Food Is Not Your Enemy

Winging It in the Kitchen
February 27, 2010, 5:29 pm
Filed under: Beans, Grains, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , ,

Last night chef Kim Pistone came over and gave my husband and I a lesson in how to cook without using a recipe. Sounds simple, perhaps, but we are recipe slaves in my house. The thought of just “whipping something up” has always instilled fear in me.

In preparation for her visit, Kim suggested I head to the Park Slope Food Co-Op and just buy whatever looked good, and pick up anything we’d been thinking about trying but just didn’t know how to deal with. Enter rutabagas, budock root, and fresh turmeric. Plus we loaded our cart with other winter veggies like celery root, carrots, and potatoes, as well as lacinato kale, artichokes, some diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, and vegetable broth. We dumped all this stuff as well as any grains and beans we could find in our pantry onto our kitchen counter, and waited for Kim to tell us what to do.

It took what seemed like 60 seconds for Kim to declare that we would make roasted artichokes, a potato/celery root/rutabaga gratin (with some romano, goat gouda, and cheddar we dug out of our cheese drawer), millet with fresh turmeric and grated burdock, Hoppin’ John with our half-bag of black-eyed peas, roasted winter veggie medley, and a pasta sauce made with tomatoes, cannellini beans, kale, onions, and bacon.

Within a couple of hours, all this food was steaming on our counter, and all of it delicious. Kim explained to us that it’s just a matter of getting comfortable with what goes with what, and using some basic techniques that we pretty much already know (sauteeing, blanching, etc.).

It all felt nice and free and easy, and the session gave me the confidence to try going recipe-less on my own next time. I know more than I realized about preparing food, and now I also know how to properly hold a knife, thanks to Kim’s quick knife-skills lesson.

In addition to providing expert cooking instruction, Kim is also a caterer (she was the executive chef of last year’s Brooklyn Food Conference). If you’d like to work with Kim, you can e-mail her at

Beef: Safe or Scary?

It feels like every other week we’re hearing about a beef recall due to E. coli or salmonella contamination. Either that or we’re reading how eating beef will cause everything from heart disease to cancer to global warming. What to do? Can beef be a healthy part of your family’s diet, or should you shun those Styrofoam trays of rib steaks and ground sirloin in the meat case? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.

A New Yorker Who Really Cooks
February 22, 2010, 3:28 pm
Filed under: Beans, Food/Health Blogs, Recipes, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

Jackie Gordon, a.k.a. The Singing Chef, came over for lunch a couple weeks back, and she’s done a post on her blog, “The Diva That Ate New York,” about my cooking. Part of her series called “New Yorkers Who Really Cook,” the post includes a video interview, photos of my creation (I made Navajo Stew), and a list of some of my favorite food-related places in NYC. Check it out here.

Four Tips to Help You Lower Your Cholesterol
February 21, 2010, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Beans, Chronic Disease, Drugs, Eggs, Fruits, Grains, Oils, Vegetables | Tags: , , ,

Cholesterol research is an ever-evolving thing: One day we’re told that eggs are an absolute no-no if we have high cholesterol, and the next we hear that it’s actually okay to eat eggs. Doctors have been prescribing statin drugs like Lipitor left and right for patients with high cholesterol, but then recent research has shown that following a Mediterranean-style diet is just as effective at lowering cholesterol as these drugs. What to do?

Here are four tips to help you reduce your cholesterol without resorting to prescription drugs:

  1. Fiber, fiber, fiber. Fiber helps rid the body of cholesterol, and is crucial for overall good health as well. Beans are a terrific source of fiber, as are fruits and vegetables and whole grains.
  2. Cut out the white stuff. Refined carbohydrates–white breads, white pasta, white rice, white sugar–are wreaking havoc on our health, including our cholesterol. Replace these processed products with whole grains.
  3. Eat antioxidant-rich foods. Berries, dark chocolate, red wine, green tea–all of these are high in antioxidants and will help lower your cholesterol.
  4. Eat as the Cretans do. The model Mediterranean diet is the traditional diet of the island of Crete, a place where, until the recent influx of fast-food chains, heart disease was virtually non-existent. Their diet is rich in fish, olive oil, green vegetables, and whole grains.

How Overweight Children Affect Their Families
February 12, 2010, 4:59 pm
Filed under: Chronic Disease, weight loss | Tags: ,

Interesting article in The New York Times today about childhood obesity. Successfully changing kids’ habits boils down to this:

“It is nearly impossible for your child to change habits if the rest of the family does not. You cannot reasonably tell a child he is allowed only one soda a week if you keep two-liter bottles of Coke and Sprite in the refrigerator.

Most children react well to change … as long as they do not see it as a punishment. If you explain to your children that by eating better and exercising more, they will have more stamina to play sports and will take fewer trips to the doctor, your children may actually embrace your healthy lifestyle plan.”

This makes good sense. You can’t expect your child to change without you changing. And, of course, it’s in a parent’s interest to drop excess weight as well. When I work with children, I expect that they aren’t the only ones in their home who will benefit from making dietary changes.

Chocolate: Safe or Scary?

Chocolate season is upon us. Whether you’re nibbling on the assorteds from a red satin box or your kids are popping mini hearts bequeathed by adoring schoolmates, chances are there’s chocolate in your house somewhere. So should you worry about this Valentine’s Day staple, given chocolate is sweet and oh-so-fatty? Or is chocolate now kind of a healthy choice, thanks to those studies showing how this food of the gods can actually lower blood pressure? Read my latest column on AOL’s ParentDish to find out.