Spicy Curried Lentil Soup – Inexpensive & Nutritious!

When it’s cold outside, it’s time to heat things up inside! This spicy soup, redolent of Indian and Thai flavors, will keep the fires inside burning. It’s quite nutritious as well, using lentils as its source of protein. This recipe is also gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan appropriate.

Start with a bag of dried lentils. As an aside, beans are such an inexpensive source of protein. I sometimes get frustrated when I hear the common complaint about how expensive it can be to eat healthy. While that’s certainly true to some extent, our immigrant ancestors prepared many ethnic foods from scratch that did not cost a lot of money. You certainly don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to eat healthy, that’s for sure!

A bag of beans such as lentils costs less than $2 for a 16 ounce bag – those beans go a long way. Add in some cut up vegetables and you’ve got a high quality, nutritious dinner for less than $10. Better than the dollar menu at McDonalds, because this one pot meal goes a long way!

Brown 1 chopped sweet onion and four cloves of crushed garlic in two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Doesn’t this smell absolutely fabulous? Adding the garlic to the onions prevents the garlic from burning and tasting rancid.

Now add in 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger (you can substitute dried ginger if you don’t have it fresh), 1 tablespoon of curry powder, 1 teaspoon of Garam masala, and 1/2 cup of freshly chopped cilantro. Brown for approximately 2 minutes, as the pungent scents begin to blend.

Now add in 3 cups of water and 2 cups of vegetable stock into the onion mixture, along with 2 cups of dried lentils. Stir in 2 cups of chopped carrots, 1 cup of chopped sweet potatoes, 1 cup of chopped celery, 1 bay leaf, and a pinch of sea salt. Add in a can of coconut milk. Let it come to a boil and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer the soup for about 20 minutes.

Puree two-thirds of the soup in a blender, returning it to the saucepan to simmer for another 5 minutes. I prefer my soups to have a bit of chunky texture, so I leave some of the veggies alone. If you prefer a smoother consistency, puree the whole soup.

Serve hot in a bowl, adding the freshly squeezed juice of 1/2 of a lime into each bowl. Pair it with a sweet wine, like a Riesling, to counteract the spicy flavors.

Ingredients:

1 bag of dried Lentil beans

1 Chopped sweet onion

4 cloves of crushed garlic

1 tsp. freshly grated ginger

1 Tbsp. of curry powder

1 tsp. Garam masala

1/2 cup of freshly chopped cilantro

2 cups of Vegetable stock

1 can of coconut milk

2 cups chopped carrots

1 cup chopped sweet potatoes

1 cup chopped celery

1 bay leaf

Sea salt

Extra virgin olive oil

Several limes

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Get a Booty like Pippa Middleton or Kim Kardashian in 4 Simple Steps

When it comes to body parts, most women want a good butt. In fact, the most common question I get asked as a trainer (other than, do I really have to watch what I eat?) is how to get a great bottom line. And when it comes to booties, most women (and men) want either a butt like Kim Kardashian or like Pippa Middleton.

Whether you desire a petite, well-formed rear or a curvy, ample booty, the honest truth is that unless you are willing to go under the knife, genetics plays a big role in the size and shape of your rear. If you are small and lean, it’s going to be difficult to get a Kim Kardashian butt – but that doesn’t mean you can’t have the best rear possible for your body!

Did you know that your gluteus maximus (aka, your booty) is the biggest muscle in your body? You probably have had that thought when trying to squeeze into last year’s skinny jeans. But our glutes actually are quite valuable to the functionality of our bodies. Think of all the things they help you do: run, ride a bike, climb stairs, dance, walk, ice skate, sprint, etc. Having a strong and functional set of glutes not only looks esthetically pleasing, but it will make you a better athlete and allow you to function better in your daily activities.

Often, clients will suffer from back or knee pain, only to find out that the reason is because of weak or non-performing glute muscles. Once they establish the neuromuscular pathways between the brain and the muscle, they can begin to strengthen and will see their chronic joint issues disappear!

The four steps below will get your butt in prime shape when done consistently. Don’t expect results in a month, though – sculpting a rear takes a lot of work. Start now and by next summer, you’ll be running better and looking fine.

