Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Few Follow-Ups

I came across a few things this week which relate to a few things I wrote about last week. The first "thing", refers to roses while the second refers to marinade. In Connecticut Diaries, I wrote about using rose petals to make tea. In addition to being a toner and good for your skin whether consumed internally or applied externally, the appropriately named Shiva Rose explained additional benefits of roses in an interview featured on Into the Gloss. Shiva Rose, who makes her home in Southern California, seems to behold the rose as the ultimate beauty product. According to the interviewee, "The rose is the queen of all flowers - anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, nourishing to the skin, balancing and heart opening." (You can read the full interview with Shiva Rose here.) To this extent, Shiva has parlayed her love of roses (and other herbs) into a beauty line which can be found at her website: The Local Rose. Here, one can access the power of roses in the way of balms, oils and candles. This site came as a blessing as I began to question my own efforts to live more off the land and less off Amazon.

Ready to boil or to make oil.

And, speaking of living off the land, I also noted in Connecticut Diaries that, as I attempt to prepare food for myself and my fiance this summer, I am trying to do so with the use of foods grown only in Connecticut. This means that I had some difficulty finding tomatoes this week but, hey, I was able to try squash blossoms for the first time instead. Tomatoes figure importantly in my future cooking methods, however, as I plan on substituting them for soy sauce in marinades due to their acidic quality. Yet just as I thought I may be going over the cliff of the Locavore Movement into non-effective cooking techniques, I came across an instructional video for Bulgogi put out by the New York Times. The video, features a woman named Maangchi who the Times refers to as "YouTube's Korean Julia Child." (If you're into Korean cooking, don't hesitate to subscribe to her YouTube Channel.) In the video, Maangchi and Times columnist Julia Moskin build a base for a beef marinade using Korean pear which Maangchi claims, "creates a sweetness and tenderizes the meat." She also throws in onion and garlic as well as soy sauce to the marinade but all in all, I was glad to see I wasn't going overboard in trying to use fruit (instead of sauce) to break down the enzymes in meat. (Note: Laura Santtini also features a recipe using tomato paste in a marinade. That recipe can be accessed here.)

Squash blossoms taste like, well, squash.

You can watch Maangchi and Julia Moskin create Bulgogi here: Ennnnnnnjoy!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

J. Crew, Who Knew?

Full disclosure: I am not a huge fan of J. Crew. Their clothing doesn't seem to fit my body type well and, their aesthetic's a little feminine for my tastes. Buuut... all that aside, I am a fan of some of their clothes, with good reason. In You Go Daddy-O, I referenced Miranda Kerr's beauty mantra that, "what goes on the skin goes in." This mantra, in my mind, extends even to the realm of sunscreen. While I would never advocate for someone to go without sunscreen when or where needed, I myself attempt to cover up with "seasonally relevant" clothing before applying any lotion or potion to my skin. I guess it all goes back to that "nutritionist" on a cruise that told me I could loose a couple pounds if I was able to detoxify my body of all the chemicals gained from beauty products. Of course he was trying to sell a detoxifying seaweed wrap but the notion stuck with me all the same.

To this extent, I've often found that J. Crew puts out a good line of summer clothing that can be fashionable and lightwieght while protecting one's skin from the sun. Herein lies a few of my favorite products:

Sun Shirt: The J. Crew sun shirt offers UPF 50 protection (as the J.Crew site claims, "think of [UPF] as sunscreen for fabric."). While containing long sleeves, it is made of lightweight material that can be worn in the water and is quick drying. It is also, "recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as a UV Protectorant."

Rash Guard: Used more for surfing and time in the water, the J. Crew rash guard is a little more snug than the sun shirt. It offers the same UPF protection, however, and is similarly recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Also available in crewcut sizes.

Crepe Maxi Dress: There was a time (last year) when J. Crew offered a crinkly, linen skirt. I have it and, while it's a little sheer, I looooovvvve it. In white, it protects the skin on my legs while offering a breathable material in the heat of the season. This year, since it's not on their "menu" I figured I'd try throwing my weight beind the Crepe Maxi Dress. If you're like me, thinking of your legs last in terms of sun protection, the maxi dress offers a comfortable, minimalist way to cover your "stems" and most of your torso. It also seems to move seemlessly from lunch to the beach: a must for any summer dress.

Straw Hat: And finally, there's the case of "le chapeau." I scoured stores last year to find the perfect summer hat as I attempted to wear more clothes than sunscreen, however, all the fedoras, while  fashionable for sure, didn't seem to offer much sun protection. It was at this point when I recalled my big, floppy J. Crew hat which I had bought at an outlet years before. And while I currently sit in a park with no hat and in my finance's boxers (hey, it's post yoga) I'm reminded of the importance of a good hat as I squint my eyes to read my phone. However, as the summer moves on and the pace of life gets a little slower, I'm thinking about digitally detoxing. More on that later...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Connecticut Diaries

As many of you know, I head up to Connecticut in the summer to be with my fiancé. In doing so, I cross several states and somewhat of a hardiness zone. Gone is my ability to grow or access certain foods at the farmer's market but as they say, "when one door closes, another opens". While Connecticut may not have as many vineyards or olive oil manufacturers, you can grow a mean blueberry bush. To this extent, as I may have stated before, I'm curious about trying to cook summer meals with ingredients obtained only from Connecticut and Upstate New York. This may not present a huge change from what I eat locally in Virginia but I'm guessing it will present a change in the way I eat.

