On raw (and pH) diets

pHmiracle

(I know… I promised pineapple salsa. It wasn’t just a ploy to get your attention; I just ate all the salsa, so no photo op. I’ll try to include at least one fruit salsa this week!)

Back in August, I wrote a post about a friend who was doing a raw diet. At the time, I was interested in her motivation, and she offered to loan me the book that started the whole thing for her.

It took a few months, but I finally borrowed the book, and then read enough portions of it (I didn’t read all the included recipes) to get the gist of the eating philosophy. If you’re unfamiliar with raw diets (I’m gonna go out on a limb here and hypothesize that most Americans are indeed unfamiliar, unless you live in some uber-hip area where your average citizen leans heavily toward edible things chic and trendy), they are based on the idea that your blood needs to remain within a certain pH range in order to remain physically and emotionally healthy (yes, I am grossly paraphrasing here — if I am misrepresenting then feel free to correct me via the comments section). Certain foods are acidic, and certain foods are alkaline, and you need to eat more of the alkaline foods to keep your blood in its zen state (i.e., blood being slightly alkaline), in turn keeping you thin and healthy and happy. Some of the foods that are alkalizing were surprising — such as tomatoes, which I always thought of as acidic. Turns out that to maintain slightly alkaline blood, you need to eat mostly raw foods, specifically raw greens and other vegetables, and totally bypass meats (excepting limited amounts of fish), sweets, mushrooms, yeast breads, and many fruits.

The book is scattered throughout with first-hand accounts of how the diet has changed lives. There are anecdotes from people who have been very ill for many years — with everything from chronic pain to depression to cancer — and their stories tell of dramatic improvement after being on the pH diet. And I don’t necessarily doubt these stories — I firmly believe that what you eat is more important that just about anything when it comes to your health (I recently told a friend who was disgusted by her husband’s new habit of pipe-smoking that before she tried to convince him to give up smoking, she needed to convince him to stop drinking diet Coke). I also buy the fact that a heavily acidic body chemistry can wreak havoc on everything from immunity to emotional health — it leads to candida overgrowth, prime parasitic environments, and weight gain. So dramatic changes in diet that reverse this direction would logically begin to reverse the damage that was being done in the acidic body. In short, I believe the personal testimonies in the book.

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Sourdough: pages two, three, and four.

sourdough_baguettes_1

I face yet another moment of time, sitting at my computer, realizing that it’s quite possible no one will care a single iota about today’s subject matter. But then I remind myself that, unless reading my blog has become the torture method of choice used by government sources on terror suspects, someone is actually choosing, on occasion, to read it. Which leads me to fantasize that there are others out there who are as excited about sourdough! as I now am. If you are not interested in sourdough, or how it can change your bread-making life, then today’s dough minutia might sent you scrambling for any other form of entertainment, to which I send you with my blessings (but only after promising to come back for my next post, pineapple salsa).

Last post, I left you with the raging success of my first attempt at sourdough, and the promise of more experimentation to come. The first project I tackled was using my sourdough starter to replace the commercial yeast in our wheat sandwich bread. Figuring out a process was not quite as easy as I thought: starting with the realization that there are countless ways to begin a batch of natural-yeasted bread: I found instructions that called for everything from 1 Tbsp to 1 1/2 cups of starter, and fermentation times from an hour to a day. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

What is a starter, anyway?

Continue reading “Sourdough: pages two, three, and four.”

Party Weekend 2010: me, a sick toddler, and some sourdough

sourdough_1

What is that saying about the best laid plans?

Back in the fall, we found out that Tim’s youngest brother would be getting married this weekend. Tim was asked to be in the wedding, along with both of our older children (there aren’t many things in this world more simultaneously strange and adorable than a tuxedo for a 3-year old) as co-flower girl and co-ring bearer (with same-aged cousins). So the big trip to southern Pennsylvania had been on the calendar for a while. I even bought myself a new dress off the clearance rack at Marshall’s — otherwise, I’d be attending the wedding in corduroys and a Target long-sleeved t-shirt. I had packed bags, made food, grocery shopped, borrowed a dvd player for the car. I had secured plans to visit our good friends in small-town Ohio, spending a night and morning with them on the way. We were good to go.

But then the Wee One woke with a fever Thursday morning. For most kids, a fever isn’t a big deal — just something to watch as you dose them with Motrin and stick them in the car for the drive to Ohio. But our 17-month old runs really high fevers, with no other symptoms, for no apparent reason. Without going full-throttle into the year-long saga, I will say that it has been one of the more frightening and frustrating things we’ve had to face as parents. There is no diagnosis, no answer, no current solution. So when she gets a fever, life for me pretty much stops for several days.

After a few hours of waiting to see if this fever was a indeed an “episode,” we decided that all signs pointed that way, and that Tim would load up our other two kids and drive them to Pennsylvania. I would stay here with the Sick One. And — if you’re a parent you know how it is — there’s that part of me that was truly sad, and I had a short-lived pity party for myself after the van drove away. But then, your kid needs you, and that’s all that matters. I was in nurture mode, and was totally ok with that role.

When I woke up Friday morning, two things happened to make it a decent day, in spite:

  1. Our new stainless steel french press came in the mail (we had to get one when the glass beaker on our old one became a victim of our ceramic sink — and no, I didn’t do it, so don’t go thinking that it was eerily coincidental with my birthday wish list).
  2. I realized that I was facing a weekend in my house with no one who could actually talk to me. That — caring for a sick child notwithstanding — I could get so much done.