So, while you may want Pippa’s rear, you may have to settle for a full bodied booty like Kim’s, depending on your body type. But it doesn’t mean that you can’t rock it!

  1. Stepups: The best strength training exercise to sculp a great booty is the stepup, especially when using a step that is higher than knee height. The key is to push through your heel to maximize the contribution of the glute muscle. Start with two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions, using only bodyweight. Start progressing by holding a set of 5 to 10 lb. dumbbells at your side when stepping up. Do these every week at least once but ideally twice a week.  Hint: If you want to build up your rear (such as if your current butt is flat), use a heavier weight. If you’d like to reduce the size while tightening up the glute area, use lighter weights and more repetitions.
  2. Sprints: Add intervals of sprints into your cardio routine. Sprinting really engages the gluteus muscles like no other cardio exercise. It uses your fast twitch muscle fibers, which generally don’t get worked during slow, steady-state cardio. Do these once to twice per week.
  3. Say no to Starchy foods and Sugar: Starchy carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, muffins, waffles, and pancakes, raise your blood sugar quickly, causing the insulin response to kick in. Your body ends up storing both starchy carbs and sugar as fat – paunchy fat, right on your buttocks. Unfortunately, fat overlies the muscle, causing all your hard work stepping, sculpting, and sprinting to be for naught. Eat lots of veggies and protein, and limit those carbs.
  4. Perform Cardio Regularly: To get rid of the fat on your buns, regular cardio is needed to burn it off. Do it regularly 4 to 6 times per week.

Ferreting out Healthy Fast Food: Zoup – Great Soups for All!

It would be great if we could all bring our lunches to work everyday, or have a personal chef concoct a healthy and delicious meal. In reality, sometimes we just need a quick and simple solution for lunch or dinner. While healthy and fast food do not usually go together, there are some decent options around. Zoup is one of them – newly opened in Downers Grove, they have approximately 41 locations across the US, concentrated in about ten states.

Soup is good food, advised the Campbell’s Soup commercial many years ago. And it’s mostly healthy, especially if you stick to broth-based, veggie soups. The water in soup provides part of your daily water needs and it’s a great way to get several servings of vegetables. And it warms you up from the insides – always a good thing, especially in Midwest winters.

Zoup is a fast-casual restaurant that features 12 varieties of soups daily, and rotate choices each day. I’m pretty skeptical about most restaurant and store-bought soups – they are either too salty or the contents are too mushy. On a recent visit to Zoup, though, I tried several of their soups and was fairly impressed!

They also designate the daily choices as vegetarian, dairy free, low fat, spicy, and low points options. They also list their gluten-free options as well. Kudos to them on their nutritional awareness. Their online menu changes daily, and you can easily view the ingredients in each soup and get their nutritional information as well. Orders can be placed online. Zoup also has several salads and sandwiches as well.

I had a piping hot bowl of their vegetarian split pea soup, while my husband slurped on a bowl of Mexican Chicken. Both were good!

At around $6 for a 16 ounce bowl, you can’t go wrong! Zoup is a wonderful option for healthy and simple food for lunch and dinner. Hope to see more of these open soon!

Could a Gluten-free Diet be the Answer to Some of Your Perplexing Problems?

Over the years, I’ve noticed that some foods just do not agree with my body. Milk and many dairy products cause my stomach to distend like I’m six months pregnant. Red meat lays stagnant in my digestive system like a rock. White processed starchy carbohydrates play havoc with my blood sugar and lead to extra weight around my mid-section. I know it sounds like I’m a bit of a drama queen when it comes to food, but I’m really not. I’ve just grown very aware of my body and its signals.

If eating a certain food causes me to feel bloated, gassy or lethargic, I know I should avoid the food culprit, especially if a pattern of behavior is apparent. Fortunately, my husband is sensitive to the same foods as I am, which makes cooking meals a bit easier.

Well, it looks like there’s a new offender on our list: gluten. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley and its assorted byproducts. Individuals with celiac disease have difficulties digesting this protein, which destroys their small intestine and affects the absorption of nutrients.

While full-blown celiac disease affects about 1 percent of the U.S. population, health experts believe that gluten intolerance lies along a spectrum. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea and constipation, bloating and gassiness, weight gain, fatigue, irritability and more.