At the beginning of the school year, when I returned home from another summer in Connecticut, I began making lists of items I (ideally) wanted in my pantry. While I couldn't/wouldn't buy all items on my list, I remember having anise, nutmeg and cloves on the docket. While the summer doesn't often beg for such spices I associate with hot or holiday drinks, they seemed to naturally fall off my list as I began using more garlic, chilies (which can be substituted for crushed red pepper) cumin and coriander. To some extent, I began keeping items in my pantry that could be used in a marinade. However, as I move to Connecicut, I'm worried about how many chilies or even olive oils I can find that are locally grown. I've never been a huge fan of the Locavore Movement (eating healthy is hard enough in the United States) and this scheme to use locally grown food is not meant to act as an elitist judgement of foods from all over (although I've heard local foods taste fresher) it is simply an challenge to keep me occupied during the summer and allow me to explore the qualities of different foods. So, herein lies certain substitutions I'm thinking of using if I can't get some foods in Connecticut grown in Connecticut.

Direct line from The Stepford Wives: "I asked myself, 'Where would people never notice a town full of robots? Connecticut."

Substituting Tomatoes for Soy Sauce: I toyed with the idea of growing soy beans over the summer and using them to make soy sauce (which sees heavy action in my cooking). But while soybeans could be grown in Connecticut, making the sauce is prohibitively difficult. So, as I'm looking to explore the nature of foods and make substitutions accordingly, I'm think that tomatoes, with all their acidic deliciousness could be substituted for soy sauce in a marinade. While soy sauce is a favorite ingredient in marinades, I figured I'd need a substitute going into the summer. Since marinades often call for (about one) acidic component to (about three) oily components I figured throwing a tomato in a blender and thinning it with water might do the trick. To find great info. in regards to marinades, click here.

Substituting Walnut and Grape seed Oils for Olive Oil: I watched a TED talk the other day on antiangiogenic therapy which featured foods that could cut off the blood supply to cancerous cells, thereby limiting their growth. Grape seed oil was featured on the list. While I don't use grape seed oil often, I've been curious about working it into my culinary routine. As I've never been too keen on the flavor of olive oil, grape seed oil is tasteless. While I've often become frustrated by all the smoke emitted by olive oil, grape seed oil has a high smoke point. And while it's possible to get locally produced olive oil in Connecticut, grapes grow more readily in the region, which makes me think that locally produced grape seed oils may be easier to come by. In terms of walnut oil, walnuts are a product historically grown in the New England region. While it may not conducive to a marinade, I may attempt to used walnut oil as a dressing or finishing element for meat. Additionally, both grape seed and walnut oil contain polyunstaurated fats (good for your heart) as well as vitamins such as E and K respectively... reason enough to use them where you can.

My fiance being very helpful with a rose bush.

Substituting Hibiscus Leaves and Rose Petals for Packaged Teas: One of my favorite articles on Into the Gloss dealt with how to make "beauty tea". While not necessarily in it for the beauty benefits, I noticed some of the ingredients lent themselves to calmer nerves or carried elements such as proteins and minerals which I didn't necessarily associate with tea. To be sure, the mixture for beauty tea seemed to be more of a "tisane" or mixture of herbs and not an official tea which contains leaves from the Cameilla Sinensis. While this "tea tree plant" is native to areas around Southeast Asia (and today's teas can be packaged in harmful, bleached bags) I figured I'd attempt to make teas or tisanes using ingredients native or at least grown in Connecticut. Two of these "teas" include rose petals and hibiscus.

While rose petals seem to be more conducive to beauty (apparently, "they tone the body from the inside out") I'm wondering how they'll lend themselves as a tea. Indeed, if they saying is true that we "eat with our eyes", I'm sure they'll taste delicious as an infusion in water. Hibiscus is used in Egypt to make Karkade and its flowers have also been used in medicines. Apparently, hibiscus has been utilized as both a laxative and diuretic and has been helpful in treating one's loss of appetite, inflammation or stomach irritation (according to WedMD). And while I strained to find dried hibiscus and rose petals at my local grocery store, the thought came to me that (OMG) I could simply but such plants at a nursery. So, with these plants in mind, I wanted to create a small recipe more hibiscus water. Enjoy!

Hibiscus Water (makes one pitcher)

I've read that not even bagged teas should be exposed to water when it's boiling. To this extent, brewing hibiscus leaves in cooler water is ideal. While the time it takes to steep the hibiscus may be longer, the flavor will be increasingly vibrant. 

  • 1/2 cup hibiscus leaves
  • 6 quarts of water
1. Wash off hibiscus leaves to enusre all dirt is removed. If you wish, gently release some "juice" from the leaves using a mortar and pestle. 

2. Place leaves in cool water and let sit overnight.

3. Strain into a glass and enjoy!

Hope this recipe adds goodness to a good summer!

Friday, June 19, 2015

You Go Daddy-O

I was in Aveda today, contemplating a Brazilian Keratin Treatment for the summer season. I've inherited quite a frizzy mane from my father's side of the family and so, I looked at the price, weighed an exorbitant amount of cash against a season of glossy locks and ultimately walked out the door. The irony is that while my father's genetics were the reason I contemplated the treatment in the first place, his advice was the reason I declined it (with quite a heavy heart).

