The Prologue

There is a great debate out there in the fighting world: to cut or not to cut. Weight, that is. Be it wrestling, boxing, or mixed martial arts, any sport that divides up its contenders by weight classes is facing this question. As I sat with my roommate watching the weigh-ins on a UFC fight night, he explained that some of these athletes had stopped eating and drinking (everything!) for upwards of a day or more. This sounded like crazy talk to me. As a former athlete, a budding nutritionist, and a believer in common sense, the idea of not fueling or hydrating your body in the critical window leading up to a high-impact performance in the cage–to be blunt–is stupid.

So many aspects of this situation are unsavory to me, it’s hard to know where to start. Read the rest of this entry »


Collision Theory

March 22, 2012

One of the things that I find particularly interesting about all this chemistry that I’m learning is the parallel between particle behavior and human behavior. We are, all of us, a big bag of chemical reactions, so it isn’t completely crazy to draw parallels between our microscopic and macroscopic selves. I can wax philosophical on all kinds of molecular metaphors for human behavior, but the one I’m particularly enamored with at the moment is collision theory.

Collision theory, as a simple introduction, is a model for explaining what must happen at the molecular level in order for a chemical reaction to occur:

  1. Chemical reactants must collide.
  2. They must collide with sufficient energy.
  3. They must collide with the proper orientation.

For my purposes, I only care about #1. Reactants must collide; that is to say, reactants must inhabit the same space, so that they may interact/react. This might seem straightforward…I mean, it is straightforward…but how perfect of a model is this for avoiding unwanted behavior?

Think of all the so-called “collisions” we encounter in life–the people we butt heads with, that one intersection that’s maddening in its display of awful city planning, the dark pit of despair that is social media, name-your-own collision…name your own person, place or thing with which you collide, that causes you to react in a way you dislike.

Now, simply, remove yourself from sharing that space. The reaction is aborted per the first rule of collision theory. There can be no reaction, because there is no collision.

If only things were really that simple. I continue to hope: may we tirelessly navigate toward positive reactions and ecstatic collisions.



For more on collision theory…
For more artwork by David Mack…

Beet Wars

February 29, 2012

I know a lot of people don’t like beets. It’s one of those things that most people aren’t neutral about: it’s love or ‘they taste like dirt.’  People in the latter camp often have never had a fresh beet, their only experience: out of a can. Still, I agree that beets can taste a little like dirt, but what do you expect? That’s where they come from! And from those soils, they get all of their excellent minerals: manganese, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron (assuming the soil isn’t depleted of all its minerals, but oy! that’s a whole other topic…).

One reason that keeps people from preparing their own beets is that it can be quite a messy task.

I have to say, though, there’s something so fun about just digging in: beet peels lodging under your fingernails, your hands and forearms stained blood red, the kitchen counter like a murder scene. This coming from someone who thought the best part of making meatloaf was getting to mix all the ingredients by hand! Squeezing raw meat and egg yolk between your fingers = SO much fun (thanks, Mom)! It’s no wonder I like to make a mess in the kitchen.

A couple points of good news for the non-messy among you:

  • Fear not: some lemon juice will take those stains right out of your hands.
  • Beet greens are actually more nutrient dense than their root counterparts, so you can simply avoid the mess and saute the greens just as you would spinach, chard or kale (or in addition to all those, and you’ve got yourself quite a medley!).

If you’re ready and willing, my favorite thing to do with beets is to put them in a salad with freshly chopped oregano. Add anything else you want, the glory is really in the beet/oregano combo. And maybe in some goat cheese too.

A simple way to roast beets: 

  • Preheat oven to 375
  • Rinse and scrub the beets clean, leaving skins on
  • Place beets on a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil
  • Fold the edges over to make a sealed packet
  • Roast the beets until tender (25-30 minutes for the little guys, 45+ for larger ones)
  • Remove the beets and let cool
  • Once you can handle the beets, start the peeling!

Quarter and slice the peeled beets; throw them into a mix of greens (this is an excellent use of the beet greens as well), with a generous amount of freshly chopped oregano.

Add whatever other salad things you like: goat cheese, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, shredded chicken, cucumber, etc. Top simply with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and a few cranks of salt+pepper.

Voila! Bloody perfection.

Murray, Michael, N.D. The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. New York: Atria Books, 2005.

Recipe below:  Roasted Sunchokes & Cauliflower with Crispy Garlic Caper Relish

In a recent trade agreement, I came into possession of a bag of mottled, ginger-like tubers. These, I was told, were sunchokes. I’d heard of sunchokes–probably seen on some schmancy organic menu–but could not recall ever eating one, least of all cooking one.

As is my way, research and investigation (followed by cooking experimentation!) ensued.

Also known as Jerusalem artichokes, like the title of this post connotes, these strange little root veggies are neither artichokes, nor from Jerusalem. Read the rest of this entry »

Why So Dirty?

December 10, 2011

The inside of my CSA box was completely filthy this week; the little newsletter they include with farm happenings and recipes was crinkled and splattered with dried mud. The culprit: spinach.

The farm acknowledged the begrimed state of this week’s box. This is what they had to say: Read the rest of this entry »

Spaghetti Squash!

December 4, 2011

I don’t know why I didn’t learn about the magic enchantment of spaghetti squash earlier in my life. This seems like the perfect thing to make with your 5 year old: bake, scrape and oooh! like magic you have spaghetti! (squash.) (the kid doesn’t have to know it’s a vegetable.)