While neither of us eat a lot of white, processed foods, I was surprised to see that gluten also can be found in whole wheat products, such as bread, couscous, seitan and more.

Cardiologist and author Dr. William Davis, believes there’s another reason to eliminate wheat from your diet. Davis states in his book, “Wheat Belly“, that most foods made of wheat flour cause blood sugar to rise higher than almost any other food, including table sugar. Eliminate all wheat products from your diet, he claims, and you can reduce common medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome.

Davis also has seen another remarkable side effect of reducing wheat consumption: an average weight loss of 25 pounds in many of his patients.

With that in mind, I decided that our household would experiment with reducing the amount of wheat and gluten we consume. My husband, understandably, was distressed by the idea.

“No bread or cereal?” he moaned. “What are we going to eat for breakfast and lunch?”

So, I set out to explore the options available to those gluten-intolerant folk. Luckily, most stores carry a wide assortment of gluten-free alternatives. Whole Foods and Fruitful Yield predictably have a large selection, but surprisingly enough, even traditional grocers like Dominick’s have a section for the gluten-free.

Both processed and whole wheat pastas are off limits, but Dominick’s carries a variety of gluten-free pasta options. I bought an imported Italian gluten-free pasta made from corn, and my family thought it was good. Other options include pastas made from brown rice and quinoa.

Common foods like rice, potatoes and quinoa, and more unusual grains such as amaranth and buckwheat, are all naturally gluten-free.

Even dessert lovers need not fear. Most grocers carry a variety of gluten-free pastries and desserts. We tried a mini chocolate gluten-free cake from Dominicks that was delicious.

Since wheat flour is forbidden for those with gluten sensitivities, many gluten-free bakers use nut crusts, rice flours and more. One word of caution: Gluten-free doesn’t necessarily translate to less calories. The mini chocolate cake that we tried had about 200 more calories than a comparable slice of regular chocolate cake. And the nuts used in crusts, while they are healthy options, can still overload your daily caloric limit.

Elmhurst’s newly opened Bleeding Heart Bakery creates pastries and cakes that can accommodate any dietary restriction, including vegan, gluten-free, nut-free and sugar free. In addition, they are committed to using organic, local and sustainable ingredients whenever possible.

Need a gluten-free birthday or wedding cake for a family member? You can order a specially made cake online or in person. You’ll also find an assortment of gluten-free items in their bakery, including cupcakes.

Gluten can be a hidden ingredient in many products, which makes grocery shopping as challenging as taking the CPA exam. Pickles, ketchup, sausages, soy sauce, boxed and canned soups, medicines, lipstick and even communion wafers may contain gluten. Reading labels is essential; luckily the FDA requires wheat and other food allergens to be clearly identified in the ingredient list.

Can eliminating or reducing gluten and wheat help you lose weight? While this topic has caused much controversy among scientists and the medical profession, it can be worthy of a try for each of us.

Who knows? You may end up losing those stubborn 10 pounds and feel much better as well.

This post was originally published in my column, Forever Fit, in the Elmhurst Patch, on November 12, 2011. You can read my other articles about healthy living and fitness in the Elmhurst Patch every other Friday.

Stuffed Squash – Healthy Veggie & Gluten-free Meal & Delish Thanksgiving Side Dish

If you are looking to have more “meatless” meals in your household, you’ll flip over these beautiful Stuffed Mini Squashes; they are both vegetarian and gluten-free!  This popular recipe lends itself to many variations. Not only is it delicious, but it’s quite handsome looking as well. While they can take a bit of preparation, this recipe can double as a Thanksgiving Day side dish and will look stunning on your holiday table!

You’ll want to choose a mini squash for this recipe – the squash serves as its own colorful harvest serving dish! I chose the Gold Nugget squash this time, but I’ve also used the acorn, carnival, and sweet dumpling varieties as well. Since the squash are hard shelled, you’ll need to bake them ahead of time before stuffing. Wash them well and then put them upright in a pan with about an inch of water. Bake in an oven at 350 degrees for about an hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the stuffing – this can be done ahead of time. I’ve used quinoa as the base for this stuffing, but you can substitute any whole grain that you wish. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is also a complete protein, which is unusual for a plant food. It’s also a great source of fiber! I’ve used the red quinoa for my recipe.

