Saturday, October 15, 2011

Food Rules

a friend of mine who is worried about his health rang me the other day and asked what i thought about the movie "forks over knives" and should he become vegan?  i told him that a vegan diet is okay for a week or two detox but that's it. i also directed him to denise minger's extensive piece on "forks" hoping that would satisfy his burning desire to change his diet based on a movie that is ultimately rooted in the flawed research of t. colin campbell's china study.  i also advised him to read "nutrition and physical degeneration" by weston a. price which is data that i believe is rooted in fact and can be trusted.  he told me that he is desperate to find the right diet to restore his health.  hello....who isn't?  the absolute diet for optimum health does exists. it always has. however, please do not forget that we are all individuals and therefore require different nutrients from real foods to keep us at our vital best. if you are looking to restore what is lacking, i suggest working with a nutritionist who will order all the right tests and blood work with significant markers to let you know exactly where you need support.

as a chef, cooking instructor, locavore and mother of two young children i am constantly  asked "what do you feed your family?"  my first response is, "i feed them food."  people look at me as if i have three heads and want to slap me. okay, so maybe i can be a bit snarky at times but you have to understand that there are lots of products out there masquerading as food that are very toxic, scary chemicals.  and what's worse, people are buying them. real food does not come in packages. real food does not sit on a shelf without going bad and real food is not what is making our population so sick and sad. people want me to tell them what i serve for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day.  they want me to tell them what they should buy, cook and feed their family. they want me to write them menus and email them recipes and that is what i do.  when it comes to food and "diet," people who are serious about their health and the health of their families want to be told what to eat.  these people want to follow the rules.

okay, i can dig it.  handing the responsibility of making important choices over to someone else can be quite a liberating experience - especially handing it to someone who will never steer you wrong. someone who has spent half her life dedicated to sourcing clean ingredients and putting them together in flavorful, nutritious combinations that would make even the pickiest eater happy.  okay, fine. i'm your chef.  i'm your teacher. i'm your girl.  i'm good to go. but let's get something absolutely clear. i'm a punk rocker and i've never been into rules. however, when it comes to real food i'm serious.  i guess you could say  i'm more of a food rules! kind of person. i celebrate the fresh. i cast my vote for the local. i praise the organic. i rejoice in the whole and i always, always put love into everything i make.

so, as a teacher dedicated to giving her students what they want, cool. food rules, you got it. let's go!

1. keep it simple - let ingredients sing and be the star.  don't go bananas with too many components to a dish.  an honest piece of super fresh, wild caught local fish in good butter and fresh herbs is a poem. recite it at least twice a week.  stay away from farmed fish, please. same goes for all meats - grass fed, pastured animals that have a sweet life eating what they were born to eat taste best and contain all the beautiful omega 3s and CLA you are looking for.  a freshly dug potato with butter, sea salt, sour cream and chives will make you so satisfied it's almost ridiculous.  get to a local farmer's market and buy a few local apples. then buy some local raw milk cheese. go home. slice or bite the apple. then taste a piece of the cheese....BANG! that's love. that's simple. 

2. soup. salad. cheese - a good rule for family meal-making. start with a cup of soup or broth made from real pastured meat or wild fish bones. always have some type of salad with your meal.  many parents say "my kids won't eat salad!" i say HA! perhaps not now they won't but when they see you eating it day after day and enjoying it, they will want to be a part of that vibe too. especially if you include them in preparing it.  washing and ripping greens and herbs is a great kitchen project for young ones. (oh yeah, no bottled salad dressings - that's a big rule). they can even dress the salad and learn basic pouring skills with olive oil, vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon, sea salt & pepper. cheese is my favorite way to end a meal.  of course we do a sweet now and then for "afters" but generally it's an enzyme rich piece of raw milk cheese.  a seasonal piece of special fruit with the cheese is a great end as well.  when fresh figs come to the table it feels like a birthday.  it is a good idea to shed a light of importance on these dear pieces of seasonal gold so that they are appreciated for the treat they are.

3. fermented foods with every meal - digestion is key.  foods are only nutritious if you are assimilating the nutrients.  you can eat really well and ultimately be malnourished if your gut can't do it's job. one way to help your gut out is to include real fermented foods at every meal.  that could be as easy as a dollop of good yogurt or sour cream on your soup or salad. a side of sauerkraut, a few pickles, a glass of kombucha or kefir.  fermented foods add spark the way citrus can.  check them out, you won't be disappointed.

