Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Promiscuous Idea

Just read the WSJ article by Matt Ridley called Humans: Why They Triumphed.  

If you're interested in evolution, technology, and innovation, this will probably float your boat.

Question: How did one ape 45,000 years ago happen to turn into a planet dominator?

Answer: An epochal collision of creativity.

This article plays right into my previous assumptions about human evolution (probably a result of what I learned in school):

"Scientists have so far been looking for the answer to this riddle in the wrong place: inside human heads.  Most have been expecting to find a sort of neural or genetic breakthrough that sparked a 'big bang of human consciousness,' an auspicious mutation so that people could speak, think or plan better, setting the human race on the path to continuous and exponential innovation."

This "secret" the article sites is purely one of those "think outside the box" riddles.

Assuming this article is correct, we've all been tracing our pencil inside the lines, and never looking at the whole picture.

Instead, "the sophistication of the modern world lies not in individual intelligence or imagination.  It is a collective enterprise...the knowledge of how to design, mine, fell, extract, synthesize, combine, manufacture, and market these things is fragmented among thousands, sometime millions of heads. Once human progress started, it was no longer limited by the size of human brains. Intelligence became collective and cumulative."

Hence, the path we started on didn't happen in just one head - it wasn't a "big bang of consciousness" - it was what happened when we simply started sharing. It was what happened outside of our own heads.

The article goes on to site why "trade obsessed" places such as Tyre, Athens, Alexandria, Amsterdam, London, Hong Kong, New York, Tokyo, etc were "the places where invention and discovery happened" - "trade was the most momentous innovation of the human species; it led to the invention of invention."

As a result, these famous cities were actually "well-endowed collective brains."
These collective brains shared ideas and an offspring idea was formed.   This offspring idea is what propelled us forward as a species, and why we ultimately triumphed.

And now, with modern technology, with "things like the search engine, the mobile phone and container shipping just made ideas a whole lot more promiscuous."

Monday, May 17, 2010

What Makes Me Feel Beautiful

My dear "bosom friend" Kylah (as Anne of Green Gables would say), who knows me perhaps as well as I know the patterns on my wallpaper in the bedroom I lived in for 18 years (I did a lot of staring at the walls while lying in bed), sent me this story called "What Makes Me Feel Beautiful."  When I read it, I literally felt myself melting, my breathing slowing, and chills racing up my arms and legs, all at once.  Its both light and heavy and if you've ever felt before what the author describes, you'll remember the exact moment it happened, how it took you by such surprise that you stopped in your tracks, the world standing still, words ringing in your ears, your insides beaming as bright as the north star.  You'll bottle those words up and keep them in your treasure chest, smiling each time you reflect on their meaning.

From Real Simple:
By Anne Roiphe: 

My Late Husband’s Words

It was mid-December of 2005. I don’t know why he said it. I don’t know if a shadow had fallen across him, something appalling he saw out of the corner of his eye. I don’t know if it was just coincidence or intuition that prompted him, but about a week before my seemingly healthy 82-year-old husband suddenly died, he emerged from the kitchen ready to go to his office, his face clean-shaven, his eyes shining, smiling shyly, holding the copy of the Anthony Trollope book he was rereading, and said to me, "You have made me very happy. You know that you have made me a happy man." There I stood in my work outfit, blue jeans and a T-shirt. There I stood with my white hair and my wrinkles and the face I was born with, although now much creased by time, and I felt beautiful. 

"What?" I said. I wanted him to repeat the words. "You heard me," he said and put on his coat and drew his earmuffs out of his pocket. "Say it again," I said. He said it again. "You’ve made me happy." We had been married 39 years. We had held hands waiting in hospital corridors while a desperately ill child struggled to breathe and thankfully recovered. We had made financial mistakes together. We had spent hours out in fishing boats. We had raised the children and then second-guessed our choices. We had stood shoulder to shoulder at graduations and weddings and we were well-worn, but still I had made him happy, and I was proud and flushed with the warmth of his words. 