I like to add a variety of chopped vegetables to the quinoa stuffing to amp up the flavor and nutritional value. In this recipe, I’ve used chopped zucchini, green onions, and spinach; but you can easily substitute or add in whatever you prefer. Saute the veggies and garlic in a bit of extra virgin olive oil for about 3 to 5 minutes before adding to the quinoa.

Raisins and crumbled goat cheese round out the flavor of this stuffing; I prefer golden raisins for both their taste and color contrast to the red quinoa. Mix everything together in a bowl.

Slice the tops of each mini-squash carefully and remove the seeds and guts; keeping the tops on the side for later. Some squashes are meatier than others; if so, you may want to remove some of the squash and mix it in the prepared stuffing. The Gold Nugget variety I used in this recipe isn’t very dense, so I left it alone.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil along the inside of each squash; then stuff each with the quinoa. I like to sprinkle some grated parmagiano reggiano on the top. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until stuffing is warm throughout.

For a beautiful presentation, put the tops back on the top of each squash and serve on its own plate. Imagine your Thanksgiving table set with these autumnal beauties!

Ingredients List:

Mini-squashes

Quinoa

zucchini, chopped into small chunks

green onions, chopped

baby spinach, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

Golden raisins

Crumbled goat cheese

Spices used: Cumin, sea salt, coriander, black pepper.

6 Ways to Boost your Immunity Naturally this Flu Season

Cold and flu season is upon us once again! Health experts, doctors, and even our grocery stores are urging us to get our annual flu shot. I have mixed emotions about the flu shot – it’s not that I think there is something inherently wrong with it. And there’s definitely a certain population that should get it, among them senior citizens, those in the health care industry, and those with compromised immune systems.

It does seem to me, though, that our bodies are properly equipped with the tools and armor to fight these bugs, if we are healthy and have functioning immune systems. So I’m a bit reticent every year about getting one. I want my strong military defense team, led by those brave little soldiers, my white blood cells, to mount a fight instead. I’ve only actually gotten the shot once, back in the late 90’s.

I once interviewed an organic gardener about natural gardening; I asked her how to protect your garden from weeds and pesky critters. She told me that if your dirt and host environment is healthy and strong, weeds won’t be able to grow. Instead of taking care of the problem, she advocated instead preventative care by strengthening and optimizing the dirt.

I guess that’s how I feel about the cold and flu season – while we may get sick, hopefully, if we have a strong and healthy body, we can fight it off. And then develop our own natural immunities. But that’s a decision for each person to make for themselves and their family. Certainly, with my asthma, I may be more inclined to get a shot as I get older.

We can all benefit, though, from boosting our immunities naturally and creating our own strong defenses, even if we get a flu shot. Here’s six great ways:

  1. Exercise regularly. Peope who exercise regularly are less likely to get a cold. Exercise helps build your immune system as well as your gorgeous muscles!
  2. Eat lots of vegetables and fruit to promote a healthy and strong body. They are loaded with antioxidants to help fight those bad germs (and cancer, as well!). Vegetables rich in beta-carotene help to promote healthy skin and mucous lining, which is our first line of defense. Carrots, apricots, spinach, and broccoli are all rich in beta-carotene. Vitamin B-6 has also been shown to boost immunities, according to several studies. Avocados, bell peppers, and leafy greens are all rich in Vitamin B-6.
  3. Wash your hands. All the time. Germs and bacteria lurk everywhere. In a recent study, gas pump handles were found to have the highest concentration of filth and germs. ATM buttons, crosswalk buttons, mailboxes – all top breeding grounds. Think of other items that are touched often – Starbucks door handles, your phone at work, light switches, computer keyboards, and more. Sanitize these items in your home and office, and keep a bottle of hand sanitizer with you. It’s one of the most effective defenses.
  4. Chicken soup. Your grandma’s chicken soup did help to alleviate your cold symptoms – it promotes healthy mucous development and is an anti-inflammatory.
  5. Visit a steam room regularly. It helps to keep your nasal and respiratory passages moist – dry nasal passages make you more susceptible to colds. The steam, especially if tinged with eucalyptus, can keep those passages moist and functioning.
  6. Natural supplements to fight colds. While the scientific evidence is inconclusive, many swear by their zinc and echinacea. At the first sign of a cold or flu, I take NOW Elderberry and Zinc lozenges, available at Fruitful Yield. This immune system supporter contains elderberry extract, zinc, vitamin C, echinacea, propolis, and slippery elm. Elderberry has been suggested to reduce flu symptoms in several studies. I have taken these faithfully for over ten years; at the first sign of a cold, I start taking them on a strict regimen. My cold generally goes away or never starts; perhaps it’s all psychosomatic, but who cares if it works, right?