Frizzy hair for days, circa 1977 when you could get away with it.

Today, I noticed an ode to fathers and their grooming rituals on Into the Gloss. In the article, girls talked about their father's (minimal) beauty habits and advice they gleaned along the way. As I flipped through the site, however, I realized that my father's beauty advice was more or less "anti-beauty" in the conventional sense. I his mind, a clear counter free of products (and chemicals) was the epitome of beauty. As a physician, additives and synthetic materials seemed to be the enemy. Plus, I think in my father's view, beauty was not something you obtained in a bottle but through your state of mind.

I suppose the most important piece of beauty advice gained from my father is that, "you're beautiful no matter what." Many girls receive this anecdote from their fathers and I supposed I was young enough and naive enough to believe it my entire life. While the point may be debatable, it has nonetheless led to a pretty minimal beauty routine which has been great on the skin and pocketbook. However, as any teenage girl knows, there were times when I didn't enjoy a certain aspect of my appearance. As stated before, I have frizzy hair. In high school I had a bad bout of acne. With these "troubles" came the tempting option to rectify them with some pretty harsh substances. I remember begging my parents to allow my hair to be chemically straightened or to take Accutane and was each time greeted with a resounding, "no." And while a keratin treatment may not be as harsh as a chemical straightening which actually goes in, breaks apart and rearranges the structure of your hair, I continue to believe my father's second piece of beauty advice: the less chemicals around, the better.

Humor me. A little Ray Stevens coming at ya.

In Happy Hour, I described the elements and structure of my beauty routine (if it can even be called that). In the article, one may have noticed a heavy use on natural ingredients which, while not containing many chemicals are likely not to contain large price tags to boot. Some of these factors in my routine include baking soda, raw honey and Argan oil. Truly, as time goes on, I seem to be following Miranda Kerr's mantra of "what goes on the skin goes in." This point was driven home by my father when I was looking at the NuFace Trinity Facial Trainer Kit. One look at the medieval contraption meant to give you a facelift and he said with paternal directness, "Ivory Soap, that's enough." I think there also may have been another comment about chemicals in makeup getting into your bloodstream. While Ivory is great, a slew of other natural beauty lines have hit the market. And while some parabens have been shown to negatively affect our endocrine systems and even increase signs of premature aging, I'm beginning to think my father was ahead of his time in denouncing these goods. So in honor of Father's Day, I have listed a few natural beauty products which should be used with the knowledge that they are ancillary beauty treatments because real beauty, as my father might say, lies within.

You're with your family through thick and thin (hair).

Kora Organics: Developed by model Miranda Kerr to go along with her beauty mantra featured above, KORA Organics seeks to use organic, plant ingredients to bring about beneficial effects to the skin. According to Kerr herself, "the average woman applies more than 200 chemicals to her skin by using her skin care products in one day." To rectify this situation, Kerr developed a line of organic and vegan products which focus on plant based products as opposed to chemically based ones. (Note: Kerr has been involved in a few work place scandals before, just note that the above site is NSFW.)

Grown Alchemist: Like KORA Organics, Grown Alchemist's line of beauty products also features items developed from organic plant materials which they claim, "provide better beauty results without harmful chemicals." The company also places an emphasis on the heavily scientific standpoint from which they approach skincare, relying on a team of cosmetic chemists and expounding on the cellular processing of ingredients. They are also having a sale. 

Aurelia Probiotic Skincare: Again, with a focus on plants, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare was begun by dermatologist Claire Vero. With price points which are generally similar to KORA Organics and Grown Alchemist, Aurelia Probiotic Skincare makes available the beneficial effects of organic plants to the consumer willing to invest a little in skincare.

One thing to note: while researching these companies, it occurred to me that many of them deal mainly in skincare as opposed to both skincare and cosmetics. To some extent, that tells me the companys' center of gravity lies more in harnessing the beneficial properties of plants than in telling women they need color to change their appearance. While yes, some of the products are meant to even one's skin tone or rectify redness, I like the idea that one is working with their skin as opposed to covering it up under layers of makeup. Plus, the use of plants can also be beneficial to one's health. So eat your heart out, Estee Lauder.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Roast with the Most (flavor)

Summer is a time to break out the grill, sip cool drinks and lounge by the pool. Summer is also the time when I move up to Connecticut for two months to be with my fiance and family. This means it's also the time of year when my dietary habits experience an overhaul of normalcy as I attempt to cook food that both my fiance and I will eat. At home, cooking for one, I'm familiar with my routine of legumes and vegetables. In the Winter, it's braised or "soup-ified" turnips, carrots and other root vegetables and in Spring, I spring back to green veggies all the while using lentils and beans throughout (see All in One). However, when I head up to Connecticut, I make the switch to fruits and meat. While both diets are generally free of dairy and gluten, the latter one is more appealing to my fiance who is one of the pickiest eaters on Earth. And while feeding another is the ultimate act of love, switching up diets wreaks havoc on my culinary methodology. Every summer, I hit the store and buy a melange of pantry items like honey, vinegars, peppercorns and oils that will jive better with fruits and meats as opposed to veggies and legumes. I bid farewell to my rosemary, bay leaves and cumin (although I'm sure a serious cook could find use for these) and embrace my mint and flavored balsamics. This year, to add intensity to my struggle, I'm attempting to cook with ingredients native to the New England area (more on this later). However, not only does a rotation in my pantry larder occur, the methods I use to cook change as well.

