SalmonBerry

Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

Potato Leek Soup with Dill Oil

In Nutrition, Recipe on December 24, 2014 at 3:03 am

“The point is to write as much as you know as quickly as possible.” -Kurt Vonnegut

disco joy

Go where the joy is

I’m not sure in what context he said the above quote but I thought it was inspiring and could be applied to almost any creative pursuit.

There can be this palpable rush of needing to get it all out of you already.

I’ve always liked to write but I used to be confined, as an environmental consultant, to the rigid rules of technical writing. It feels so liberating to blog about food and nutrition and yoga; however, I hold back from doing much writing and mostly stick to presenting recipes. I am self-conscious about the fact that I have neither an English degree nor experience in journalism and editing. Jeez, I was even terrible about keeping up a diary as a young girl. I now journal regularly but that doesn’t necessarily make you a writer, right?

Kurt Vonnegut’s formal education was in biochemistry and he also obtained a Master’s degree in anthropology: “I’m on the New York State Council for the Arts now,” he told The Paris Review, “and every so often some other member talks about sending notices to college English departments about some literary opportunity, and I say, ‘Send them to the chemistry departments, send them to the zoology departments, send them to the anthropology departments and the astronomy departments and physics departments, and all the medical and law schools. That’s where the writers are most likely to be… I think it can be tremendously refreshing if a creator of literature has something on his mind other than the history of literature so far. Literature should not disappear up its own asshole, so to speak.”

butter in dill oil

Every good soup begins with butter…and dill oil.

Reading this single quote by this one author inspired me to just do it already. Just start writing about anything and everything that popped into my head. It’s OK that I didn’t get my degree in English Lit. I feel aligned with Vonnegut in that I have two science degrees, so why not pursue writing?! I’ve always been a voracious and quick reader and have consumed so many books in my lifetime that you would think I’d have absorbed decent sentence structure and a vast vocabulary.

For my trip to India last fall, I decided to list “writer, nutritionist” as my occupation when filling out my visa forms. This was an attempt to start establishing myself as a writer in my subconscious while actually attempting to become a working writer. This proved to be problematic as I was then labeled a journalist and had to fill out additional paperwork stating that I would not be acting in a journalistic capacity while in India and, although I requested a 10-year visa, I was only awarded a 5-year visa. Apparently, I’ve got to reach enlightenment by 2018 and then I’m on my own.

potato leek soup

Drizzled, topped, and sprinkled with dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere cheese

So, on to the soup…obviously there are a TON of potato-leek versions out there but they aren’t all good or even all that simple (which I feel like this humble soup should be). This is a really quick and easy soup for the busy holiday season. It’s perfect to make when you are tired of preparing all the fancy holiday dinners and just want something nourishing. A bonus is that you probably already have all the ingredients on hand.

I think this soup caught my eye b/c of the toppings. I am sucker for garnishing and embellishing my food. So the addition of a drizzle of dill oil, toasted almonds, and Gruyere was more than I could resist. Plus, this soup requires few ingredients and can easily be made vegan (sub olive oil for butter). I simplified the preparation a bit without sacrificing taste (I think) and feel free to get creative with the toppings. Pureed soups sometimes need a bit of embellishing in order to give them depth and texture.

potato leek soup - ingredients

Leeks, dill, and red potatoes…and not much else.

I used red-skinned potatoes which are perhaps not the most “thin-skinned” potato but look prettiest in pictures so, thus, were chosen. Yukon Gold potatoes are perhaps the creamier and thinner-skinned choice for this soup. Experiment.

The following makes a large pot (8-10 servings):

1 small bunch of fresh dill
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3.5 pounds leeks
6 TBSP unsalted butter
Sea salt
3 medium-sized, or 4-6 small, potatoes, thinly sliced
4-8 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the flat side of knife

4 cups veggie broth, for cooking, and up to 4 cups more for thinning the soup

Toppings: almond slices, toasted and Gruyere cheese, grated

Use a hand blender to puree the dill and olive oil into a creamy green emulsion. Set aside.

Cut the dark, tough green leaves from the leeks, trim off the roots, and wash/rinse well. Use a food processor to chop the leeks in two batches. 

In a large soup pot, heat the butter and 5 tablespoons of the dill oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, stir in the leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Stir well, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften up, about 6-8 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and garlic and 4 cups of veggie broth. Simmer until potatoes are soft and mushy. Puree with a hand blender and then continue to add veggie broth until the consistency suits your taste.

Bring back to a simmer, then serve topped with almonds, grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of the remaining dill oil.