So I commenced with the list-making, and immediately started with low-hanging fruit — things that required little hands-on time, and could be put aside if I needed to stop and tend to the babe. Make granola, check. Soak some spelt flour to experiment later with homemade crackers, check. Begin sprouting a jar of wheat berries, check. Mop the kitchen floor, check. Spend some time procrastinating by making a new list, check. After exhausting all doable projects, I was finally forced to face the one thing I knew I really and truly should do: leap off a ledge of potential frustration and failure by beginning my first real attempt at sourdough bread-making.

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Gingered Carrot Soup

carrotsoup

You’ll notice that I didn’t put green food coloring in it. I know I should have had something weirdly green on yesterday’s menu, but I’ve covered food coloring before, and the fact that my Little Man can’t have it. So instead of making yet another thing he can’t eat, I just put something green on his plate that was really and truly green. And then proceeded to watch him eat everything on his plate but that thing. My girls, on the other hand, love them some broccoli.

I had this soup on the menu a couple weeks ago, but it never actually got made. The past few weeks have been menu-busters: between tummy bugs, logistical issues with getting our beef from a friend’s freezer, and birthdays, my dinner plans have been thwarted time after time. The good thing about when that happens is that I can just forward my planned meals to the next week — translation: I don’t have to think. That’s always a good thing, since thinking tends to strain muscles.

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Seasonal affective disorder

emptynotebook

Yes, it’s that time of year again, friends. That tail-end of a season, when everyone is sick to death of the weather, the monotony, the waiting — waiting for change, for the promise of new activities, anything that’s different from what we’ve been doing for the past three months. Waiting for time spent outdoors, for different clothes, for the excuse to be social again, for a new landscape, and — of course — for new food.

I don’t know about you, but I get to a point of desperation right about now. It happens at the end of both summer and winter, equally. Right now, I’m supposed to be planning our dinner menu for the week — and it’s even only a half-week, since we’re traveling this weekend for a family wedding — but I can honestly quote the Ryan Adams song that’s currently (and appropriately) being piped out of my iPod right now — I’m really dying here. Three meals, that’s it. And I’m at a total loss. I don’t want to eat anything that we’ve been rotating in our plan since New Year’s. Don’t want to roast another chicken. No more lentils, sweet potatoes, or winter squash. I refuse to cream chicken, make tomato soup, or a come up with yet another random take on the quesadilla. I’m even sick of arugula — are you taking me seriously now?

Come to think of it, the only thing I’m not sick of is pizza. I’m just sick of making it.

So, what to do? Throw in the towel, and grab take-out for three nights? Somehow, like the spurned lover in the movie who ends up with a bad one-night stand, I doubt that would solve anything — only eat up our tiny eat-out budget for a cheap thrill. And I tend to guard that eat-out cash with a chastity belt.

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Damage control

Our 6-year old goes to kindergarten at a public charter school. When we moved to Indianapolis, the school question was a pretty big one — as it can be for most first-time-parents-of-a-school-aged-child. The thing about the education dilemma is that there truly are positives and negatives with all options (those being: public, private, and home — and we have good friends in all three). So, you’re in a position of choosing the one that has the least amount of negatives for you, while knowing that there will still be drawbacks no matter where you land — ones you might have to work at home to counter.

We have been uber-happy with our daughter’s school, as is she. It’s a great fit for her personality, and the teachers and administration are intelligent, motivated, and actually want to be there. But in any school setting where someone else is teaching your children, you know that at some point your children will be taught something you might disagree with. We know this; the key is realizing how to dialogue with your child at home to help them see that there might be more than one side to the story. But our daughter is in kindergarten — so in some ways I think I had a few years before I faced these potentially difficult conversations. And I expected them to be on more hot-button issues — things such as the origins of the universe or birth control. So I’ve been a little caught off-guard the past couple of weeks, realizing I was already needing to have a damage-control-type conversation with her. I was also a bit surprised at the subject that was starting off this whole give-and-take relationship with public education: the food pyramid.

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Coincidence?

Remember my last post, when I confessed to dumping over two containers of blood-red food coloring into the frosting for my son’s birthday cake? Why do I feel it there is some cosmic connection between that event and the fact that I and my daughter were both wracked with gut-wrenching nausea, fever, and chills for the past 24 hours?

I, being the slightly paranoid person that I am, probably would think there was some kind of true causal relationship. Except for the fact that two other members of our family also had 24-hour periods of puke-and-malaise within the past week. So we came by it honestly — though I confess to wishing I could blame FD&C Red 40.

I currently sit in my bed while typing, where I’ve been for almost a day, still wearing the clothes I had on yesterday when I stuck my 4-year old in front of the tube and called my husband home for emergency backup. I have posts in draft form, waiting to be cleaned up or finished, but not the clarity of thought to complete them — not to mention the fact that the last thing I want to be doing is thinking/writing about food. Uggh — just typing the word made my stomach turn.

Supposedly this passes quickly — meaning I hope I can get it together enough to post a true food-related article very soon. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with two things: a link to today’s Food Renegade post — which is totally scary in its similarity to my next post-in-draft; and a picture of the Fire Engine cake. Proof that it wasn’t pink.

See you on the flipside of ickville.

firetruckcake

*Disclaimers: No Feingold children were served this cake. After necessary photo-ops, candle-blowing and beholding, the icing was scraped off for those who didn’t choose to partake of a known carcinogen. The candies are from Yummy Earth, a company I love because they make the only hard candy my son can eat, and are living proof that “organic candy” is not, in fact, an oxymoron.
And, yes, the fire engine has a noticeable forward lean. I prefer to think of it as “aggressive.”