I know I looked beautiful that morning. Perhaps not to the young man holding his toddler in his arms who rode the elevator with me; perhaps not to the friend I met for lunch, a true believer in Botox; perhaps not to passersby on the street; but I knew it for a certainty. I was beautiful. 

I don’t believe that inner beauty is sufficient in this cruel world. That’s the pap one tells a child. I don’t believe that positive thinking improves your skin tone or that loving or being loved changes the shape of your nose or restores the thickness and color of hair, but I do know that there is a way of being beautiful, even as age takes its toll, that has something to do with the spirit filling with joy, something to do with the union with another human being, with the sense of having done well at something enormously important, like making happy a man who has made you happy often enough. 

Ten days after that morning conversation, my husband and I returned from a concert and dinner with friends and walked down our windy block toward our apartment house when suddenly he stumbled and fell and died within minutes. As I waited for the ambulance, I remembered his words, a beauty potion I would take with me into the rest of my life. 

Anne Roiphe is the author of numerous books. Her latest, Epilogue: A Memoir, will be released in paperback next month.

Thank you Kylah.  

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Lait d'Amande (Almond Milk)

"Milk does a body good."  Tis true.  And in many ways, almond milk does a body better.  Compared to cow's milk, almond milk is 50% lower in calories, higher in vitamin E, and has very little sugar.

This article outlines 6 benefits of almond milk:

Benefit #1: Weight Management

Plain almond milk without added sugars or flavoring contains 40 calories per each 8 oz serving size. This option works well for people looking to lose or maintain weight.
The low caloric content of almond milk causes less of an impact on our totally daily consumption of food calories. Some milk varieties contain more sugars than the cereal that they get combined with.

Benefit #2: Heart Health

Almond milk contains no cholesterol and only 5 mg of sodium per serving. Consuming foods low in sodium and cholesterol help us to maintain better heart health.

Benefit #3: Blood Sugar Friendly

Unlike other milk alternatives, the plain almond option contains only 8 grams of carbohydrates per serving. The 7 grams of sugars that make up the carbohydrate content have a limited affect on our blood sugar levels. When we consume simple sugars, our metabolic functions tend to miss the nutrients, storing much of the carbs as fat. Instead, the low amount of sugars in almond milk have a low glycemic nature, meaning our bodies fully digest them and use them as energy. Diabetics benefit from this characteristic as well.

Benefit #4: Bone Health

Almond milk contains 30% of our recommended daily value of calcium and 25% of Vitamin D. These nutrients work together to build strong bones in men, women, children and infants. Vitamin D also helps improve immunity and cell function. Some studies have shown that Vitamin D helps decrease osteoporosis and even Alzheimer’s disease. The magnesium in found in almond milk helps absorb more of the calcium provided by the nutritious beverage.

Benefit #5: Skin Care

Every serving of pure almond milk contains 50% of our recommended daily value of Vitamin E. This powerful nutrient has antioxidant abilities in that it helps regulate Vitamin A use and availability. More importantly, Vitamin E acts the primary regulatory nutrient that improves skin health.

Benefit #6: More Muscle Power

Even though almond milk only contains 1 gram of protein per serving, it does contain B Vitamins in the form of riboflavin, plus other muscle regulating nutrients like iron. Each serving of almond milk contains about 4% of our recommended daily intake of iron, which helps muscles absorb and use protein for energy, growth and repair. Iron also regulates certain cell functions like oxygen absorption.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

5 Superfoods that Rock

With time and patience, you can accustom yourself to pretty much anything. Your diet is no exception.  What you eat every day, you'll crave every day.  Pretty simple.  Eat a high saturated fat "Western" diet and you'll probably crave just that. Eat a high fructose corn syrup diet "the dollar menu" and you won't even have a choice in the matter.  Eat a "Mediterranean" diet of healthy fats, vegetables, fruits, grains, and you can fill in the ending, albeit a more pleasant one.

On a personal note, nutrition fascinates me.  I was a full blown vegetarian in high school, mostly out of curiosity.  What would it feel like to exclude meat from my diet? How would I feel?  I gave up my vegetarian living when I went to college, mostly for lack of vegetarian options (if I lived on cooked carrots and the salad bar, I would have certainly been pretty malnourished).  In the last year, I have returned to a vegetarian lifestyle, and my fascination with food is stronger than ever.

