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Summer Squash Bake

It is zucchini season. Finding delicious ways to eat this vegetable is quite easy. It’s subtle sweetness and versatile texture lend it to be delicious eaten raw or cooked. This recipe for “Summer Squash Bake” is currently my favorite way to eat zucchini, but some other options include: sauteed with onions and spinach, in a green curry, made into flax crackers, or puree into soups (adds a nice viscosity without cream).

 

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Chuck Eye Round Roast

Rather than spending half the day in the car battling traffic on the way to the shore, we decided to have a stay-cation in the relaxing comfort of home. A day that started by watching bike races on TV, followed by walking slowly around the property, swimming laps in our neighbor’s pool, and cooking from the heart. This day was soothing for the body and soul. The day concluded with a casual dinner that I cooked for my husband and in-laws. Even though this is not a traditional summer meal, it was satisfying and light served with a red leaf lettuce salad (bought locally from the Farmer’s Market) and roasted yellow beans.

 

Joys of Seeking Help

After about a year and a half, I finally wised up, rather than trying to figure this out myself, along with the encouragement of my husband, I decided to seek help.

I am studying nutrition and with my new knowledge, perseverance, and persistence, I have already used food to heal myself from a variety of symptoms. These include: suppressed immune system evident with recurring colds (one winter I got eight colds), bowel distress including constipation, bloating, heartburn, and stomach pain, also, acne and stress are immensely improved. My hair is thicker and fuller, nails stronger, and skin more luminous.

Even with the improvement of so many symptoms, still, once a month, when Aunt Flow came to visit, during the first couple of hours of my period, I experienced intense cramping and pain, diarrhea, vomiting, bloating, and fatigue. I would have to spend a few hours in the bathroom, of which half of this time was spent in a fetal position on the floor while I breathed through the pain that made time stand still. Even though, I was doing everything that I could think of to alleviate these episodes, for over a year, once a month, horrible symptoms persisted.

In October of 2016, I finally had enough and sought help. Since I had not had a pelvic exam in a couple of years, this was the first place to start. The mid-wife, compassionate and motivated to help me resolve this issue shed a little light on the issue. She said that clots were occurring when my uterine lining was shedding resulting in cramping and excessive blood flow. However, I did not think my blood flow was excessive, but clots, I could agree with. Through the pelvic exam and PAP smear, everything seemed normal and healthy. The mid-wife offered some advice consisting of taking an anti-clot medicine prior to the start of my cycle or oral contraceptives. These were the exact substances I had been working hard to detox from body. I could not succumb, there must be another way to resolve my issues. Working with my diet to resolve so many of my other issues had instilled in me that diet and lifestyle is the ultimate means to a healthy soul. I sought an alternative, holistic means to support my body while it balanced itself back to health.

Acupuncture. This Traditional Chinese Medicine practice called out to me. I sought a local practitioner, where through reviewing her website, which had an emphasis on food, led me to an initial consult. After a review of my symptoms, she said I had a damp spleen, which is common among westerners. Westerners heavy reliance on simple carbohydrates, fried foods, rancid oils, and processed foods combined with over-use of antibiotics, antacids, and NSAIDs, many Americans have weak constitutions which leads to bowel distress. This is evident in the increased incidences of IBS and IBD that are occurring in modern, industrialized nations.

Through diet and lifestyle, I had a massive decrease in problematic bowel related symptoms. However, once a month, when hormone levels decrease which stimulates an increase in inflammation that encourages my uterine lining to shed, it irritated my gastrointestinal tract too. The solution for damp spleen is consistent acupuncture treatments to stimulate Qi along with diet adjustments. Already free of gluten, dairy, eggs, most other grains, and a few other food allergies that I had discovered through elimination diets, my acupuncturist recommended “no raw food”, also limit fruit, sugar, alcohol, tomato, and chicken.  This was a 180 from how I was used to eating. My daily meals consisted of at least one raw salad and a raw smoothie with chicken eaten around five times per week. Immediately, I started sauteing my salads while I thought about how I could incorporate more cooked vegetables into my diet. Slowly, making these dietary changes, while persistently maintaining my acupuncture appointments, I have experienced a tremendous improvement in symptoms.

My acupuncturist is full of positive energy gently and consistently reminding me to keep my diet on track while offering other lifestyle modifications that can benefit my condition like meditation and hydrotherapy.

Now, my periods start slowly. There is no more vomiting or fetal position once a month. Bloating, cramping, and diarrhea have lessened. I am hopeful these symptoms can be diminished even more through personal effort, but more importantly, with help.

