Friday, December 19, 2014

Soup's On!

For a long time, I've been thinking of soups. A long time ago, I began to favor soups over other foods. They're a good way of getting your veggies and herbs (you can mix and match any combination) while being gentle on your stomach. After succumbing to the fact that soup was my new favorite food, it was just a matter of figuring out my favorite combinations and the best method for making it. As is typical when learning about new dishes, I began with recipes (typically of the American sort) which called for sauteing vegetables first in order to soften followed by a simmering in chicken or veggie stock. At the end, one could throw everything into the blender in order to emulsify and thicken the soup (which I usually did) or leave it be. I experimented with a host of veggie combinations and sometimes added protein. However, in the Washington Post Magazine, I came across an Afghan soup which called for making an emulsification (suffice it to say blended mixture) beforehand and adding your protein after.

An emulsion, by definition, is a mixture of two or more liquids that cannot typically be mixed (i.e. oil and water). In my cooking experience, this is typically done by mixing the elements quite fast with either a spoon or a blender. A general guideline for the soup follows:

Afghan Soup
  • chop a root vegetable (parsnip, carrot, etc.)
  • chop half an onion
  • smash two cloves of garlic
  • toast and chop two chilies 
Pulse above ingredients in a blender to make a paste. With the motor running, pour 2 tbsp. of olive oil in a stream to make an emulsification.

Once the emulsification is made, you can heat it in a seasoned pan along with 2 tbsp. of tomato paste. This will serve as the base of the soup.

From here, you can add any veggies, herbs and/or condiments you choose. I made mine with chopped celery and onion along with some peas and soy sauce at the end. Bon Appetit!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Breathe In, Breathe Out

While food doesn't have much to do with weight loss in certain parts of the world and more with health, using specific edible elements to aid with healing, maintaining and sustaining our "bon sante", it doesn't hurt to learn about the weight loss process. The Washington Post recently published an interesting article on what happens to fat during weight loss. For most of us, weight loss is synonymous with transformation and a sense of better health which, of course, is what this blog is all about. Through the process of weight loss, one may also become better acquainted with their bodies whose processes are also discussed in the article. The article can be found here.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mo Dressings/Mo Herbs

As stated before, herbs rank low in placement and high in importance on my food pyramid, right above water. Herbs have a great array of therapeutic properties, if fact, I'm reading a book on them now which I'll share later. As you know if you read the blog, I'm always looking for ways to incorporate herbs into my diet on a daily basis and dressings is a key way in which I choose to do this. Since (ideally) I try to eat an abundance of leafy greens day to day which, on their own, are packed with vitamins and minerals. As such greens can be healthy but bitter, dressing are a great way to add flavor to such meals. I subscribe to the Cooking Newsletter put out by the New York Times and, this week, it featured a mustard-shallot vinaigrette by Julia Moskin which may be found: here.

In the recipe, Julia provides the base for a tangy vinaigrette which may benefit from the use of herbs such as parsley or cilantro: something which can add extra kick to the vinaigrette while kicking up it's nutritional value.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


In my last post I mentioned the topic of science which has come to be my inspiration for food (theory) as of late. I remember in high school, I had a teacher who apparently majored in something food/cuisine related. Taking her food skills class, I was surprised to note how much chemistry and biology went into the study of food. I thought food skills was supposed to be a blow off class! However, as I age, I have come to realize that we can't escape the strong link between what we put in our bodies and our body's development. From medicine to botany, taxonomy to environmental science, food can be placed at the nexus of scientific study if you choose to view it that way. And, in general, our approach to food can come from a host of various perspectives. In society, our approach to food generally comes from the framework of taste. We constantly read in the New York Times how a new chef is combining flavor profiles in new and exciting ways. However, I began to write this blog as my own paradigm began to shift from flavor to health and how "food" can be applied as a tool for our bodies.

As food provides our body with nutrients we need to keep going, I believe we have a responsibility to consider the natural world where food comes from. In science class (see last post), students are learning about communities, ecosystems and food chains. Within various food chains, the fact exists that there are primary, secondary and tertiary consumers. At the bottom of the food chain tend to be green plants while a primary consumer might be a grasshopper, a secondary consumer a frog and so on. In learning (again) about the food chain, I began to consider our role as humans and the choices we make. Many say that humans are kings of the food chain and that's true. However, it seems to me that eating at the top of the food chain (i.e. eating animals which eat other animals) simply prevents our access to the foods with the most nutrients such as green, leafy vegetables. As Michael Pollan said in Food Rules, "eat food, not too much, mostly plants." In general, this is what essentially gets corrupted after being processed through animals at the primary levels etc. Instead of eating all those animals, we have the choice to go straight to the source. Food for thought.