I consume so few fruits that I was pressed to find a photo of one.

As stated before, summer is a time for grilling. While relatively new to this game, I'm excited to learn the ins and outs of grilling (I've even read Williams Sonoma holds a free class on the topic). To this extent, my fiance and I make a lot of kabobs due to the fact we love grilled anything: meat, fruits, you name it. Currently, peach and pork kabobs with a peach glaze are my specialty. However, with the increase of fruit in our diets, my options for how to prepare them seem to decrease. I've never been much a fan of fruit and have, as a result, not worked much with them. As is the case with kabobs, I prefer creating dishes that are an all-in-one endeavor. Fruit salsas and glazes which can be served alongside meats are great and I plan on making a lot of peach or even strawberry salsa this summer. However, with my new self-imposed restriction to local ingredients (olive oil may be switched to walnut and some spices may be thrown out the window) I'm looking to find unique ways to add flavor to fruits. Enter Feed Me Dearly, my new go to blog for all things food (she even has a section for picky eaters!). Looking through the site, I came across a recipe for roast stone fruit. The quick recipe called for stone fruits such as peaches and cherries to be tossed with sugar and Chinese five spice and roasted for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. So easy and such an obvious way to bring out the flavor of fruit! If roasting is a method for drawing flavor through heat, why should meat and veggies have all the fun? And if you need your fruit cool, make a sorbet for a post-dinner treat. Going along with my stab at recipes, I'd like to introduce my attempt at Roast Peach Salsa.

And what's a recipe without some slick tunes to accompany it's completion? Above, Jeff Buckley's haunting "Strange Fruit".

As peaches are grown widely in Connecticut, I tend to use them in marinades, glazes, salsas and sorbets during the summer. (Again, if you can get your hands on a Vitamix blender, it make these creations that much easier). Salsa, I find, satisfies both me and my fiance in it's "snacky" nature which allows us to eat as much or as little as we'd like and makes a great accompaniment to meat. Therefore, herein lies my recipe:

Roast Peach Salsa
serves 2
  • 6 ripe peaches, peeled and quartered, pits removed
  • 2 small shallots, chopped
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional) 
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven heats, toss peaches in honey and spread in an even layer on a baking sheet.

2.  Place chopped shallots in bowl with 2 tbsp. vinegar and red pepper and allow them to "soften" for five minutes.

3. Place sweetened peaches in oven and let roast for 20 minutes.

4. With 5 minutes left, remove peaches from oven and toss in soften shallots with remaining vinegar. Place back in oven to roast for the remaining five minutes.

5. Remove peach mixture from the oven and let cool for several minutes. When peaches have reached a good temperature place mixture in food processor or blender (or even use a potato ricer) and mix until desired consistency is reached. 

6. Place in bowl and enjoy!

Other fruits which could be used for a salsa.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Happy is Healthy

After writing about herbs and healthy foods and beauty remedies that won't cause cancer, it's easy to lose sight of the little things which affect our mood (and health) each day. Couple this with a sometimes overwhelming sense of, "Am I living my best life?" "Am I doing enough for others?" and things can get pretty intense, pretty quickly. In learning about the foodie world and planning my canning for the upcoming fall (I was at one time overwhelmed with what I might do with all my bumper crops - assuming I don't kill them by August) I began to think of donations to my local food bank. If you live in DC, DC Central Kitchen is a great food bank which offers meal distribution programs, culinary job training and even food recycling. As I learn more and more how blessed I am to have access to fresh and healthy food, I would like to see more people feel the same kind of delight in access to food as I have experienced. However, it is not just food that keeps us healthy. Getting a good night's rest, sufficient exercise and avoiding stress all play a role in maintaining our sense of well being. However, in our busy lives, it's easy to forget one of natures best remedies... laughter.

I love to laugh... just like the song in Mary Poppins, "loud and long and clear." Laughter for me has been an integral part of life. It's what I look for in friends and entertainment; a shared sense of humor that is off beat. As an adult, I still watch shows like Family Guy and South Park due to their abilities to have me "rolling in the aisles." Forget wine or anything else, when I want to relax, I reach for the remote. And just like food, I find comedy is best when shared. Not only do I like to laugh but I like to make others laugh as well. My dad says we're happiest when we do for others so I've been attempting to give a chuckle here and there in order to deliver an unexpected amount of joy. It's not saving the world it's doing what I can, with who I am, with where I'm at. (I think Groucho Marx said that).

As a teacher, I'm no stranger to the process of experimentation. I like to see if theories work when applied to everyday situations. However, my comedic theories have taken a strange turn. My finance loves the Monty Python sketch featuring the Ministry of Silly Walks (above). While I'm not much of a Monty Python fan (as I referenced earlier, I like my humor as I like my martinis - dirty) I do walk a lot and wondered what would happen if I "silly walked" at a crosswalk. Would I get a good response? Would I get odd stares? Probably both but I figured it was worth a shot to make someone (and myself) laugh. As you can imagine, hilarity ensued...

Getting ready to "silly walk".

