Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Popcorn, Revisited

Synchronicities are everywhere these days!  I have a friend who is in the middle of a two week cleanse; her first week was all raw food and now she's on six or seven days of juice.  I recieved an e-mail from her this morning saying how she was craving popcorn.  The synchronicty?  I had awoken a little before 5am thinking about popcorn and wanting to write a post about it.  Weird!!
The two "vices" I still struggle with as I've adopted healthier eating habits are red wine and popcorn.  Mind you, I'm not trying to be all puritanical and will myself to totally give them up.  Well, I'm struggling with that urge, let's say.  I do know that most everything can be enjoyed in moderation - it's the moderation I have the hardest time with.  It's no problem for me to make a huge pot of popcorn and drink two or three glasses of wine on both Friday and Saturday nights, sitting down with my wife to watch Downton Abbey, Modern Family or Harry Potter.   Maybe that doesn't seem too terrible to many of you, but the more I learn and read, the more I'm concerned about my popcorn addiction.
Totally NOT my family, by the way
It's not junky microwave popcorn, either, we gave that up, with its accompanying load of toxic chemicals, long ago.  No, this is pretty old-fashioned homemade popcorn, made in my big 16 quart stockpot.  Canola oil, probably 1/4 to 1/2 cup and 1 cup of popcorn kernels - into the huge bowl with some sea salt - soooo delicious.  It's oil, though, that may be the problem, and not even because it's pure fat without much nutritional value.  Most oil contain 120 calories per tablespoon, so that's 480 calories in 1/4 cup, 960 in 1/2 cup.  Which means that if I use a 1/2 cup to make our popcorn (I don't really measure, but I bet that's about right) and I eat half of the bowl, that's 480 calories just from the oil, not including the popcorn itself.  So that's potentially an issue.  My hero Joel Fuhrman, of course, is pretty seriously anti-fat, and while I still mostly subscribe to his theory, we also know that our bodies do need fat for proper brain function.
However, even aside from the fat content and caloric density of oil, the other potential problem comes from subjecting the oil to high heat (and it's got to be pretty hot to pop those kernels).  It seems that when cooking oils are heated to their smoke point and beyond, the oil begins to decompose and the antioxidants (good for us and present in both canola and olive oil) break down and get replaced by free radicals (the opposite of antioxidants, the molceules that literally "age" us).  This process creates a host of potentially dangerous molecules, things like "polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons," "advanced glycemic end-products" and acrylamide (I'm not making those things up).  These chemicals are produced when certain foods, often meat, but numerous plant foods as well, are subjected to various forms of high-temperature cooking - grilling and frying among them.  As much I used to love a seared steak on the grill, foods that get charred are the most likely to contain these dangerous chemicals.  Those three chemicals have been implicated in a number of diseases, cancer, diabetes and heart disease among them.  The fact that these are produced by cooking (even though it may only be some cooking methods and some foods) has been used as part of the scientific foundation for the raw food movement.  No cooking = no dangerous by-products.  It does make sense.

After finding out about all this, though, I've been feeling guiltier and guiltier on those Friday and Saturday nights, especially whenI come back into the kitchen and the end of the night, lift the lid off the stockpot and smell that burnt oil.  I have been wondering what stuff may be doing inside me.
But what am I supposed to do?  Give up that delicous snack, my last bit of yummy salty crunch?  Make air-popped popcorn?  All of us who lived through the 1980s remember that stuff and how almost tasteless it was - unless, of course, you did what my family did, melt half a stick of butter in that little metal tray on the popper and pour that on top.  And I won't be doing that.  To be fair, though, I haven't had that air-popped popcorn probably since the 1980s, so perhaps I need to just give it a try and, like they did after my first juice cleanse last year, my taste buds will adjust.

Another Way - Chickpea Popcorn

There is, however, another alternative, one I discovered, dare I say it, on the Dr. Oz show (okay, Joel Fuhrman was on, so I taped it): ChickPea Popcorn.  Totally awesome snack, can easily replace popcorn, and isn't just "not bad" for you, it's super healthy!!  (See my bit on beans, back here).  Here's how you do it.
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chick peas/garbanzo beans, drained (about 2 cups)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (really?  after all I said about it up there?  just a tablespoon)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tesp garlic powder
  • sea salt to taste (a few pinches seems to do the trick)
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  2. In a bowl mix the chick peas with the oil and seasoning until well coated
  3. Spread in one layer on a baking sheet (one with shallow sides is best so they don't come off when you shake them)
  4. Every 15 minutes or so, pull the tray out and shake it so they don't stick
  5. Bake for 50-70 minutes depending on how crispy you'd like them
  6. Let cool and enjoy - so delicious!!
On a large baking sheet you can fit three times this amount (three cans or six cups).  They last at least a few days, so I've made at least two cans each time I've done it.  You can obviously play around with the spices you use - try something spicy, or sweet, perhaps.
Like the Sweet Pea Salad, the greatest judges are my kids, both of whom DEVOUR these.  Not only have we eaten them while watching a movie all together, they TAKE THEM TO SCHOOL!  That's a huge testament - there's no more food love than that.
I hope you enjoy them!
Be well,

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Peas Please!