A Strength Training Workout to Stimulate Weight Loss

Weight training is essential to sculpting a strong and attractive body. But it’s also key to effective weight loss; by building lean muscle, your body will burn more calories at rest, thereby upping your resting metabolic rate.

If you’ve already incorporated consistent strength training workouts into your weekly schedule, great – you are headed in the right direction towards weight loss. But you can’t just keep doing the same routine month after month – your body gets used to the stimulus and your results will diminish.

Change up your strength training workouts often. I rarely do the same workout twice. This doesn’t mean that I am not consistently doing exercises for each part of the body – chest presses are always present, for example – but I vary the order of exercises, number of sets, number of repetitions, type of exercise, equipment used, and other things to make each workout fresh.

One way I vary my workout is to do three sets of exercises that work each muscle group. Instead of doing the same type of exercise for the chest, for example, I vary the exercise each set. Whether it’s a different grip or using a different piece of equipment, each set contains a slightly different take on the original exercise. Try the workout below for a good burn!

Note: For each set, use a weight that will cause your muscle to FATIGUE in the amount of reps states. For example, if you are doing a chest press with 12 lb. dumbbells, and you could still continue easily and with good form past 12 reps, you need to up the weight. Conversely, if the weight is too heavy to even do 15 reps in a 20 rep set, you’ll need to decrease the weight used.

First Set:

12 Reps of a Plie Squat, using a heavy weight and single dumbbell

12 Reps of an Incline Chest Press, using dumbbells

20 reps of a Flat bench (or stability ball) chest fly, using dumbbells

12 reps of a Single arm Overhead Tricep Extension, using a dumbbell

20 reps of alternating forward lunges

12 Reps of a Single Arm Bent over Row, one knee on bench, using dumbbell

12 Reps of a Standing Double arm High Row, using a piece of tubing

12 reps of a Single arm Lateral Shoulder Raise, lying on side on a flat bench, using dumbbell

Second Set:

20 Reps of a Smith Press Squat, using a lighter weight and narrow stance (hip distance apart)

12 Reps of an Incline Chest Press, using a barbell

12 reps of an Flat bench chest fly, using dumbbells

12 reps of Lying down Overhead Tricep Extensions, using dumbbells

15 reps of elevated stationary lunges (back foot elevated on step or bench)

12 Reps of a Single Arm Bent over Row with an Overhand Grip, one knee on bench, using dumbbell

12 Reps of a Standing Double arm High Row, using Cable

12 reps of a Single arm Lateral Shoulder Raise, lying on side on an incline bench, using dumbbell

Third Set:

12 Reps of a Single Leg Squat, holding dumbbells (Put a stability ball behind your back for guidance and alignment if new to these)

12 Reps of a Flat Bench Chest Press (or stability ball), using dumbbells

12 reps of a Flat bench chest fly, using dumbbells

12 reps of Standing Double arm Overhead Tricep Extension, using heavy dumbbell

15 reps of elevated stationary lunges (Front foot elevated on step or bench)

12 Reps of a Single Arm Bent over Row, using a cable pulley

12 Reps of a Standing Double arm High Row, using Cable, Balancing on one foot

12 reps of Standing Double arm Lateral Shoulder Raises, using dumbbells

An Antioxidant Spicy Seafood Stew with the Superfood Salmon

When the chill is on, there’s nothing like a bowl of soup or hearty stew to warm up your insides. But many stews are typically prepared with a meat base, like a beef or lamb. At our house, we make a lot of seafood stews, loaded with healthy vegetables and delicious seafood. This is one of my favorite recipes, which was created by my son, who cooks dinner for us once a week. It uses the incredibly healthy superfood wild Alaskan salmon as its base.