You can read about the many health benefits of laughter here and for those of you who may remember, I referenced a blog entitled Feed Me Dearly a few weeks ago. If you gain good vibes from having a laugh, send them her way.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Peas, Please

In Distillation and the Learning Curve I talked about how kale and its green, leafy counterparts are the queen bees of green, well, or nutrition. Compared to their fellow vegetables, green leaves like collards, spinach and kale pack a whole lot of vit-aminos (shout out to my bio nerds) such as A, C and K as well as fiber and minerals. They are low in calories and have been shown to help in the reduction of such diseases as cancer and diabetes (according to WebMd). Despite this fact, I've been eating a lot of peas. Peas are a spring vegetable and I guess I like to celebrate the season with a little epicurean action. Who cares if they rank a little lower on the nutrition scale? They're delicious!

If you've read my blog up into this point, you may have learned I'm a teacher and as such, I like to categorize things. I like to have students categorize elements as a learning strategie and I like to categorize things based on similarity because I'm a dork. When it comes to cooking definitions, I've found that a lot of categories disintegrate under very a little inspection. To bake something is to roast it and ragouts and stews are pretty much the same thing. As a veggie lover, when it came to developing ideas for different salsas in the summer, I came to find that salsa is somewhat of segue between salad and a dip or sauce. While its contents are solid, like a salad, it is meant to be used as a dip much as a creamy hummus or even pesto sauce would be. To even find an exact definition of salsa is difficult (unless, of course, you are looking up the dance).

And what's cooking without some "dish appropriate" music?

At one point, I read a recipe for Crushed Spring Peas with Mint by renown chef, April Bloomfield. The delightful English recipe fit into my "soft foods" category as well as my seasonal one, featuring tender, green, Spring peas. Several weeks later, I created a peach salsa for a dinner in which I tried to use spring ingredients as well. To this extent, I suppose I had both peas and salsa on the mind when I came home and heard my frozen peas begging to be made into something I could put on a chip. I don't typically deal in the realm of recipes. I often feature them and comment on how healthy they often are. There's a first time for everything though and below you will find a recipe for "Spring Salsa" as well as the healthy attributes of each ingredient. Enjoy!

Peas: Obviously the base of the salsa, I often by peas that are frozen as they are high in nutrients (the freezing process maintains a high nutrient level in vegetables) and do not require shelling. While shelling, like peeling an artichoke can be very zen, my fine motor skills just won't stand for it.

Chicken (feet) Stock: In All in One I talked about the benefits of using chicken feet to make a stock for both its health and flavoring effects. Having checked out Gwyneth Paltrow's blog, goop, a few months ago, I came across an article featuring the Hemsley sisters (of Hemsley + Hemsley)  which talked about the benefits of bone broth on the skin and body. In general, the gelatin pulled from animal bones when simmered in hot water results in an stock which is chock full of amino acids, minerals and vitamins. To make chicken feet or any bone based stock, simply throw bones (for extra flavor cover bones in tomato paste) in a slow cooker with some cider vinegar and aromatic vegetables (leeks, carrots, etc.) and cook on low for around eight hours or overnight (alternatively, the referenced recipe can be found here).

To add a little extra flavor to your peas, you may wish to simmer them in the stock above until the liquid is absorbed or you can go straight to the following ingredients...

Onions: While you may have added onions to your chicken (feet) stock which you then may have added to your peas, what's a quality salsa without the sharp crunch of an onion? I, myself, did not add stock to may peas and subsequently decided to pack a punch through the use of "pickled" onions in my salsa. At the dinner where I made my peach salsa above, I also made a recipe by David Tanis of the New York Times entitled Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette. While the recipe called for preparing the asparagus by simply boiling it in water for 3-5 minutes, I was more intrigued by the construction of the vinaigrette which called for "softening" shallots in red wine vinegar and salt for several minutes before incorporating them into a dressing. While I was hesitant to let onions sit in red wine vinegar before adding them to a salsa (I was afraid the red wine might not complement the sweet taste of the [albeit frozen] peas) I let them soak in rice vinegar and salt in order to reduce their raw taste before adding them to my dish.

Jalapenos: Salsa is generally a very simple dish. Cut up some tomatoes, onions and peppers (maybe add some cilantro if you're not cooking for my fiance) and voila, you have the prototypical salsa. To this end, I decided to pay homage to salsa simplicity if not its ingredients. Jalapenos are great. You can roast them, pickle them or keep them raw (in this case, you'll want to discard the seeds). Recently, I found goop to feature an article on fermented foods which can do wonders in maintaining a healthy gut and therefore, keep vandals from invading our bloodstream. (This article, I can't recommend highly enough and you can read it here.) While I didn't feel like pickling my jalapenos, I cut them up and added them raw for extra heat.

Spices: Here, you can play around a little bit. I like to toast cumin seeds and coriander before grinding them and adding them to any dish but simple salt and pepper probably works just as well.

And below lies my first, official recipe on Eat Your Ethos:

"Spring Salsa"
serves 4

  • 2 cups frozen or shelled peas
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, toasted
1. Toast cumin and coriander seeds by placing them in a pan over medium-high head. Once seeds smell fragrant, remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder or using a mortar and pestle.

2. Place chopped onions in a bowl along with the ground seeds and rice vinegar. Let sit 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

3. While the onions soften, cook peas according to package directions or by boiling them in water or stock until soft (about 5 minutes). Strain peas and let cool.