Advertisements

The Hunger Games

In Nutrition, Yoga on October 2, 2013 at 12:00 am
beet juice and avos

Veggie juice and avocados

September was Hunger Action Month (as well as World Alzheimer’s Month, Whole Grains Month, National Literacy Month, and National Preparedness Month!). And, yes, that was last month but I’ve finally finished this post and I won’t let the small factor of time affect the publishing.

figs n goat cheese2

Figs and herbed goat cheese

It’s hard to believe that, in an overweight and obese nation, there are those that struggle with hunger; however, 1 in 5 kids live with food insecurity, meaning they are not sure from where their next meal will come. Let us contrast that with the well-known fact that I like to cleanse and restrict the types of food I eat during a particular time period. I’ve also been known to fast (or “play famine victim” as a clever friend of mine prefers to call it) only consuming water over a 48hr time period. This is not some dangerous or irresponsible game I am playing. My choices are backed by the logical (the science of metabolism and nutrition) and the mystical (religious traditions and spiritual paths). I’ve been blessed with the abundance to not have to worry about whether I will have enough food to eat. In fact, I am spoiled in that I can afford to be choosey about what food I consume going to great lengths and costs to acquire exactly the type of food that I deem fit for my body. In theory, I have unlimited access to food. This is an outrageous luxury that I don’t believe I fully appreciate as often as I should.

As I settle into my dietetic internship, which begins in food service systems management, I see a wide gulf between what I consider nutritious and fit for consumption and what is being served in the school cafeterias and eateries. I’m not the first to feel this way and I’m certainly not going to solve the complex conundrum that is the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) during my 13 week rotation. The struggle to reconcile all of the contradictions and figure out where I fit into this mix is occupying way too much mental and emotional space. I want to let it all go. As such I’ve decided to take a different tack and see the issue from the practical, macro-level of scarcity and hunger.

retreat pantry

Retreat Pantry: organic, gluten-free, soy-free, blah, blah

In September, I attended a silent yoga retreat with Swami Ritavan at Questhaven, an esoteric Christian training and retreat center. When asked if I would do the menu planning and food preparation for the 18 participants, I quickly agreed then panicked, fearing I would give everyone food poisoning or have them running off-site to the nearest restaurant. As the menu-planning process began, the food restrictions, intolerances, and dietary requests from the participants started pouring in…gluten-free, vegan, no grains, soy-free, etc. I modified the menu accordingly carefully read labels as I spent many hours and loads of cash purchasing and prepping the organic groceries for the weekend’s meals. It was quite delicious to buy such high quality ingredients and lovingly prepare nourishing meals to support each participants’ spiritual journey inward. It’s also quite freeing to cook for a captive, voice-less audience who can’t complain about the food or make additional special requests!

Anyway, it was a lovely weekend. There was plenty of food and plenty of warm smiles and plenty of full bellies and plenty of nourished souls. On Monday, I quickly changed gears as I jumped into Day 1 of my dietetic internship at a high school district. There was neither a chia seed nor an organic berry to be found. I’ve spent the last month watching (and helping) prepare food – some highly processed and some made-from-scratch – on a much larger scale for growing, learning students. school food showEveryone who works in school food service is striving to do the best they can with the resources they are given. Putting together a balanced meal that kids will actually eat while factoring in labor costs makes ready-made, processed foods very appealing. With some schools having as much as 80% of children qualifying for free or reduced-price lunches, the costs for food, labor, equipment, and benefits must be recovered through the children that can afford to pay full price. This is an important service that schools provide to improve the learning capacity of their students and should not be de-valued. School food vendors are doing their best to provide foods that meet the new guidelines for whole grains and lower fats but still, at the end of the day, it’s mostly highly-processed, pre-cooked, flash-frozen, and very low in nutrients.

During my first week, I attended a school food product show and met up with grad school friends who appear to be thriving in this atmosphere even though I am aware of their personal philosophies regarding food and nutrition. I’m introduced to quite a few people in this type of dietetic work and I’m careful to remain neutral and friendly even though I feel conflicted and confused by the fact that I would rather be teaching yoga or developing a new soup recipe.

labryinthThe next evening I hosted SoupAsana attended by a group of women I met at the silent retreat. One of participants brings her sister who (how amazing is the universe in giving me answers to my questions and doubts??) happens to be married to one of the school nutrition directors I met the previous day. He too struggles with the quality of the school lunches and strives to provide the healthiest meals possible for the children who may only get one decent meal a day.

That’s all I needed. I am exactly where I should be. Doing exactly what I should be doing. On all levels and in all places of my life. No matter that it may seem contradictory from the outside. It’s all falling into place in the cosmic realm. And it will all be OK.

Perhaps Hunger Action Month is a good time to evaluate how much of your resources go towards food, how much volume you eat, where can you increase the quality while decreasing the quantity, and, most importantly, in what ways can you contribute to organizations that support other humans in their struggle with hunger and food insecurity?

Check out these top hunger organizations: Feeding America, UNICEF (my personal favorite), Share Our Strength, World Food Programme, Generations United, and Meals on Wheels. Hunger is a year-round problem so please take action even though it’s now October.