"Hello, Mr. Chanterelle. I love your cap." This was a cute line I picked up from the movie Maleficent over the weekend. The quote, in isolation, is a lone bright spot in an otherwise dull movie but perhaps it caught my interest because mushrooms have been on my mind. In science class (my day job involves shadowing and assisting students in their classes) we're learning that mushrooms are decomposers, that is, they break down dead organisms. This struck me as interesting as I imagined mushrooms acting as an appertif, breaking down the food in our stomach following a meal. While such a process likely rests in my imagination, mushrooms, in reality, carry a great deal of benefits for us. They contain loads of vitamin B as well as minerals such as copper, phosphorus and manganese. The kicker from thinking about mushrooms to writing about them on the blog came in the form of a New York Times article by Martha Rose Shulman. In it, she explains the benefits of mushrooms while incorporating them into tasty recipes. Here article can be found here.  

Thursday, October 16, 2014


Allo. It's been awhile. I've been gone in Connecticut for the summer and am now back on schedule and blogging. It's funny that summer, with its abundance of crops and plants, pales in comparison to the fall season for me. However, regardless of the season, I'm always scouring cookbooks and the Internet for vinaigrette recipes. I remember coming across my first recipe in a Good Housekeeping Cookbook my stepmother had gotten for my new (and first) apartment in Virginia. At the time, I was mind blown the fact that you could make what seemed to be "fundamental items" within the comfort of your own home. I was truly astounded that one could make their own mustard, ketchup, blue cheese dressing and, of course, vinaigrette using a series of ingredients form the grocery store. To me, it was like making your own Cheez-Its: these condiments seemed originally to be cooked up in a lab and no mere mortal could replicate them. As you can imagine, my journey with food has vastly expanded the options I can create within my own kitchen. From jams and syrups to sausage and pork rillettes, I am constantly driven to perfect new dishes in the kitchen, a motivation which duly applies to the creation of vinaigrettes.

While I have discovered (and posted) a few key vinaigrette recipes before, this new one comes from The Taste of Country Cooking a biographic cookbooks of sorts written by Edna Lewis. The recipe follows:

1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Back in the Saddle

After some time off this summer in Connecticut (hard life, I know) I have begun to make detailed lists for my trip back to and establishment in Virginia for the school year. Having done some gardening this summer (blueberries, lavender, mint, the basics) I learned that Connecticut resides in zone 6 (mostly) which lend itself to the adequate development of plants such as apples, corn, blueberries and cherries, among others. Virginia, which resides in hardiness zone 7 allows for many of the same plants to be grown however, I wanted to make sure that I would generally "eat local" when I arrived in Virginia. You can find which hardiness zone you live in here. Furthermore, below is a map for quick reference.

Hardiness Zone Map

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oil, revisited

I am currently reading the book "L.A. Son" by Roy Choi. It's a fascinating read filled with deeply flavorful recipes and enticing pictures to match. Roy grew up near Koreantown within L.A. to Korean immigrants who raised him on classic Korean dishes such as Kimchi, pickled cucumbers and Kung Pao Chicken (at least he features that recipe in the book. What strikes me about traditional Asian food and the food in his book is the lack of dairy and the heavy focus on vegetables. I first encountered this phenomenon when I traveled to China and noticed the vast lack of milk, yogurt and cheeses at the table. In their place tended to be rice, beans, lettuces and meat. I loved it and I still continue to eat in the same fashion today. Additionally, when I read a book on Asian based food, I always come across an ingredient I'm forgetting to use. This time, as I picked up Choi's book, it was sesame seeds and toasted sesame oil. I have grand plans to build of a perfect pantry but have somehow been lazy (or cheap!) in recent days. Sesame oil is there on the top of my list along with peanut oil (another ingredient featured prominently in Choi's book). Oils add numerous flavors to our food and I'd like to experiment with different ones, experiencing how my chicken tastes fried in peanut oil, instead of sauteed in olive. Sesames, especially toasted ones, seem to add an unexpected flavor to many a dish. Here, you can find the recipe.