If you also share a curiosity with trying new foods, you should absolutely try what's below, if you haven't already.  All five of these foods I never tried 12 months ago, and now I consider daily staples.  I'll highlight all five over the next couple of days, starting with chia seeds tonight.

Chia seeds, or salvia hispanica were once so highly regarded by the Aztec tribes of Mexico, that their rulers accepted this crop as annual tribute from the people of their empires.  Now, chia seeds are largely unknown! As evidence of their obscurity, I couldn't find as much research on these goods as I hoped. Of what I did find, this article presented the most consistent facts of everything I read:

  1. Supports Heart Health
    Chia seeds can help reduce blood pressure. The seeds contain one of the highest known plant sources of essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6). EFAs cannot be synthesized by our bodies however, it is very important that we get enough to support our immune, cardiovascular, nervous and reproductive systems. EFA deficiency is quite common in North America.
  2. Stabilizes Blood Sugar
    Chia seeds slow down the rate at which complex carbohydrates are digested and then assimilated into the body. The soluble fiber helps to stabilize blood glucose levels resulting in steady, sustained energy. In one study on diabetic patients, Dr. Vladamir Vuksan of St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto, found that blood was thinner and less prone to clotting and blood pressure of participants dropped significantly, after three months of taking Chia seeds daily.
  3. Energizing
    The word “Chia” comes from the Mayan language and means strength. Chia seeds are a balanced blend of protein, carbohydrates, fats and fiber. It is said that 1 tablespoon of Chia can sustain a person for 24 hours. Athletes have reported that Chia seeds help them perform at optimal levels for much longer periods of time.
  4. Anti-Inflammatory Properties
    A number of arthritis sufferers have reported reduced pain and inflammation after a few weeks of taking Chia seeds. The high concentration of omega-3 helps to lubricate joints and keep them supple. Additionally, Omega-3s are converted into prostaglandins which are known to have both pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.
  5. Weight Loss
    The essential fatty acids contained in Chia seeds helps to boost metabolism and promote lean muscle mass. The seeds are sometimes added to food to provide bulk and nutrients while adding very few calories. For these reasons, many people have found Chia quite useful in weight loss and weight maintenance.
  6. Detoxification and Elimination
    Similar to psyllium, the swelling action of Chia in the body helps to cleanse and soothe the colon, and absorb toxins while lubricating and strengthening peristaltic action.
  7. High Quality Protein
    Chia seeds contain about 20% protein, a higher percentage than found in many other grains such as wheat and rice. Chia seeds contain strontium which helps to assimilate protein and produce high energy.
  8. Antioxidants
    Chia seeds are an excellent source of antioxidants containing even more antioxidants than fresh blueberries. The high amounts of antioxidants in Chia seeds also keeps the oils from going rancid - contributing to a long shelf life.
  9. Provides Fiber and Other Nutrients
    Besides EFAs, Chia seeds also provide fiber, iron, calcium, niacin, magnesium, zinc and phosphorus.

    2 tablespoons of Chia = 7 grams of fiber, 2 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, 5 grams omega-3
  10. Brain Power
    EFAs are known to make cell membranes more flexible and efficient making nutrients more readily available and nerve transmission more efficient. This helps to improve brain function (including memory and concentration).
Don't know what to do with these little guys?  Try these delicious overnight oats - you may snub your nose at first, but I urge you to ignore your biases and give this a try!

...coming up tomorrow!

