Monday, January 30, 2012

Crunchy Salad

I love finding new ingredients while grocery shopping.

Woolworths is now selling fresh julienned beetroot in small bags in the fresh vegetable fridge.

Beets are one of those maligned vegetables, hated by many due to their association with the bottled pickled variety. But fresh beetroot sliced thinly makes a crunchy, sweet and colourful addition to any salad.

J's Crunchy Salad
Serves two as a main salad or four as a side salad

  • 2 x 40g bags of rocket (arugula)
  • 1 bag of julienned fresh beetroot (approx. 4 small beets)
  • 240g tinned chickpeas (drained)
  • 75g raw pistachios (shelled)
  • olive oil
  • salt
Toss together, dress lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt. Enjoy.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Carrot and Apple Cake

In addition to gluten-free, I've been baking egg-free and dairy-free of late as well. This recipe is a great place to start if you're baking for someone who has multiple allergies or problems with cholesterol.

I concocted the recipe using my Mom's gluten-free, egg-free banana bread recipe as a starting point, and playing around with egg and butter substitution.

My Mom generally substitutes half a large mashed banana per large egg in a recipe for sweet baking.

For sweet or savoury baking, I've begun substituting 1 tablespoon of whole flax seeds and 4 tablespoons of water per large egg in recipes.

You can also use chia seeds in the same proportions without needing to grind them first. They have the benefit of being milder tasting than flax seeds as well.

Egg-free doesn't have to be scary. Have fun with it.

Click image to enlarge
Click image to enlarge

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Energy to Thrive

Life begets life.  Energy begets energy.  
It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich.
-  Sarah Bernhardt -

Energy highs and lows are the norm for humans.
But for those people operating with autoimmune diseases, it can feel as if the dial is constantly turned to low.

Prior to my celiac diagnosis, energy was a difficult thing to muster. Most afternoons were spent sleeping for hours at a time, with intense headaches, stomach and joint pains, numbed by some form of painkiller. Exercise was an intense chore which left me feeling more broken rather than more energy-filled. 

Cutting out the foods I was allergic to was like an energy awakening. Suddenly, exercise became something to look forward to (imagine that!)

I read a book recently which made a big impact. 
It was one of those impulse airport bookshop grabs just prior to a flight that you can't imagine never having read. It's called: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.

Filled with epic adventure and pure inspiration, the book brings across the thrill of rediscovering what it should be like for every human who has the physical capacity for movement to run (and actually enjoy it...injury free). Minimalist running or barefoot running is another strong topic of debate in the book, which for anyone who has ever had an injury caused by running is something which might peak your interest. 

Inspired by the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico's Copper Canyons, whose culture is built around running long distances in remote locations wearing leather sandals, the book also delves into the scientific aspects of running and running shoes. For instance, have all the advances in running shoe technology really led to injury-free running? For many people with expensive running shoes that control pronation, give arch support and have enough cushioning for your heel striking gait to feel like you're running on clouds (but who still sit with shin splints or foot fractures), the answer is a resounding: "NO!"

I've been pondering this for a few months now, using myself as a guinea pig of sorts. Over the years of starting and stopping running, most often due to shin or knee complaints; upping the weekly mileage has mostly been in new running shoes.  You know, the ones you pay a whole lot of money for to prevent those injuries.

Well, for the past couple of months or so of running, I've been using old running shoes. The ones you're supposed to retire on the advice of running magazines because their cushioning isn't so great anymore, and the support has worn down. You know, the ones that are now supposed to be causing you injuries.

The verdict?
Not a knee or shin complaint in sight.

The premise of minimalist running is simple.
Take away the running shoes designed to alter your foot's natural way of hitting the ground during motion, bring back the feedback your foot should be getting from the ground which allows you to land more carefully, and what you get is a stronger foot and an adapted natural shock absorption system (i.e. your legs) that eventually self-corrects posture and alignment, allowing you to run injury free.
The way a child would run barefoot across a field out of sheer joy.

It's an interesting premise, I think.

So buoyed by months of running happily in old shoes, and a sale on at the Cape Union Mart, Simeon and I came home yesterday excitedly clutching our Merrell barefoot collection shoes.