4. Once peas are cooled, added them to softened onions along with olive oil and lemon juice. Place mixture in a food processor for a smooth mixture or simply mash with a potato ricer until desired consistency is reached. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Happy Hour

I attend yoga several times a week. At the end of each session, after and hour and a half of grueling poses which work your neck, your back, etc., you lie exhausted in what is identified as the most important pose in yoga: savasana. Savasana, also known as "dead body pose" occurs when you lie flat on your back with your arms out to the side and feet infront of you... much like a dead body might look. Lying in this pose, one is supposed to breathe deeply and, as our instructor reminds us, remain silent as this is the only time of day when some people can get time away and relax. I understand that yoga functions as most people's getaway, an oasis where they can free their minds of stressful thoughts and let their bodies explore the twenty-six postures of Bikram Yoga. This is not my shtick. Yoga makes me feel great afterwards but an hour and a half spent in a 109 degree environment is pretty much a torturous process. However, like I said, yoga is kinda like threading your eyebrows: the gratification comes post-process. So, as you can imagine, I was a little jealous of those who viewed their time in the studio as a "sea of tranquility." "Where was my tranquil sea?" I asked myself. As a person with high amounts of anxiety, I had my doubts that such a "sea" even existed. However, after awhile, I found I did indeed have my water-filled oasis right in my own home. Each day, my shower serves as my "happy hour."

While studying Anthropology in college, we learned that some Latin cultures were surprised to learn that, from an early age, American children slept in a room separate from their parents. In Latin cultures, it is typical for children to sleep in the same spaces as their parental units so, as you can imagine, there may have been some surprise towards the idea that children occupy their own space at night. "Children have their own room? But the parents sleep in there with them, right?" Is a quote I remember from an article on the topic. While, no, American and (oftentimes) European children sleep separate from their caregivers, there have been rituals which have developed surrounding this inevitable separation at bedtime. As children (and their parents) often develop a nighttime routine which involves brushing their teeth, being tucked in and read a story to prepare them to feel safe when left alone, I have too developed a nighttime routine to help me slough off the remnants of the day and prepare myself for a peaceful space before bed.

As I've gotten older, my nightly routine has become longer and more involved, not because my body calls for more moisturizer or serums or eye creams, but because I've learned the benefits of various skincare routines and, as I've leaned towards more natural remedies to help both myself and the environment I've found I need to "prep" a bit before heading into the shower (note: as a teacher living in a metropolitan area, I don't possess a bathtub so, unfortunately, these routines are "pre-shower" with the hopes that they will one day be "pre-bath"). Below is a typical, routinized list and description of my nightly routine.

Duh-rryy brush.

Dry Brush: Exfoliation, as I may have mentioned, is my new obsession. Whereas I used to exfoliate just once a month to spare my skin from harsh exfoliation beads, I now use more natural products which work just as well and are increasingly gentle on my skin. I just purchased a dry brush from Whole Foods. According to, dry brushing satisfies the dual need for detox and exfoliation. Concise instructions on using a dry brush can be found here but, basically, using a dry brush involves moving dry bristles along your skin, starting with your extremities and moving towards your heart. While this action lifts dead skin cells, allowing new ones to come to the surface, it also moves one's lymph fluid through the body, resulting in the excrement of toxins. While not all medical professionals agree on this last point, the process is harmless and does leave your skin looking fresh and vibrant.

Baking Soda: On days I don't use a dry brush, I use baking soda as an exfoliant. Baking soda, I'm learning, is the duct tape of the beauty world: it can be used for anything. Plus, at 47 cents a box, who can say no to this miracle product? In order to "transform" baking soda into an amazing exfoliator, simply add a few drops of water to two tablespoons of the stuff and mix it into a paste. Massage it into your skin before rinsing and voila! This exfoliant works well on the body and is gentle enough to use on the face. I even use it in my hair as a cleansing agent after an article I read on (where else?) Into the Gloss. So far, this product has been good to me.

Honey: In my pursuit of natural beauty products, I stumbled across two elements which could be used as facial cleaners: oil, one the one hand and honey on the other. Not often used together, oil cleansing or a mixture of oils on the face could (ironically) work wonders for an oily skin type. However, after trying an oil cleanse which involved mixing oils (I used an olive/hazelnut combination) massaging oils into a dry face and then using a hot washcloth to remove said oil, I noticed my beauty routine began to extend out of the bathroom and into the kitchen and bedroom. For those of you who have read previous blog posts, I am a minimalist and thus, what I can't reach for in the shower does not generally make its way into my regimen. Honey, however, is a different story. Raw and Manuka honeys are both antibacterial agents and possess qualities which calm the skin making it useful in the treatment of eczema and acne alike. While some sources claim honey should be mixed with elements like lemon juice or glycerine before becoming a cleanser (you can access this recipe here) I tend to just massage the honey into my skin straight from the bottle before rinsing. Raw honey works well as a cleanser or mask since its thicker and will not run like it's Manuka counterpart. The results of this process have been positive, I feel good about using a natural product on my face and, as you wash it off, you have the added benefit of a sweetness no other cleanser can deliver.