Superfood #2: Almond Milk

Superfood #3: Spelt Flour

Superfood #4: Cacao Nibs

Superfood #5: Coconut Oil

Monday, May 10, 2010

"This is how it works:
You're young until you're not,
you love until you don't,
you try until you can't,
you laugh until you cry,
you cry until you laugh.
And everyone must breathe until their dying breath.
Now this is how it works:
you peer inside yourself-
you take the things you like
and try to love the things you don't.
And then you take that love you made,
and stick it into some-
someone else's heart,
pumpin' someone else's blood.
And walkin' arm in arm,
you hope it don't get harmed-
but even if it does,
you'll just do it all again.
And on the radio,
you'll hear November rain.
That solo's awful long,
but it's a good refrain."
~Regina Spektor

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Just as asparagus, fresh snap peas and zucchini are making their yearly appearance at local farmers markets, so too is rhubarb.  And like apples in the fall, strawberries and rhubarb have great chemistry with oat crumble and 1 + 1 = bubbling sanguine fruity deliciousness.  As with the Orzo salad, I lead you straight to the mastermind Heidi Swanson for ingredients and prep steps.



30 seconds later:

Orzo Mint Asparagus Salad

I eat most types of pasta/rice/grains all year, but Orzo is one I leave for summer.  It's light and refreshing and pairs wonderfully with green veggies like asparagus, zucchini, fresh peas, or anything else in season from May - August.  I tried this Orzo recipe tonight from Heidi Swanson's food blog 101 Cookbooks. Perfect as a side dish to bring to a summer bbq, or as a light dinner with some Sauvignon blanc.

For recipe, steps, go straight to Heidi's blog so you can follow steps according to her masterpiece.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mesclun Strawberry Salad

This afternoon, I stopped in my all time favorite salad place, sweetgreen.  If you are lucky enough to live near one of their locations, and you've never been, you're missing out.  I love this place for lots of reasons, some being their social and environmental consciousness, the seasonal, locally bought ingredients, their blog with wicked tasty recipes, and primarily their innovation in general.  If you don't live near by, here's a salad I had today, adapted slightly.

Ingredients: (serves 1)
2 cups mesclun salad
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup chopped asparagus (you can use raw, marinated, cooked - I used raw)
1 tbs walnuts (or toasted almonds)
couple slices red onion (optional)
balsamic vinaigrette

picture from

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Watermelon Smoothie

Tonight's run was hot like a tamale.  After an icy cold shower, I needed to cool off on the inside.  Answer? Watermelon smoothie!  I've loved smoothies for years, but somehow never thought to use watermelon. Other than bananas it might be my new favorite smoothie ingredient.  Its frosty consistency does wonders for producing a crisp, cool, blended drink.


1 cup watermelon
1/2 frozen banana
1/4 cup frozen strawberries
handful frozen blueberries or any other berry
1/3 cup milk (I used almond, however cow's milk, rice, soy, work well too)
1 tsp cinnamin
1 tsp honey

Throw all ingredients into blender!

Portabella Veggie Joes

I've always disliked "sloppy joes."  Aside from what processed salted rubbish you might buy in a can (aka liquid nitrogen), I even snubbed my nose at homemade meat-based joes - partly because they are called "sloppy" and partly because no part of what you consume looks like it is meant to be ingested by a human.

I held this air of snobbery until I tried a coworker's recipe for "vegan sloppy joes." I'll admit, I was very skeptical at first. Mushrooms / Tomato paste / Worcestershire sauce? Given that I've recently held the philosophy "you shouldn't judge your potential dinner from its picture, or ingredient list" I decided to dive in head first.  After all, in the last week I've tried vegan oats and parsnip fries and told so many people about my delights I thought I should start wearing a sign that said:

(picture compliments of my blogger friend Alex). If parsnip fries blissed me out, I decided to maintain the same "just do it" attitude.

Off I went to find my large skillet.  And here's what resulted 15 minutes later. Absolutely delicious.

