human sized portions of it while I wasn’t looking!)

For a hearty side dish, I prepared carrot and black eyed pea succotash. Very simple, few ingredients, and tasted and smalled great. It was so easy I almost feel guilty calling it a recipe. I used: 1 can sliced carrots; 1 can black eyed peas; 1 t sea salt; 1 T sesame seeds. Mix all, and cook covered for 45 minutes, or until hot. Here’s the (predictable) result, which needed no extra seasoning to be palatable:

So there you have it: three “new” recipes for summer cooking fun. As I learn more about urban foraging (more about this in my next post) I am trying to incorporate locally found foods into my recipes. We’ll see how it goes.

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