4. good fats at every meal - healthy saturated fats are making a comeback (thank goodness) and should be eaten with gusto! animal fats from pastured meats (chicken fat, lard, beef tallow), wild caught fish, butter, avocado, properly prepared nuts and seeds (that means soaking in sea salted water and drying), olive oil, coconut oil and high vitamin cod liver oil every day.  good fats will satisfy with less food and keep blood sugar stable for longer ( a must for little people). remember to stay away from vegetable oils especially soy, corn, cottonseed and canola - blech!  they are predominantly genetically modified and hydrogenated. stay away from anything marked low fat, please. as a matter of fact stay away from anything that makes a health claim.  this is marketing and we don't like the taste of advertising.

5. natural sweeteners only, please - use raw honey, rapadura, succanat, palm sugar, coconut sugar, molasses, grade B maple syrup and liquid stevia to sweeten.  please stay away from refined sugars and artificial sweeteners as they tend to break down our immune systems and cause all kinds of problems - especially for children. all sugar free, chemical ridden products are out! 

6. not too many grains and if you do, properly prepared - soaking grains overnight in water with liquid whey, apple cider vinegar or lemon juice will make them much easier to digest.  soaking legumes will also make the nutrients more available and easier to digest.  when selecting breads, fresh baked, organic sourdough is best. if packaged please keep it to just a few ingredients (like 4!) 

7. feed nothing from a package. only fresh, local, organic (even this rule can be bent when you are buying local and farm fresh) and whole. ** if you must feed from a package, please read labels carefully and stay away from unhealthy oils, sugars, soy and other toxins like MSG (hydrolyzed vegetable proteins), etc. 

8. stay out of the supermarket - local greenmarkets are everywhere these days. support your local growers and patronize your local health food stores.  i realize that there are certain things we go to the grocery store for (i personally need d'agostino for my preferred scrub pads to wash dishes).  if 70% of your weekly food is coming from the greenmarket you are looking good!

9. because real (raw) milk is not legally sold in all states -- don't even get me started on this one -- i am not going to tell you that all your dairy should be raw.   i wish i could.  in a perfect world it would because that's the way our great great grandparents had it and that is essentially what i am telling you to do.  eat like them!  you can be creative and source raw milk and i applaud you if you do as there is nothing like it.  but, the next best thing would be to source local dairy that is grass fed and not homogenized.  raw milk cheese is best and always, always buy whole fat dairy.  the war on raw milk has been declared by our government and i am curious to see how far they are willing to take their lies "in the best interest of the people."  discuss!

so those are my very basic food "rules."  i told you it was simple. what's even easier is following all of these rules and not eating the crap that will make you feel horrible...and you know that it does.  it makes you sluggish, your bowels irregular, you get moody, your kids melt down, you get stressed out and chaos ensues. unnecessary.  the cleaner you eat the more difficult it gets to go off your diet and eat the "stuff" you once called food. your body is wise and it will let you know when you eat something that disagrees with it.  OH! okay, i have another really important rule that i forgot to put in the list......listen to your body!  duh.  

if all of this seems too overwhelming i would like to suggest changing your diet little by little.  what about this.....? start off by eliminating vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, canola, soy, etc) from your diet and see how you feel.  these are really disgusting and do not belong in the human body.  trust me.  do this for a month. i dare you to tell me that you don't feel better. then remove refined sugars and artificial sweeteners (goodbye aspartame).  then caffeine. yes, caffeine. your body doesn't really need it - try an organic decaf.  slowly, little by little you take away the bad habits (soda, fast food, packaged snacks) that are doing you no favors and implement the beneficial, real foods that will nourish and replenish.  a good yogurt or kefir, a traditionally prepared sauerkraut, a beautiful raw honey and grass-fed raw milk cheese, nutrient dense pastured eggs with yolks so orange they look like a tropical sunset, wild caught fish and my favorite, grass-fed beef.  before you know it you will be craving pate and making beef bone broth every weekend just because you feel so amazing!  not to mention the fact that these foods are all REALLY YUMMY!

i'm sure i could come up with more rules (elbows on the table?! not in my house!) but why bother, you get the idea. eat and enjoy. that's the important part.  you need to come up with your own rules for you and your family. my 6 year old daughter is already writing new rules for ours....hers are about colors.  "if the color doesn't exist in nature, don't eat it." smart kid.  i am perfectly clear about why we should be eating real food and want you to be as well. i would also like everyone to view meal planning and cooking as an opportunity and a privilege not an obstacle or a chore.  when you realize how unlimited you are in your choices to properly feed and nourish yourself and your family with love and good spirit you will bring your Family2Table not necessarily with rules but with creativity, recipes and ingredients that will restore and maintain your vibrant health and get you shouting food rules! food rules! food rules!  

now just in case you are interested, this is what we ate yesterday.