Ingredients: (serves 4)

1 medium yellow onion
1 red/yellow/orange bell pepper
3 portabella mushrooms (scrape out black gills)
1 cup white button mushrooms
1 garlic clove
2 tbs olive oil
8 oz tomato sauce
2 tbs tomato paste
1 tbs Worcestershire sauce


1. Heat 1 tbs olive oil in a large non-stick skillet
2. Dice onion, pepper, and garlic until they become soft (about 8 min)
3. Dice mushrooms and add to sauteed vegetables
4. Add remaining tbs olive oil, tomato sauce, paste, and Worcestershire sauce
5. Spoon over whole grain bun and try not to inhale too quickly

Pair with sweet potato fries (incredibly easy to make). Peel sweet potato (or however many you like) and cut into fry-sized strips.  Coat with olive oil, salt, and put on baking sheet (place aluminum foil down first if you like easy clean up) and bake for 35 min @ 400 degrees.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Grilled Chocolate Rustic Bread Sandwich

I've been taking good inventory of my food pantry lately.  I feel much better knowing what I have lying around the shelves of the cabinets and fridge.  I feel I am eating more in the moment than coming home completely surprised every night of the week.  Salad mix? I totally forgot about you! Asparagus in the cripser? Oh, asparagus I paid $4 for you, please still be good! Instead, I like to keep a mental image of exactly what I have - 1 farmers market apple, 1 white onion, 1.5 red onions, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, you get the point.

After dinner tonight, I remembered that I had 1/2 of a baguette (in french fashion, 1 day old, and hard as a rock). Since french toast wasn't really an option @ 9:30pm, I decided to think a little more outside the box. I recalled I had about 2 tbs of chocolate pieces and some cinnamon/vanilla/sugar mixture I made the other day. Surely something can be concocted from good quality chocolate, stale french bread, sugar and cinnamon. Grilled chocolate sandwich!

Normally I would have taken a picture myself, but to be honest, I was more interested in eating the beauty than a photo op. This picture is basically what it looked like (admittedly mine didn't have a cascading chocolate waterfall going down the side).

Here are the steps I took:

Serves 2
1. Heat grill pan over medium heat
2. Slice ciabatta (or any kind of rustic bread) down the middle in 2" x 4" wedges
3. Mix 1 tsp cane sugar with 1 tsp cinnamon and set aside
4. Butter bread on both sides (I used Earth Balance vegan spread)
5. Lay chocolate pieces on inside of bread and sprinkle on sugar/cinnamon mix
6. Put other slice of bread on top and put something heavy on top to weigh down bread (it grills better this way - - but I don't recommend your old calculus textbook).
7. Grill sandwich for 4 minutes or so, careful not to burn
8. Want to go nuts? Slap on 1 tbs or so of vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Grilled Godly Goodness

For anyone who is a city dweller and does not have access to an outdoor grill yet loves the smoky taste of grilled vegetables I recommend making your next errand a trip to get a grill pan.  This morning I decided I would try something out of my cooking comfort zone.  Upon returning from the Dupont Farmers Market in Washington, DC, arms loaded with brightly colored vegetable bounty, I knew I couldn't subject such beautiful specimens to the regular vegetable steaming process any store bought vegetable predecessors might have known as their final fate.  Instead, I decided these locally grown treasures would be involved in something a little different.  The grill pan.

My grill pan experience today was proof of a thought process I had recently.  As humans, we tend to think many things are harder than they are.  If we commit to trying something slightly out of our comfort zone at least once every day, we'd be amazed by the strides we are capable of making. Things are often actually much easier than we perceive them to be. As a mostly vegetarian eater, trying new ways to cook vegetables is essential in maintaining variability and satisfaction.  But for years, I thought grilling vegetables with beaming color and exquisite taste was a task best left to a chef well equipped with years of experience and an all clad kitchen.   Reality?  If you have a little time, patience, and tender loving care, you can grill vegetables to perfection by your own hand, in your own kitchen, just by giving it a try.

Here's my first attempt. Verdict? These vegetables blew off my tastebuds.  Want to create yourself?  Here's what you do.

1. Buy a grill pan (Cephalon is a good brand)
2. Hunt down some fresh vegetables (peppers, zucchini, red onion, squash, asparagus are good choices)
3. Cut up vegetables and coat in olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano, basil (dried is fine, or mince fresh herbs)
4. Place vegetables on grill pan (heated on medium heat) and do not disturb for at least 8 minutes
5. Turn vegetables over for a few additional minutes
6. Optional - take 1 tbs olive oil, 1 tbs good quality balsamic vinegar, mix, and toss with cooked vegetables
7. Enjoy :)