Sesame seeds serve as a source high in copper and calcium and have even been shown to reduce levels of cholesterol in the body. You can buy them at any food store and can be grouped into my next topic and level on the food pyramid: spices.


Moving up the food pyramid, we have water on the bottom with all it's dark, fluid richness followed by the next level, split between oils and vinegars and herbs. For me, this composes my triumvirate of food basics. You have water at the bottom which flushes out toxins and hydrates you and helps your muscles; overall, aiding your daily functions. Next, there are oils and vinegars, which can be applied internally or externally, using them in dressings or as skin remedies such as moisturizers or dandruff zappers. Finally, on this level, we have herbs. We all have an herb, perhaps one we love most. I was recently perusing an article by +MichelleSlatalla on 4-2-1 soups and many of her recipes used scallions. While perhaps not an herb, it struck me that this may be her favorite element to use for that extra favor. For myself, I believe I'd have to go with rosemary for both its physical and symbolic properties. Known in Latin as "dew of the sea," rosemary is a woody shrub with pungent smelling leaves that can be used to flavor food. It's sharp taste is more noticeable than parsley or basil in my opinion and is especially good on meats. Some traditional varieties include Tuscan Blue and Severn Sea. It's oil can also be used as a remedy for baldness, toothaches and/or muscle pain (between water and rosemary your muscles should be fine ;)). Symbolically however, I enjoy rosemary as a symbol of remembrance. As Shakespeare writes in Act 4 of Hamlet: "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember."

Monday, March 17, 2014


So... Mark Bittman might not know but I kind of love him. Older, I know but I subscribe to his "Minimalist" YouTube channel where he shows us how to create delicious meals, plus, he's a nice Jewish boy. In the Minimalist, Bittman offers simple, healthy recipes that pack serious amounts of flavor. My favorite recipe so far is for Artichokes Provencal but he also shows us how to make a mean salsa verde. I was first "introduced" to Bittman through the book Spain: A Culinary Road Trip in which famed chef, Mario Batali, Bittman and Gwyneth Paltrow traverse the Spanish "foodscape" in search of rare and interesting eats. Several years later, he authored several books of his own including How to Cook Everything and VB6. Why do I mention him, however? Well, he is a famed food writer and I try and write a food blog but, moreover, he has been featured on Williams Sonoma talking about his own hierarchy of foods kept in his pantry. Kind of like my own food pyramid, Bittman discusses the foods we should eat often, less often and least, most of which are interchangeable at the "most often" level. What I found interesting is that the foods Bittman claims we should eat the most tend to be the most water soluble, going with my attempt to make water that which I consume most of each day. Foods which Bittman claims we should eat the most of include fresh herbs, cauliflower, zucchini and citrus fruits as well as what he calls the "aromatics" such as onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Just like Bittman, I like to think of foods in hierarchical order, not to pass judgment claims on them but to know which foods form the basis of a nutrient rich and healthy lifestyle. Rock on +Mark Bittmann...


So... seeing as I placed that cool, blue liquid at the bottom of my new food pyramid, I figured it only apropos to write an article on it's carrier device... the water bottle. A million different variations of]n this device exist today, and thank goodness. We never have to go without water nearby and one you start drinking (that H2O...) you'll never want to be without it for long. In college, when I would walk across a large campus (go JMU!) I would carry a Nalgene bottle all day and fill it up at the water fountain (bubbler if you're from Rhode Island). When I moved to DC I found a new breed of bottles showed up and with my penchant for hot water drinks, the Tervis tumbler was a perfect fit.

Speaking of college, congrats Gators...

Tervis tumblers can be purchased in 12, 16 and 24 oz capacities. I have one that pimps my Yankees team, enraging most people in my path and holds 24 oz of liquid. The clear "body" allows me to see how much I've drank (drunk?) which is both encouraging and helpful in knowing when I have to go back to the "bubbler". In general, having 24oz at your fingertips lasts you awhile, thus allowing you to sip throughout the day without a refill. It also allows you to gauge your water or liquid intake knowing that downing four "fillings" gives you close to a gallon of water each day. I know that when I finish my fourth refill/de-fill cycle, I feel pretty good about yourself. Best of all, you can support your home team, cause (think pink ribbons) or purchase a tumbler with your first of last initial. They're pretty great in my opinion and come with a lifetime guarantee. When does that happen anymore?