Wild Alaskan salmon is one of the best sources of fish protein around. One four-ounce serving of wild Alaskan salmon contains 87% of the recommended daily allowance of Omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits, including improved cardiovascular health, better mood and cognition, protection from cancers, joint protection, and improved macular function.

Studies have shown that wild Alaskan salmon has the least amount of pollutants and has a better ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids than does farmed salmon. A higher ratio of Omega 6 to Omega 3 is believed to cause inflammation in the body, a precursor to cancer.

My son uses a somewhat unique cooking method for the vegetables – he combines them in a pot without any liquid or oil, keeps the heat at medium low, and allows them to cook in their own juices. It works amazingly well when you use vegetables with a higher water content.

Word of caution – we like our stews spicy around here. I had to warn my son after a recent trip to Penzey’s Spices to only use 1 pod of the pepper with 140,000 heat units. His answer? We’ll have to see about that. While those peppers aren’t in this recipe, he does liberally spice this stew with chili powder, paprika, sate (a Thai spice), and other spices. Let your tastebuds determine how much, if any, of the spices you will use.

There are some who do not like the strong taste of wild salmon – farmed salmon has a much milder taste. While I prefer the wild salmon’s taste, it does take some getting used to. The great thing about this stew is the strong taste is masked by a myriad of other flavors, making it an ideal way to get finicky kids (and adults) to eat it.

I like to call this an “antioxidant stew” because of all the wonderfully healthy cancer and inflammation fighters from the salmon and vegetables. Fight those winter germs!

SPICY FISH STEW— Wild Alaskan Salmon (8 to 10 ounces)
— Red Bell Peppers (2)– Two Tomatoes– Green Onions

— Carrots, Cut into Coins

— Celery, several stalks

— 4 small Potatoes, chopped

— A package of Chicken Broth

— Fresh Cilantro

— Chili powder
— Paprika
— Sate
— Garlic powder
— Curry
— CinnamonPROCESS1. Chop onions and add them to large pot under low heat. Dry cook onions, stirring frequently so they don’t burn.

2. Chop the rest of the vegetables and add to pot. Stir frequently.

3. Add contents of 1 package of chicken broth and continue to stir.

4. Throughout this whole process, be sure to add desired amounts of the following: chili pepper; paprika (more of this than anything else); garlic powder; sate; very little cinammon and curry; really anything else to add some depth to the whole matter (An odd thing: a squirt of Sriracha sauce (and nothing more than a squirt) adds some spice, a hint of flavor and doesn’t disrupt the taste — you really can’t taste it if it’s not too much).

5. As you’re doing all that, sloppily cut some potatoes. You’ll want those in there soon after the veggies and broth so they have time to cook and soften.

6. Cover and allow this all to mingle.

7. After about 10-15 minutes (as the veggies soften), cut up the fish into torn pieces. Add this to the whole deal. Stir it up so the fish can get in on all the spice and broth and whatnot. Add more spice if you’re like me and so inclined. Then cover it up and let it sit for a while.

8. Mind the fact that fish continue to cook a few minutes after you take the heat off, so to make sure your fish doesn’t wind up rubbery or burnt, be sure not to leave it all on too long. 10 minutes with the fish in should be fine. After about 5 or 6, stir in some cilantro. This’ll add even more flavor. Cover and let it go.

9. Serve in a bowl, with bread or naan.

(Courtesy of Eric Lutz)

A Former Foodie and the Dilemma of Safe Foods

Yesterday my husband and I stopped at Trader Joe’s to pick up a couple of groceries on our way home from breakfast. Since I generally do most of the grocery shopping on my own, he most definitely had a few things on his list that he wanted.

“Let’s do a roast chicken for dinner tonight,” he said.

“How about salmon tonight? I have a taste for it and we have some at home already,” I remarked.

“We haven’t had chicken in a couple of weeks – we have salmon twice a week,” he cajoled. So we picked up an organic chicken for the evening. I wanted to get some bison to substitute for beef in a beef bourgignon I was making for Halloween night. But TJ’s didn’t have any because there’s apparently a bison shortage now in the US. They did have organic, free range, antibiotic free beef though. Success!