BREAKFAST:  pastured eggs scrambled in lard with uncured ham steak and heirloom cherry tomatoes. toast grilled in bacon fat. raspberry kombucha and farm fresh milk to drink.

SNACK: toasted seaweed and salmon jerky

LUNCH: thyme roasted chicken with root vegetables and goat's cheese salad.

SNACK: asian pear slices with sharp cheddar cheese.

DINNER: lamb burgers served over stewed lentils with thickened yogurt and sauteed kale.  raw milk vanilla ice cream for dessert with honey sweetened chocolates.

my menu for today.......

BREAKFAST: whole milk raw cow yogurt with sprouted sunflower seeds, crispy almonds, coconut flakes and blueberries (frozen from august).

SNACK: popcorn with coconut oil and sea salt

LUNCH: sprout salad with soft boiled egg, smoked salmon & sour cream with chives

SNACK: almond raisin bread with lots of butter and a big glass of milk

DINNER: buffalo kielbasa and cheese quesadilla (brown rice tortilla) with salsa, sour cream and avocado.

here is a recipe for my favorite lentils that i served with the lamb burgers yesterday

soak 1 lb. dry french green lentils in warm water with 2 TBS whey for 24 hours.
drain and sort through for stones and set aside.
add 3/4 cup tomato paste, 1 TBS grade B maple syrup, pinch cayenne pepper, 1 tsp sea salt & 2 TBS fresh thyme leaves and incorporate for a few minutes in a saucepan on med-hi flame, saute 1 large diced onion 2 carrots diced, 2 stalks celery diced and 1 clove of garlic, crushed, in a good fat of your choice (i use lard or olive oil) until translucent.
add 1 quart filtered water & then lentils (add more water if not totally covering lentils)
bring to a boil and then simmer until lentils are cooked - not mushy (about 30 - 40 minutes).
add salt & pepper to taste, cover and let sit for an hour or two to finish cooking.
lentils will hold in fridge for up to 2 weeks.

if you have any questions about ANYTHING please contact me at


  1. Originally I posted a comment on Stephanie's FB post of this blog, when I realized that I prefer comments directly on my blog - why wouldn't you?

    I really enjoyed this piece, particularly where you reiterate the value of simplicity in cooking. Just a few wholesome ingredients do make a delightful meal, without overwhelming the palette. My only complaint is that in Oklahoma where I currently live, there are few local fruits. Yes, I do stay local as much as I can (we secure free-range eggs from a coworker, eat local bison, our own goats & deer, vegetables and herbs from another coworker's or our garden), but the drought hit our area very hard, and most fruits are unavailable except from FL or CA. I hear all the good about being a locavore, and when I lived in New Jersey and Florida, such a lifestyle was easier. As it is, living locally is nearly impossible here. Therefore, we aim for fresh. I figure a fresh tomato on crisp lettuce is not likely to contain many preservatives.

  2. thanks so much for posting this. this is an important point that i absolutely should address. i do promote seasonal eating and local shopping but i am also a sucker for avocado and i do buy them. bananas once in a while too (banana muffins and bread are much loved in this house). i also buy strawberries from california or florida when my kids beg me for them in may and i must admit that they do taste good after a long winter. we can't be perfect, ever. and i don't ever advocate trying. all we can do is do our best and it sounds like you are doing better than most, right on! weather is unpredictable and sometimes cruel as we all know. i have many farmer friends here in NY that lost it all with Irene - entire farms under water. drought is no picnic and i send my sincere prayers to oklahoma farmers with the hopes that next years crops will be abundant. if you are landlocked, wild caught local fish isn't really going to happen much unless it's lake, when i say that i am a seasonal eating locavore, i must clarify by saying that sometimes i do go outside of my season or my 150 mile radius to procure food. it all depends upon where you are and what the growing conditions have been that year. we do our best and hope for the best. we try to give the farmer first and look elsewhere for the next best thing. thanks again, this needed to be discussed.

  3. This lentil recipe looks delish! Great post - thank you!