Lavender Soap: Referring once again to the Best Beauty Tips section of Into the Gloss, I've read that placing honey on your legs and wrapping them in Saran Wrap before giving them a good rinse leads to limbs that are beyond smooth (if you have the time or inclination to do this, let me know how it comes out). However, I tend to save the honey for my face and use Dr. Bronner's Lavender Soap for my body. I was introduced to Dr. Bronner's very young from my neighbor who was trying to find her second career as a facialist. Besides reading all the quotes on stories on the exterior of the bottle, I enjoyed it's gentle scent and the fact that it could also be used as a bubble bath. As stated in Humour Me, I tend to possess high amount of anxiety, an "ailment" for which lavender can serve as a remedy. While I grew up using Ivory soap consistently, I was a bit tentative to use a gentler, liquid soap that wouldn't strip my skin with masochistic pleasure but, as I've begun to use baking soda as an exfoliating agent, I've found I needed a more moisturizing cleanser to balance out what could otherwise be very dry, exfoliated skin.

Vinegar: As stated before, I am as a teacher and, as such, have seen my fair share of baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. Having explained this reaction to students, as the baking soda with it's "basic" properties (it clocks in at 9 on the pH scale) combines with the acidic properties of vinegar (a 2 on the aforementioned scale) they work to "neutralize" eachother's properties and, in the process, create a great amount of fizz, eruption, boiling, whatever. I was a little concerned this same process would happen on my scalp if I washed my hair with baking soda and cleansed it with vinegar, however, once the baking soda is rinsed, it seems as though the vinegar acts as if nothing was there (this is good because the baking soda is supposed to really clarify your tresses). As stated before, I struggle with a flaky scalp and as I once forgot my dandruff shampoo on a trip, I quickly learned vinegar works as a great substitute and leaves your hair shiny and smooth.

There you have it. And since the bathroom of Isabelle Bellis seems to outshine mine, I'll leave you with what I imagine is a picture of her beauty sanctuary as well as some of her beauty advice. Enjoy!


I just had a student tell me that cave paintings at Lascaux were reminiscent of the way people post photos of their meals to Instagram present day since the cave paintings depict animals they hunted. #brilliance

Also, I wanted to post the link to the caves somewhere cause the site is boss.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Humour Me

The Greek philosopher, Socrates, once very wisely suggested one "know thyself." This quote has always struck a chord with me. As an introvert, focused on the inner workings of my psyche, (not as glamorous as it sounds if it even sounds as such) I love finding out more in regards to the mental frameworks we share as humans through the broader context of Psychology. To this extent, I read A LOT of material written by the "original" psychologists, or, to put it bluntly, works by C.G. Jung and Sigmund Freud (no great link available).

Jung and Freud both served as the essential "godfathers" of the psychological diaspora for modern times. With Freud leading the way in his establishment of psychoanalysis and work on the unconscious, his student, Carl Jung developed further notions of what goes on beyond our "mind's eye" including the collective unconscious and personality types, the latter of which was adapted into a test by Katherine Cooks Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It was before the Easter Holiday that I was reacquainted with information I held so dearly (but perhaps let slip into my unconscious) when I came across an article entitled, "Which Saint are You?" Apparently, the Church of Resurrection had matched a saint to each personality type and, by proxy, allowed you to see which one you identified with most (I was desperately hoping to be a ten-point match with Mother Theresa but it looks like I'm more of a Catherine of Siena type gal). While the article seemed to be written in good fun, the concept of personality types has been fully supported (if not scientifically tested) by Jung and extrapolated into a typology by Myers and Briggs. In addition to being either introverted (internally focused) or extroverted (externally focused), Jung also noted we interpret the world and make decisions based on our alignments as either thinking or feeling sensing or intuiting (respectively, focusing on the information at hand or adding meaning to said information by viewing it in the context of a pattern) and judging or perceiving. One look at the links or graph provided (below) and it's relatively easy to see which category you fall into and it's fun to imagine which realms your loved ones belong to as well. Jung, while having developed the concept of personality types through, "clinical observation [and] introspection," (Wikipedia) does pay homage in his essay Psychological Typology, to theories once expounded by the ancient Greeks which lent themselves to more modern interpretations.

According to Jung:

the Greek philosopher Empedocles attempted to impose order on the chaos of natural phenomena by dividing them into the four elements: earth, water, air and fire. It was above all the physicians of ancient times who applied the principle of order, in conjunction with the related doctrine of the four qualities, dry, moist, cold, warm, to human beings and thus tried to reduce the bewildering diversity of mankind to orderly groups.

Reflecting Jung's point, it was not a philosopher but a physician who combined the four elements and qualities to produce what he saw as the four temperaments of humanity. To paraphrase the Encyclopedia Britannica, Galen of Pergamum was a Greek physician whose medical research was based, in part, on the theories of Plato and Aristotle (acolytes of our boy Socrates). Through his anatomical and historical, medical research, Galen suggested that human health was based on a balance of bodily fluids or humours which included black bile, phlegm, blood and yellow bile. When broken down, each fluid was developed from one of the four elements being (respectively) earth, water, fire or air. The creation of humours from these elements further "displayed" themselves as having either hot or cold as well as wet or dry qualities.