A Vision of the Future: How Humanity Can Support a Local Food System

Fresh picked produce from bio-diverse, nourished soil.  Pastured chickens and ducks that wander freely within safe confines on green grasses and clover, full of grubs and bugs.  Turkeys that work together in flocks living in wooded areas for protection while plucking the ground for food liberally.  Beef from happy cows that live out their days under the sun and on top of green rolling hills.  Hogs that forage and dig.  Goats and sheep that wander through pastures grazing as they stroll.  Deer, rabbit, fox, hawks, coyote, and squirrel all live nearby letting you know wilderness is close.  This type of farm, large and small scatter through the countryside, but also immediately surround cities providing quick respite from the hustle and bustle of city life.  Within city limits, small urban farms are built into city lots providing pastured goats milk and chicken eggs.  Farms and green space are scattered into parks that flow throughout the city connecting rivers, lakes, forests, buildings and streets.  Shops and business complexes support rooftop gardens and conservatories used to grow vegetables, fruit, and herbs.  Bike lanes connect the city.  Subway and bus lines run efficiently and smoothly.  Cars are limited, but hitchhiking is encouraged because everyone feels important and cared for, there is minimal crime and theft.  A sense of community is large and far reaching, this is a united, stable, and strong country.

This united country is prosperous and giving.  The satisfaction of giving to the greater good far exceeds any feelings of delusional power that encompassed its long-ago history.  There is welfare, unemployment benefits, social security, and houses for the poor.  No one tries to cheat the system, so these welfare benefits work.  Insurance companies are now non-profits, truly working for the people rather than cheating them from money.  Pharmaceutical corporations and supplement companies are merged into one.  They do research on ways to support the body naturally to determine where chemical imbalances lie and how to support that imbalance while working with the person as a whole.  There is a return to human wisdom letting the body be the guide to health.  As sad as it is, when death is near, there is not a profound longing to hold onto an unfit life.  Rather, there is an understanding that this life is not the end, but the beginning of greater things.

Society as a whole benefits.  This seems extremely altruistic, but in a fictitious vision, why not hope for the best?  People feel supported and important.  They are intelligent, kind, and understanding.  Greed, manipulation, and fear are characteristics forgotten by the human race.  As a result, government is large, but by comparison, probably smaller than today.  Government uses its resources to maintain infrastructure, support hospitals and universities, employ police officers, firemen, military, emergency disaster workers, teachers, and farmers.  There are private companies and non-profits that are committed to environmental protection, animal welfare, food safety, and public health, but also technology to improve our world.  Technology and business is always conducted in an ethical way because this is the human condition.  The arts are considered highly prestigious and have been integrated into the schools as basic education.  Exercise and movement are also held high priority with the most fashionable people seen sweating in public.   The arts and sports thus provide ample number of jobs.  With an emphasis on movement and personal expression, people understand the connection between themselves and the food they eat.  This trickles down to providing precedence to biodynamic, sustainable farming practices and interest to continue keeping it ingrained in the culture, cities, and land.

This biodynamic, sustainable farm system that is interwoven within our cities and countryside’s is the backbone of life, so it is cared for the way life-giving properties should be.  Farmers are paid handsomely for their life supporting products and dedication to the trade.  There are farmer coalitions that sit on boards alongside city planners, logistics supervisors, and food market vendors within government that decide which private companies will conduct safety checks and food quality audits.  This board of farmers, city planners, logistic supervisors, and food purveyors work together to form a streamline system that delivers food effectively and efficiently to the people.  Fresh produce, pastured meats, dairy, eggs, and wild caught fish along with pantry stables like dried beans, nuts, seeds, and grains can all be purchased in a variety of venues.  These foods can be purchased from street markets where each store specializes in one genre of food.  Small corner markets are scattered throughout cities and towns that offer a little bit of everything.  Since farms and conservatories are intertwined even within the city, it is easy to swing by a produce and egg stand to pick up groceries for dinner.  Restaurants and small eateries play an integral part by offering prepared, wholesome meals cooked using the same biodynamic, sustainable foods found at the farms.  Schools include a farming and food preparation class that teaches kitchen skills, gardening, and farming practices.  This class is where kids spend their lunch hour preparing and sharing elaborate meals with their classmates.

This city planning food system described above would require years of evolution to complete.  It would require a massive change in world perspective.  There would have to be a major overhaul of government, private companies, corporations, and humanity.  Is this food system realistic, probably not now, but perhaps for the future?  Hope keeps people moving in an upward direction, a food model like this gives me hope.