After browsing through the variety of vegetables, we decided to use up the many vegetables in our refrigerator that needed attention. We eat a lot of vegetables these days.

“How about some bread – you haven’t had bread in the house for several weeks.”

Ahh – I wondered how long it would be before he mentioned something. I’ve been trying to reduce our gluten consumption and bread was the next offender on my list. While we eat lunch at home often, I generally have soups, salads, and leftovers around, so I haven’t been buying any lunch meat for the household. I got rid of the bread at dinner several years ago except for the occasional naan, so the last vestige was the lunchtime bread. I figured they wouldn’t miss it much – I usually end up throwing out moldy bread anyway, right?

“You know, I’m trying to get us gluten-free as much as possible, hon,” I said. “Why not get some Ezekiel bread if you really want it?”

“Oh, that stuff tastes like twigs. I’m just going to pick up a loaf of whole wheat – that should be healthy, right?”

“No, unfortunately whole wheat is just as big as an offender as white these days. Same thing with oatmeal, you know,” I lectured.

“So what am I supposed to eat for breakfast?” my poor husband moaned.

“Well, I bought you some Greek yogurt and strawberries for a parfait.”

“You know I can’t stomach yogurt – I’m so lactose intolerant my stomach will be rumbling for days,” he complained.

“Yeah, well, I’m doing this intermittent fasting thing, where you don’t eat for 16 hours after your last meal each night. I basically skip breakfast, workout early in the afternoon, and then eat my meals and snacks. It’s supposed to be the new trend in calorie restriction and health, so I thought I would try it out for a while,” I said, as my husband looked at me like I was cra-zee.

It has become so difficult to shop for food these days, hasn’t it? So much is bad for us – meat, sugar, dairy, flour, potatoes even. Designing meals these days seems to require a Ph.D

Conventionally grown produce is out because there’s too many pesticides. I’ve got to shop at stores that only carry organic or antibiotic, hormone-free meats and chicken. Salmon – no farmed raised for us, only wild. Sometimes I think we should just buy a barrel of sunflower seeds and some broccoli and salad for the rest of our meals.

I receive barrages of emails daily from contacts and various activist groups about our food system. Different movements exist, from the gluten-free, the raw, and the paleo diet; telling me that their way is the best way to optimal health and wellness. I care about these things, so I try to incorporate many of their theories into my meal planning. But some say that if I don’t do it all the way, I’m not reaping the benefits. And some of these theories contradict each other as well.

Complicating things is the fact that I really love to cook – as a young teen, I took on the responsibility of cooking dinner for my family, experimenting with such things as crepes and Coq au vin. I love restaurants and consider myself a foodie.

But how can I be a foodie when there’s so much food I won’t eat anymore?

All I know is my grandparents both lived well into their nineties, healthy as horses, while eating an Italian diet that contained meat, dairy, eggs, cheese, and more. My grandpa, in fact, ate day old crusty Italian bread, olive oil, and provolone every morning at 4am for breakfast before setting out on his active day. He worked in heavy construction till he was 75 until they forced him to retire. He shovelled his own snow, walked daily, and mowed the lawn in his nineties. He never worried about eating gluten-free, that’s for sure. He died at the age 0f 98 from old age.

So what are we doing wrong these days?

I know that I like how I feel when I eliminate certain foods from my diet. From my energy levels to the extra pouchiness around my waist, there are just some foods that don’t sit well in my body.

But I’ve got to admit I sometimes long for the days when I ate what I wanted to and didn’t obsess about it. When I was young and newly living on my own and price was the main consideration, so I shopped at the local Piggly Wiggly. For the days as a child, when our food wasn’t so  . . . poisonous.

Did you know that there are only about twelve companies that control the major food supply in our country? You’ve heard of the top ones, like Monsanto, Cargill, and ADM. You’d be surprised at what companies they own, including organic producers that were once little guys.

That’s why I’m joining up with a new company that will be delivering fresh food from the farm to my table. One where I will know where my food comes from and whose cattle don’t eat GMO grass. I’ll tell you a little bit more about them on Wednesday.

Hopefully, my family will get the chance to enjoy food without the worry.