Now before you scoff, since barefoot running should indeed be free and shoeless, would you relish your foot being cut up by a rusty aluminium can or smeared in dog poop? Me neither.
Thus, barefoot shoes a la Vibram five fingers or the like.

Notice the differences in design from a regular running shoe in terms of slope and cushioning?

Merrell Women's Barefoot Collection: Pace Glove in Dark Shadow
Merrell Men's Barefoot Collection: Trail Glove in Black/Molten Lava
Donning our shoes for the first time, we set out on our evening run marvelling at how much of the ground we suddenly felt and how differently our feet were landing to adjust to that fact. It was the first time while running through the veld that I didn't almost twist my ankle, and I realised it was because I was stepping more carefully over the rocky paths because I could feel the ground! 

Another interesting fact is how much lighter the shoes are versus regular running shoes. Your feet literally feel less heavy to pick up.

Are we hooked?

We'll be interspersing the use of these shoes with our old running shoes, allowing our feet/calves/legs/posture time to adapt gracefully to the landing modifications required. For as Benjamin Franklin said: Energy and persistance alter all things.

To read more about minimalist running online, I recommend the following Running Times article as a starting point: Much ado about minimalism

And in closing, for those of your who have ever not felt quite right after eating a meal (or, let's face it, just felt anywhere close to crappy for days on end after eating certain foods), please do your self a favour and get tested for allergies. Your life will thank you!

Monday, January 09, 2012

Ina Garten's NY Apartment

Happy 2012!

I've been watching episodes of the Barefoot Contessa on YouTube (user "Mr Melodifestivalen" has quite the stash), chuckling at Ina Garten's overuse of catch phrases: 'Use good [insert ingredient]'; 'How easy is that?' (which has apparently been trademarked), etc. and rolling my eyes at the East-Hampton smarminess which inevitably oozes through in some episodes.

Photo: Food Network Humour
Watching Ina interact with her numerous friends at dinner parties, beach grills, and so forth; one really picks up on her inherently controlling nature in the way she orders people around at parties, controls the conversation, tells people what to do/buy, etc. Whether this is a product of editing; an on-screen persona or the true Ina is hard to tell. However, personally, I find these somewhat irritating traits forgivable due to her jovial character (almost always clothed in shents [shirt-tents]) which doesn't come across as overly critical at the best of times.

Juxtapose that with Martha Stewart, the ultimate control-freak and perfectionist who, in my opinion, while being undoubtedly magnificently successful as well, does not posses Ina Garten's on-screen charm; ability to laugh easily (albeit nervously), or warmth of character. I found it interesting to note that, according to the article on Wikipedia, Ina Garten was mentored by Martha Stewart. Hmmm.

And then there's Jeffrey Garten, Ina's puppy-dog-like husband. This man is immensely successful in the business world, which must require the tenaciousness of a bulldog with all the right connections, and yet is content to be portrayed as a soft-hearted slightly dim-witted character in Ina's productions. I have wondered whether his business colleagues watch him onscreen (assuming the upper echelon business types in the US would watch an episode of the Barefoot Contessa starring Jeffrey) and think to themselves: WTF? Regardless, whether his on-screen time portrays anything close to his real-life character or not, it must be love, right.

Photo: Food Network Humour
But whatevs. Her shows are fun to watch for all the things that make them cringe-worthy, with each episode containing enough butter in every cake recipe to stop the heart of an ox (although, nobody rivals Paula Deen on the butter front), as well as the voyeuristic ability to check out the house/garden/beaches/stores of the richer contingent of American society.

Photo: Food Network Humour
Speaking of how the other third lives, I found an article on Ina Garten's New York pad over at HouseBeautiful. Who wouldn't love to walk into a house, see a window and tell the realtor: I'll take it. My goodness, it must be fun to be that rich :-)

Photo: HouseBeautiful
Love the photo/painting above the fireplace. It's so striking.

Photo: HouseBeautiful
 Great pumpkin-coloured tablecloth.

Photo: HouseBeautiful
A window above the sink overlooking the city must be a cool thing to have.

Photo: HouseBeautiful

Photo: HouseBeautiful

Photo: HouseBeautiful
For the full set of photos, and a Q&A with Ina, head over to HouseBeautiful.