Grain Free Apple Cinnamon Granola

3 medium organic apples, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1 c. coconut flakes
1/2 c. cashew pieces
1/4 c. chia seeds
2 T. flax seeds
1/4 c. coconut oil
1 T. honey
1 T. cinnamon
1 stevia packet
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt

This granola gets crunchy as the apples dehydrate and then cool.  It is sweet, salty and delicious served over plain, organic, grass fed yogurt or with almond milk.

In a medium sauce pan, over low heat, melt the coconut oil and honey until just combined.  Add vanilla, cinnamon, stevia, sea salt and stir to combine.  Add in all other ingredients and stir to coat.  Place in an even layer on two dehydrator trays or on a sheet pan.  Use a dehydrator set to 160 degrees Fahrenheit, for 12 hours, rotating trays halfway through cook time.  Also, could be done in an oven set to 160 degrees Fahrenheit or lowest temperature.  If your oven does not go this low, lessen cook time and stir more often.

Bacon and Veggie Hash

This is a really satisfying breakfast that is perfect for weekend mornings.  What makes it thoroughly satisfying is the blend of flavors lent from salty, smoky bacon paired with the sweet from the sweet potato, sweet and pungent onion set the stage for earthy shiitakes.  There is always room for spinach, so that goes in too.

2 slices bacon, cut into lardons.
1/4 of an onion, sliced thin
4 shiitake mushroom caps, sliced
1 small sweet potato, pre-cooked and diced
2 c. fresh spinach
sea salt

Slice bacon and place in a cool pan.  Put pan over low heat to render the fat slowly.  This will make the bacon crispy all the way through.  Stir occasionally until bacon becomes desired crispness.  Drain off excess fat, reserving about 1 T. in the pan for sauteing.  Add onion and sprinkle with a dash of sea salt, stir.  Let onion cook until translucent over low-medium heat stirring occasionally.  Now add shiitakes, a dash of sea salt, the sweet potatoes, a dash of sea salt and the spinach with a teeny bit of sea salt.  Do not stir yet, the order in which these veggies were added to the pan will allow them to cook just as is, in the pan for 3-5 minutes.  Now, stir until spinach is wilted and serve.  This would be good topped with an over easy egg or hollandaise sauce.  A breakfast fit for one, but can easily be doubled or quadrupled.

Slow Cooker Whole Chicken and Easy Broth

3-4 lb whole chicken, preferably humanely raised and organic
1 large onion, cut in half with skin removed
4 potatoes
1/4 c. white wine (optional)
4 garlic cloves
1 T. each: savory, thyme, rosemary
2 bay leaves
sprinkling of salt, pepper garlic seasoning salt
2 T. butter
1 T. corn starch
sea salt

In a large slow cooker, place whole potatoes, onion, bay leaves, wine, and garlic cloves in bottom and sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic seasoning.  In a separate bowl, combine savory, thyme, and rosemary, rub between fingers to break up the herbs and release their oils.  Sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic seasoning on breast side of whole chicken then sprinkle herb mixture onto breast side of chicken.  Place chicken, breast side down, on top of potatoes and onions, into slow cooker.  Now sprinkle salt, pepper, garlic seasoning and herb mixture onto this side of the chicken that is facing up.  Place lid on and cook on high for 3-4 hours.

Remove chicken from slow cooker and place on a cutting board to rest.  Remove onions to separate bowl or plate.  Remove potatoes and garlic cloves along with about 1/2 c. of the liquid that has accumulated at the bottom of the cooker to a bowl and mash with 2 T. butter and a dash of sea salt.

To make a gluten free gravy:  Place 2 c. of liquid from bottom of slow cooker into a medium sauce pan and heat over medium heat.  Add corn starch to 1/4 c. cold water to make a slurry.  Add this slurry to the sauce pan along with 2 T. brown rice flour and 1 tsp sea salt  Whisk in.  Cook until mixture just boils and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat.

Section the chicken however you see fit.  I like to eat the thigh first while my husband likes the breast.  Serve with onion, mashed potatoes smothered in gravy alongside a simple arugula salad.

After dinner, section the chicken pieces, place pieces in a container for the fridge.  We can get about three meals plus chicken broth from one whole chicken, so this is an exceptional cost effective buy.  The remaining bones, skin and chicken bits not worth eating, I place back into the slow cooker with about 6 c. of water to cook on low for 10 hours.  This will make a broth with more depth of flavor than you can find in a box, more than worth the few minutes it takes separate the final broth into jars.  Use a sieve and fill each jar leaving 1 inch of head room.  To prevent the jar from breaking, keep the lid off, put jar and lid into freezer and in a day when the broth is frozen, twist on the cap.