First off, let me say "thank you" to all of the well-wishes (is that a phrase?) and words of support and encouragement for my new venture/direction (detailed in my last post).  I'm grateful for all those who beleive in me, even when I sometimes doubt myself.  Gratitude is something I'm working on, slowly coming to - it's not my go-to reaction.  For most of my life my go-to reaction, instead of being grateful for what I did have, was wondering why I didn't have more.  That certainly doesn't make for much ease, peace, love or joy, I'll tell you that.  There is some pretty neat research being done in the field of Positive Psychology that shows a direct correlation between gratitude and happiness.  Years, ago, no lie, I would have scoffed at this idea, "knowing" for certain that gratitude came from happiness (and happiness came from things, of course), not the other way around - but, as you know if you've been reading any of this blog, BIG CHANGES ARE AFOOT!!!!  (and it's clearly not just about food - wow!)

Southern Sweet Pea Salad

"Sufferin' Succotash!"  No wait, succotash has, like, lima beans in it, doesn't it?

If you don't know this already, I'm a teacher, and I live in Virginia.  The "real" Virginia, mind you, where health food and wellness are not major priorities for a lot of folks.  While we're by no means the worst state, we're far from the picture of health - 15th most obese in the nation, with an obesity rate of 29.2% (see map below).  That's just the obesity rate and doesn't include include overweight - nationally the two of those combined are about 66% of the U.S. population.  (And let's be honest here, the only reason we're not as bad as say Louisiana or Mississippi (with over 34% obese) is because we have so many "fake" Virginians in our state, i.e., the slimmer, cosmopolitan, exercising and more health-conscious residents of the DC area and Northern Virginia).

This "realness" is often reflected in the food choices presented to the teachers at my school.  We have faculty coffees once a month where teachers from different departments supply brekfast to the rest of the faculty.  While there are often decent choices, usually fruit, there's still a preponderance of the stuff everyone likes, even if it's pretty unhealthful - croissants, doughnuts, cheese-potato-egg-sausage casseroles, bagels, chicken biscuits, etc.  The first day of school this year was a pefect example.  Our administration provided breakfast for us: biscuits, eggs, bacon, sausage and pancakes.  This time there wasn't even any fruit.  I walked in, fresh from a summer of eating rather healthily, thinking at least I'd get a plateful of fresh fruit, say that table and thought "Great, "Welcome back to school, guys!  Here, eat all of this food that will KILL you!"  Yeesh."  I think I ate one biscuit, drank some bottled water and cut my losses.

We have a great PTSO (Parent-Teacher-Student Organization) at our school that also feeds us occasionaly: for conferences, Teacher Appreciation Week and the like.  I've actually noticed that the food they've been serving us has taken quite a nice turn toward the healthful.  There's still barbecue and Wayside fried chicken and all the other greasy southern goodies, mind you, but more and more over the past two years, there have been some really great veggie dishes that I've soooo appreciated.  This recipe is one of those.  This actually came from the annual holiday luncheon that our guidance department throws for the staff.  In years past I would GORGE myself at this lunch.  "Free food, heavy, rich, salty and delicious - are you kidding me?  And a table full of chocolate chip cookies for dessert?  Let me shove as much as I possible can into my mouth!"  Ah, food addiction.  But, I digress, back to the veggies...

Here's the recipe as it was given to me by the person who made it for the lunch:

1 can LaSeur small young peas. drained (there are store brands of these, too)
1 can white Shoepeg corn, drained
1 cup chopped onion (sweet, like Vidalia)
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped green pepper

1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
Mix veggies in a bowl, mix dressing separately.  Combine and let sit for at least a few hours (if not overnight) in the fridge.

I decided to call it Southern Sweet Pea Salad, becuase this dressing combination, an oil/vinegar with sugar seems pretty popular in the south, but I altered it while, I think, still keeping the taste the same.  My dressing is as follows:

1/4 cup white vinegar
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 tsp (or one 2g (.07 oz.) packet) Stevia (powdered)
salt and pepper to taste (definiltey NOT 1 tsp of salt)

A note on the Stevia - I've just started experimenting with this stuff.  I've used it in liquid form (I bought this one) in a pumpkin cheesecake (recipe coming soon) and I've used the powdered form in this salad recipe.  It seems like a pretty great replacement for sugar in baking recipes (though I've not tested this out), and it seems pretty good from a health standpoint.  They sell it everywhere now, even my Food Lion in Scottsville has it (not the most health-conscious supermarket or town).  I bought a box of packets - each packet is .07 ounces or 2 grams, and is just tiny bit less than 1/2 teaspoon.  So according to this recipe, that sweetens as much as 1/2 cup sugar.  Strong stuff.  If you want to know more about it, see this and this.  It's from the leaves of the Stevia plant, and it appears to be pretty natural.  Mind you, I'm not planning on using tons and tons of it so I can make sugar-free chocolate chip cookies, I've used it only in very small amounts.