Actually, spaghetti squash is probably a mom’s worst nightmare. Just the way a toddler’s order of cappellini at an Italian restaurant is a server’s worst nightmare. It’s ok, Mom. I wouldn’t have wanted to clean it up either.

But the point is, when I first saw spaghetti squash in action a couple years ago, I might as well have been a 5 year old. My classmate prepared a food demo of Pesto Spaghetti Squash (recipe below). When he scraped the insides of the cooked squash and perfect little strings of spaghetti-like squash ribbons curled out, I ooooohed! like it was the absolute coolest thing I’d ever seen. Read the rest of this entry »

If you were a zebra…

October 20, 2011

This is an article I wrote for the Namaste Yoga & Wellness newsletter
(in its full, unedited glory). Fear not, recipe follows…

Perhaps it’s just me, but holiday lights seem to go up earlier and earlier each year. “It’s not even Halloween!” I exclaimed, as I drove past a house with Christmas lights freshly strung. When one starts talking about the holiday season, it is increasingly reflective of hectic mall trips, difficult in-laws, and turkey wrestling (I hear my mom shouting to my dad: don’t burn the turkey!). Some people may have perfectly lovely and calm holidays, but for many, stress abounds in this season. And now that the holidays start in early October, the stress expands.

Really, though, it isn’t just the holidays. The pace of life has long been quickening, and the list of stressors that people deal with from day to day has long been lengthening. From within these yoga studio walls, I look out the window at traffic, children screaming, sirens, and I think about the deadline this article is associated with. There is no shortage of things to be chronically stressed about.

Chronically is the operative word here. As Robert M. Sapolsky discusses in his delightful book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, the human body was never meant to operate under constant stress. If you were a zebra being chased by a lion, all of your body’s brilliantly adapted survival responses would kick into gear and you would run for your life. Now that is a stressful situation! Here’s the catch: the lion wouldn’t chase you forever, and eventually (if you made it out alive), you would soon be happily munching grass out in the savanna.

You and me in this lifetime (where we’re not zebras)? That’s a different story…
Read the rest of this entry »

Stinging Nettles

August 12, 2011

I don’t know why, but I always seemed to think that if I ordered a nettle pizza, it would come out with sticks on it. Kinda like kukicha, or twig tea (this stuff). So imagine how pleasantly surprised I was when the pizza arrived with greens! (I know, I know…silly me…but doesn’t “nettle” just sound like it would be twig-y??).

Even more pleasantly surprising was how good the pizza was! Yes, the egg (always) helps, but nettles are so tasty–sort of like slightly bitter spinach. And like spinach, nettles are high in vitamins A and C, as well as high in iron.

Now let’s talk about this stinging business…this book on the central nervous system’s structure and function notes that the plant known as “stinging nettle”, or Urtica dioica, has many hollow stinging hairs that inject histamine and other chemicals, producing a stinging sensation when touched. Soaking the nettles in water helps to remove these chemicals, making them safe to handle and eat without the sting. I often wonder how people figured this stuff out…I don’t know about you, but if something stung me I would leave it alone.

Then, of course, there are these people:

The beer must help. Or perhaps make the whole thing possible in the first place.

I never was one for fine, hand-crafted details. Origami, for instance, was always maddening to me (I mean, do the corners really have to line up??), and I can’t sew in a straight line to save my life. No denying I’ve made my fair share of beautiful pies, but the pie-like thing that really speaks to me is the galette. A galette is just a messyrustic pie. No perfect circle of dough needed here, and no fancy crimping of any edges.

Read the rest of this entry »

A Declaration of Love

May 28, 2011

For those not familiar with CSAs, the acronym stands for Community Supported Agriculture. CSAs are an alternative way of obtaining amazing seasonal (and often organic) produce, while also directly supporting local farms.

Every other week, I drive over to a house in my neighborhood where my produce box waits for me, stacked with other people’s boxes in the shady shelter of the large front porch. It was delivered that very morning, straight from the farm, along with a half dozen of the most amazing eggs I’ve ever tasted–they come in shells so hard, so nutrient dense, you practically need a sledgehammer to crack them open. Them hens are healthy!

I digress.

It had been a while since I last parted ways with my dear CSA. I ran out of time to prepare all the food I was receiving, so I canceled my membership and went back to the farmers market. That was fine when I actually had time to go to the farmers market! After many months of forking over the majority of my income to Whole Paycheck, I decided it was time to go back to the CSA. It costs less, I get more, and I don’t have to go into shopping cart battle for any of it.

Eatwell Farm: I’m sorry I ever left you.

Some other reasons I love my CSA:

  • I cook with things I never would have bought on my own accord.
  • I’m forced out of my tried-and-true recipe rut by the inevitable change in seasons. Ingredients change, and so must your menu.
  • You don’t have to rack your brain for ideas of things to do with two pounds of fava beans, a ton of green garlic and a bunch of lemon verbena. Eatwell sends recipes along with their ingredients.
  • I learned things I never knew. About fava beans. So, there’s this genetic disorder called favism where people are actually allergic to fava beans (actually, it’s thought to be caused by a glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase deficiency. Yes, yes of course.).
  • They inspired the porn-like photo shoot with a fava bean that follows.
  • And following that, check out that pot of pasta!
  • Finally, you can’t really go wrong with lemon verbena muffins either.
Wanna find a CSA near you? Yes, you do.

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