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Oil and vinegar, vinegar and oil, tomato, to-ma-to, whatever. When it comes to oil, vinegar is never far behind. Which is why we can place it near the oil category on the "new food pyramid". Vinegars abound in many varieties and forms. It is essentially fermented alcohol diluted by water. It has a "twang" that I love when paired with a salad or vegetables. A year ago, a juicer made me increasingly prone to non-dairy foods, leaving blue cheese in the fridge and causing me to develop new variations on the oil-vinegar blend. See recipe below.

Vinegar, as stated, vinegar comes in many forms and, thereby, many tastes. Several varieties include, white wine and red wine vinegar, champagne vinegar as well as balsamic. Apple cider vinegar, while used heavily in cooking can also be used as a hair rinse which can de-grease the hair. Just running a tablespoon through your locks in the shower can act as a natural dandruff remedy while boosting shine and breaking down buildup.

As stated earlier, vinegar usually pairs with oil in many dressings used for vegetables. The most basic recipe goes as follow:

  • 3/4 cup olive or canola oil
  • 1/4 white vinegar
  • salt or ground pepper to taste 
My preferred method to place all ingredients in a mason jar and shake. If you chose to add other spices and seasonings, add these first before you shake to mix. Once the mixture is emulsified from shaking, place over your favorite salad and enjoy.

Most vinaigrette recipes follow the three to one ratio; a useful standard to know. The ratio refers to three parts oil to every one part vinegar. From there, you are able to play with different spices herbs and condiments such as mustard, thyme or lemon juice. The list goes on. I personally like chili seeds and pepper but basil and herbs are just as good...


As I mentioned before, has a comprehensive list of various oils (ranging from rosehip to jojoba), all of which have various applications to the body. After writing my last post on the topic of water, my substance of choice for the bottom tier of my own "food pyramid", I figured I would keep with the theme of hydration for my next topic. While water can hydrate you from within and the Mayo Clinic suggests healthy adults consume between 2.2 and 3 liters a day, it is also important to hydrate externally: especially in the harsh cold of winter. This season, my lips became extra dry, cracking and bleeding and peeling back into rough curls of skin (tempting, I know). However, towards the end of the season, I began melting small amounts of coconut oil and mixing it with brown sugar. Placing some of the mixture on my finger, I would rub it across my lips, letting the sugar crystals exfoliate present dead skin while letting the oil seep in. After I felt my lips were renewed, I simply patted off any excess sugar with a paper towel. Doing so made my lips feel fresh and hydrated for the day (I repeated the routine at night too). On the skin, I used a squirt of argan oil after my nightly shower and it seemed to hydrate my skin well overnight. Compared to the massive amounts of ingredients in Olay Complete All Day Moisturizer, the top moisturizer on argan oil contains, just what's in it's name.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


My last post dealt with two very important pyramids in human history (no, not those pyramids) Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of human needs and the food pyramid put out by the U.S. government in 1992. If I were to create my own food pyramid, however, I would begin with water at the bottom.

Water, in some cultures, has been referred to as the, "essence of life." No doubt, our body weight is composed of 90% water and our bodies crave replenishment. Just the sound of it relaxes us as our many white noise machines have an ocean setting. For me, I love to carry around my water bottle as a type of 'safety blanket'; knowing the liquid is always nearby. For me, I picture the azure blue substance swirling peacefully at the bottom of the 'updated' food pyramid. Not only does water replenish our bodies with that which it might lose during the day, it also can be helpful in it's various forms.

Liquid- When I was in high school, a trainer once shouted the benefits of water to me. "It pushes waste through your system." " It speeds up your metabolism." As a teenager who ate Subway, I was thankful for a substance that would push anything out of my system. As I've gotten older, however, I can tell that water has a profound affect from my teeth to my "waste bin." "Every time you eat carbs or dairy, it's like an acid bath for your mouth," a hygienist once told me. Shortly after I eat, I crave a sip of water. It rinses my mouth out and, like my trainer once said, begins to push things through my system.

Gas- Speaking of the 'waste bin', water as steam also has massive health benefits. Any time spent in a steamy shower or sauna and you've known the drastic benefits steam can have on your sinuses. Steam is known to loosen mucus, improve one's circulation and moisturize skin. For all the money we put into skin moisturizers, medical procedures and medicines, a relaxing stay in the shower or sauna may be the first step in curing these problems at a very basic level.