That amount of dressing is PLENTY for the salad - the other very typical southern thing is to have some sort of vegetable salad (potentially very healthy) totally SWIMMING in dressing, negating lots of those veggie health benefits.  If anything, I probably use more than a cup of the celery, onion and green pepper, and even with 1/2 the amount of dressing from the original recipe, it still is plenty.

This salad is great, it's one of our new staples, I've made it at least once a week for the past month.  Even my eight year old daughter really likes it - there's no greater approval than that in my book.  It's excellent by itself, or, as we "accidentally" discovered, it's great with some rice or rice and beans.  We made some black rice with white beans and put this on top, fantastic!  I brought it to school for lunch one day and two of the teachers I eat lunch with tried it and loved it.

I also think this would be amazing to make in the spring with some fresh peas and fresh corn, maybe even some tomato - as a matter of fact, I can't wait to try that myself!  My wife thinks it would be good to throw something even crunchier in there, maybe some pine nuts?  Worth a shot.

So there you have it - I hope you enjoy this.

Be well -


Monday, January 14, 2013

Sausage Boy's Big News!


Communication Breakdown?

Before I get to said big news, just a little logistical issue.  It's come to my attention that at least one person has tried to respond to my posts by replying to the e-mails they get from Blogger with my posts in them.  If you're someone who gets these posts via e-mail (having entered your e-mail address in little box to the right that says "Follow by Email") and has replied to those e-mails, you should know I never receive them.

The cover of the great album, Led Zeppelin I,
from which the awesome song Communication Breakdown comes.

I guess it would make sense for someone to respond and think that their response would show up in the "Comments" section of that post, but apparently that's not how Blogger works.  You can either respond to me personally via e-mail (salshoes at centurylink dot net) or actually go to the blog and post a comment there.  That being said, if I've offended anyone by not responding, I apologize, I don't receive any e-mail responses other than the comments.

Enough of this, to the matter at hand.  Drum Roll please.......


A New Direction!


Way back last year sometime, when I was first discovering this healthier lifestyle, I began spending a lot of time online reading blogs and visiting websites of various groups and organizations dedicated to the same.  One of those late nights I stumbled upon a place called The Institute For Integrative Nutrition.  It's a nutrition school in New York, the largest in the world, and has been in operation for a little over 20 years.  Their mission, as stated on the website, is as follows:

Our mission is to play a crucial role in
improving health and happiness,
and through that process,
create a ripple effect that transforms the world

Their strategy in achieving this goal is enrolling folks in a year-long Health Coach program, at the end of which they become a certified Health and Wellness Coach, and sending them out into the world to help make these desperately needed changes actually happen (hence the "ripple effect").

Well, needless to say, they got my attention.  As I was going through my own transformation, plenty of folks wanted to know more about it - the juicing, the food, veganism, etc..  It's obvious that people are hungry for information and guidance in the areas of food, nutrition and health.  So I was intrigued at the thought of being able to do that for people and to really have the knowledge to back it up.  I spent quite a while poring over their website.  I searched them on the internet, read reviews of the program by former students and reached out to people I knew who might know something about the school.  I signed up for the free book, and even submitted my phone number for them call so I could hear more about the program.  I got a call a day or so later, a very nice voicemail from someone whose name I forgot, but whose voiced exuded positivity and happiness.  It all sounded great, but I was filled with doubt.  I wondered if this was something I could really do, not just financially, but was being a Health Coach something I could actually do, something I could be good at, be effective at and succeed?

I struggled with those question, with that possibility, for a few months.  Then they had a sale and I could resist no longer.

So, on November 1st, I started my year-long Health Coach program, which will end this November with my certification as a Health and Wellness Coach (and hopefully with a few clients as well).  It's definitely exciting, but it's a bit of a challenge balancing the studying with all my other responsibilities (teaching my new AP World History class, being a dad, splitting wood, etc.).  When I get through it, however, I'll have the tools I need to help other people meet their health and wellness goals.  Wow.

Is this a career change?  Well, I don't know for certain.  If I could would I leave teaching and do this full-time?  Well, yes, I'm pretty sure I would.  Will I be able to?  Now that's really the big question.  And perhaps that's why I've been so slow to post about this.  There's still some uncertainty around it for me and I've still got some anxiety about my ability to succeed.  BUT, in one of the first calls I had as part of the course, I was completely inspired by one of the speakers (a former student and current Health Coach herself) who said "Tap into a desire that's even bigger than your fear."  That was pretty powerful and comforting for me.

So, that's my big news.  I'm chugging through the program, we have our first test coming up soon (I've pretty much aced the quizzes so far.)  I'm leaning so much about numerous dietary theories, ways of eating and, heck, ultimately, ways of living.  It's pretty amazing so far.  I'd really been desperate to share this news with everyone.  I'm feeling a bit like this will be my gift to the world (I've wanted to post this since Christmas, so Merry Belated Christmas, world!) 

Here's to the spreading of knowledge, understanding and HEALTH!


PS - LOTS of great recipes coming soon, I've got a bit of a backlog that I really want to share.