Salmonberry Bars

In Nutrition, Recipe on May 16, 2013 at 6:40 am

salmonberry barI never liked PowerBars. I didn’t like the taffy-like texture or artificial flavor. Trail mix wasn’t hip enough and was way too ubiquitous during my childhood in the 70s. So I was really excited when the ClifBar was invented. In the 90s, I did a lot of backpacking and ate a lot of ClifBars. Then I realized, maybe I should be eating LunaBars, they’re for women, right? Those quickly became sickeningly sweet and aren’t even remotely healthy so I gave up on bars altogether until…the Larabar. Just dates, nuts, dried fruit, and maybe some spices. Simple and healthy and my kids loved them too. Recently, I discovered that Larabar was bought by General Mills who is against GMO labeling and just generally has some crappy products they try to sell as “food” (2 thumbs up for Cheerios, though!).

I prefer to buy from local companies with whom I agree on issues that are important to me (you may not care about GMOs or the consolidation of food production/manufacturing). Anyway, I’ve found two locally-made bars that get the ‘healthy’ nod when my kids ask to eat them: Perfect Foods Bar and Earnest Eats. in processorNow I’ve attempted to make my own bar based on my taste preferences and maniacal need to make everything healthier. Introducing the Salmonberry Bar!

Things got a bit sketchy and I was skeptical about my ability to pull these off. But I totally surprised myself with this one. Not too sweet and with some subtle, sophisticated flavors…watch out KindBars, I’m taking over the local Starbucks – ha!

Process until smooth:

1/2 cup pitted dates

1 and 1/2 cups unsweetened, sunflower seed butter, almond butter, or peanut butter

1/2 cup honey

Add: ~3/4 cups hot water, to thin mixture

bar ingredientsAdd in the following:

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp cocoa powder

1 tsp finely ground espresso

1 tsp allspice

2 TBSP chia seeds

2 TBSP finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

Add and process lightly:

1/2 cup almonds

1/2 cup cashews

Remove mixture from processor and into mixing bowl with:

2 cups rolled oats or buckwheat groats

Mix well with wooden spoon and spread mixture on greased, baking sheet. Press down with greased spatula so mixture is about 1/4-inch high.

Bake at 350 for 15 minutes.

After baking, sprinkle with sesame seeds and press them into mixture with the back of a greased spatula. Let cool completely and cut into 1-inch-squares. Makes ~30 bars.

1 bar = 167 kcals, 4g protein, 9g fat, 2g fiber, 13g total carbs, 8g sugars

I would’ve have preferred this bar to be higher in fiber but I feel good about the sugars (from honey & dates). The texture is perfect and it is only mildly sweet and very filling. However, the clean-up was a pain (goopy dates and nut butter stuck to my processor blade!). I honestly don’t know if it was worth the effort in the kitchen because I spotted these in the bulk bins at Whole Foods for only $7.99/pound: Carob Energee Nuggets. They are almost exactly the same nutritionally and look eerily similar to my bars…has someone been spying on the Salmonberry kitchen??

carob energeen nuggets nutrition

Same calories, fat, carbs, protein, & fiber.

carob energee bars

Looks – and tastes – delicious!

Plant Power

In Nutrition on April 11, 2013 at 8:39 pm
photo (52)

Superfoods: onion, kale, sweet potato

I’ll be the first to admit that nutrition research can be contradictory, changeable, and alarmist especially as presented by media sound bites. “Fat is bad” then “Eat more fat” and “Carbs make you fat” then “Actually, only ‘bad’ carbs make you fat” and “Antioxidants: more equals better” then “Wait, antioxidant supplements act as pro-oxidants”! During graduate school I was required to pore through the research and the one constant in almost 40 years of nutrition research was this: fruit and vegetable intake is inversely correlated with chronic disease risk.

This means that as you INCREASE your F/V consumption you DECREASE your risk of developing a chronic disease (and the other way around). This is one of the most consistent findings of nutritional epidemiology.

cauliflower

Huge, homegrown cauliflower

 The correlation starts at a min of 5 servings of F/V and – this is the good part – maxes out at 9 servings of F/V. So you can eat 12 servings per day of F/V (if you can fit all that fiber in your belly) but research has demonstrated it WON’T MAKE YOU ANY HEALTHIER than the person eating 9 servings of F/V. Of course, the amount of F/V servings needed depends on body size and gender: a petite woman needs 5-6 while a bigger man needs up to 8-9. Look closely at your diet to see where you can replace an animal food with a plant food. It’s time to change that long-told storyline in your head about the veggies you don’t like and the foods you think you “need” to be healthy. Challenge those old patterns and re-investigate plant foods you may have written off years ago. Meat-lovers, don’t dispair! There is room for animal foods in your diet but consider using them as an accompaniment (i.e. garnish or side dish, perhaps?) to your main meal of powerful plant foods.