Like the Myers-Briggs typology, we have something of a matrix going on here. To and extent, Galen (and his contemporaries) believed that a preponderance of a specific humour affected one's temperament or personality. If you possessed a preponderance of black bile, you were thought to be quiet, serious and analytic while possessing a cold, dry quality. High amounts of phlegm might produce a temperament that is more calm and passive with cool, moist qualities while possessing more blood in the body could lead to an individual who acts more lively or courageous by comparison (and display warm, moist qualities). Finally, it was believed by the Greeks that possessing more yellow bile as opposed to other humours led to a more irritable yet ambitious disposition (while displaying a warm, dry quality).

Before I wrote off the ancient Greeks as naive or superstitious, I was led by my intuition (I indeed fit Jung's "intuitive"personality type) to look up aspects of the phlegmatic temperament. I've always felt that my insides were a bit of a "sticky situation." My teenage years produced no small amount of acne and, even in adulthood, I struggle in maintaining a flake-free scalp. While these qualities are manifested mostly on my exterior, the fact that I don't get sick a lot leads me to believe that I have a lot of gunk on my insides which catches a lot of incoming germs. Like I said, I'm intuitive. I don't need hard facts as a sensing (perhaps medical professional) person might, but "humour" me. Indeed, when I read the description of the phlegmatic temperament I felt as though I was reading a description of myself as a person rather than a personality type. Submissive? Uh-huh. Conflict-avoiding? Indeed. Empathetic? Check. While the article didn't seem to be professionally written in a peer-edited journal, I began to think that, like most ancient philosophies, a grain of truth carried on from past to present even though scientific discovery has changed and developed around it.

At the end of the day, however, there is something to be said for scientific fact (obvi.) and what struck me about Jung's coverage of the phlegmatic personality type was that the ancient Greeks believed phlegm was the byproduct of inflammation. True or not, inflammation, in the present day has (scientifically) been shown to wreak havoc on our well being. Inflammation, according to WebMD, occurs when white blood cells in the body are released to protect it from foreign and potentially harmful substances. Symptoms of inflammation often include redness, swelling and perhaps joint pain (think of mosquito bites as a microcosm of the inflammatory process). While inflammation is useful in fighting off "ill-intentioned" predators in the body, it can become an issue if the inflammatory process is not turned off when its services are no longer required. In part, the foods we choose to eat can play a role in either heightening or reducing our inflammatory response.

Irving Penn always took beautiful pictures for Vogue. Above, some anti-inflammatory ingredients.

A long time ago, I remember reading an article in Vogue regarding sugar and its inflammatory (read: damaging) affects on the body. I remember at the time eating a diet high in both sugar and dairy what with being seventeen and the descendant of an Irish mother who made us drink milk with dinner. As time went on, I phased both sugar and dairy out of my diet and, to great extent, saw a clearing of my acne, a reduction in my weight and an increase in my energy levels. Again, I am not a medical professional and am sure there have been other factors influencing the aforementioned results but I find it difficult to believe that essentially cutting sugar and dairy from my diet has not produced substantial benefits. In addition to sugar and milk, alcohol and animal fats, gluten, even omega-6 fatty acids have been shown to cause some inflammation in the body. However, there are many foods which act as anti-inflammatory agents. If Galen was correct in assuming that "balance" in whatever form led to a healthy body, I've noticed that my (perhaps phlegmatic) body craves foods which are anti-inflammatory, maybe in an attempt to stabilize what could otherwise be an big, puffy sugar pot if left to my own devices.

On his website, Dr. Andrew Weil has developed an anti-inflammatory food pyramid in an attempt to aid the development of a diet rich in anti-inflammatory foods. While this guide can be helpful, there are several key ingredients in existence which pack a wallop when it comes to reducing inflammation. A list and corresponding recipes lie below.

Ginger: Ginger is a great spice. In addition to being an anti-inflammatory agent, it also has been shown to calm the stomach and has even been used in some cancer treatments (according to WebMD). I recently purchased a book entitled, The Spice Kitchen by Ragini Dey which features some very basic recipes that serve as the foundation of Indian cuisine. Instead of wheat flour (essentially the mascot for gluten) ginger paste is often used as a thickening agent as well as flavor enhancer. While I didn't want to include a recipe straight from the book and as it's too simple to adapt, I decided to place a link for ginger paste here. I can only imagine that substituting ginger paste for wheat flour in a baking recipe would be like hearing Led Zeppelin for the first time.

Turmeric: Turmeric is a great, anti-inflammatory spice. As a member of the "ginger family", turmeric is known to also known to reduce heartburn, stomach pain and headaches among other things. In following posts on 101 Cookbooks for years, I can safely say that +heidi swanson develops some of the best recipes involving turmeric I've seen. Presented are her recipes for both turmeric tea and turmeric cashews.

Fatty Fish: While turmeric and ginger descend from the same family, "fatty fish" doesn't seem to even reside on the same block as these two spices. While not even part of the plant kingdom, fatty fish such as mackerel and tuna carry omega-3 fatty acids (as opposed to the omega-6's which can cause inflammation). According to, "men who ate baked or boiled (as opposed to fried, dried or salted) cut their risk of heart disease by 23%." I don't eat a whole lot of fish but when I do... I get my recipes from the New York Times. To access their recipe for tuna rillettes, click here (and if you happen to make some, share how they came out 'cause I am dying to make this recipe).

 Thanks for "humouring me" through my long diatribe! Enjoy!