Ice- Ice, ice, baby. When I was on a cruise in 2005, the crew was promoting a new seaweed treatment that was supposed to "sweat out your toxins" (see above for the benefits of steam). When I went for a consultation, they said that "lotions and potions" have built up in my skin and I needed their seaweed treatment. Of course I didn't believe the hype but it got me thinking that lotions or many things we put on our skin have ingredients we don't need. Enter ice. It's an old wives tale that circling an ice cube around your eye until it melts will give you younger looking skin but why not try it?

Many of these, "remedies" sound basic but why not try them? We can always go back to high cost products and procedures which may contain unnecessary ingredients but I'm relatively certain these remedies are useful. After all, water is not called the "essence of life," for nothing. Let it be the greatest entity you consume and I'm sure you'll be surprised!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014


My last post dealt with fundamentalism, my own frame of reference on health vis-a-vis food. What we consume, can, and, in my view, should be applied towards our own health, for the sake of ourselves and those close to us, including our communities. Regardless of one's political leanings, healthcare seems to be a blocked and tedious system with people living longer thanks to medicine but becoming "sicker", due in my view to a preponderance of processed foods. A preponderance of chemicals and ingredients we have trouble pronouncing cannot be good for us. In 2007, the World Cancer Research Fund cited tips for cancer prevention, some of which dealt with food consumption as well as foods one should avoid. Foods ripe for consumption included leafy greens while foods cited to avoid were those with high amounts of sugar and sodium including sugary drinks. In general, processed foods tend to be higher in either sodium or sugar than those which occur naturally. Just raiding my kitchen, I see that tortilla chips contain 65 mg of sodium (I try and eat healthy) while an apple contains 1 mg.  But I digress...

In 1992, the United States department of Agriculture published it's food pyramid. At the bottom lay carbohydrates including breads, rice and cereals. Intake was suggested at 6-11 servings per day. After the food pyramid was released, several books suggested that political influence may have played a key role in it's development.

Later, the pyramid was amended in 2005 and again in 2011 and is now referred to as MyPlate providing for some adjustments when complaints were made about portion sizes and clarity.

Another pyramid I wanted to reference was created in 1954 by Abraham Maslow in the book Motivation and Personality. Within the book, Maslow outlines a hierarchy of human needs ranging from the relatively primal to transcendental, if you will.

As you can see, at the bottom stands what he refers to as our physiological needs, those needs which without, we would cease to function. Several of these needs include water, sleep, food and homeostasis. Now, combining these two pyramids, one could essentially form their own food pyramid which is essentially what I intend to do.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014


Hello, as many of you know, I've been gone for some time, developing and pruning my ideas into a cohesive structure. Two ideas come to mind. First, I'd love to write a series on topics related to the Bloody Mary. What once was a unique and horrific cocktail is now my nectar of the gods. My second idea, however, is the reason I began this blog... to talk about the varying manifestations of beauty and the simple pathways we all take to get there (hint: you're already there).

When I was in third grade, we were made to copy word definitions from a dictionary. One day, I remember eyeing a student who had turned to the back page by accident. On it, was a large diagram of our linguistic development. In blue were the Germanic languages and, if I recall correctly, an esoteric brown told us there was something beyond those which lay in the depths of history. Even then, I could feel a small shift occur. The recognition that the language we spoke had a history and distant foundation gave me a sense of security. It is in the same vein that I read beauty books today. At the very beginning, there is always a small section related to our fundamental needs which must be met before our, or their, conventional beauty routines may begin. While many beauty books devote 99% of their copy to color, this blog aims to deal with that beginning part... the essentials we need to live a simple, healthy life. Enjoy.

Friday, January 3, 2014

As always, I've been reading a lot on natural health and beauty. Recently, I came across a website, which features products and advice from Linda Rodin, a former fashion editor and creator of RODIN olio lusso. At her website, Linda references the various types of (natural) oil that can be used on the skin. I was surprised for someone with her own skincare line to be directing us to the 'primal elements' of beauty (which we can easily access on our own) but she did. Several oils Linda references include: Sunflower oil, Rosehip and Argan oil, many of which are known for their fatty acids which help lend a suppleness to the skin.