Health

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photos by george billard

10.14.14 Catskills Getaway

This past weekend we took off into the Catskills to celebrate our anniversary (lucky seven!), visit friends and explore some new territory. The fall colors were at their peak. Birds, bugs and bees filled the skies, harvesting whatever remains before bunkering down or heading off to warmer climes. The air was crisp, the skies turquoise and the colors of the leaves more nuanced than a Missoni sweater. Fields of milkweed exploded in a profusion of downy, winged seeds. I find few things as uplifting as piling into the car and hitting the road when the destination means new experiences, old pals, wild beauty and delicious meals. And so it was.
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photos by gluttonforlife

9.16.14 Winding Down

Summer has such momentum to it. All that sunshine and daylight just winds you up and you go, go, go. Then suddenly the light begins to wane and all around things start to curl inward. Where green once predominated, yellow is now creeping in. The goldenrod has exploded, a few sunflowers still remain and the leaves are tinged with jaundice. We cling to the last vestiges of the season, even as we reach for our sweaters, lay the first fire in the hearth and prepare to hunker down. I want to share with you some photos of the garden I took that show the last blooms. And then I'm going to tell you about a rice salad I invented earlier this summer that was a big hit at a couple of different parties. So cheer up, there are good things ahead!
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photos by gluttonforlife

9.8.14 All Juiced Up

It's been a strange season in the garden. Unusually cool temperatures have resulted in a glut of cucumbers, thriving greens and herbs, and not a single summer squash. A year without an onslaught of zucchini just feels unnatural! The tomatoes have been a mixed bag: lots of Green Zebras and Brandywines, other varieties decimated by blight, and many falling off the vine green. I see green tomato-lemon marmalade in my future, not to mention green tomato chutney and plenty of fried green tomatoes. But with what's left of the ripe ones, I envision perhaps one more gazpacho, one last tomato sandwich and definitely some fresh tomato juice. Nothing else comes close to capturing the essence of the season. (Except perhaps a perfect peach. Or buttered corn. Or blackberries.) I make it with my Hurom juicer, ordered from Williams-Sonoma a couple of years ago and now a staple of my kitchen. (The Elite version looks very tempting.) It's a slow-masticating design that first crushes food and then presses it to extract maximum yield with minimum oxidation, meaning you get the most nutrition from juice produced this way. The smell and taste of fresh tomato juice is one of the great pleasures of late summer.
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.31.14 Eat Your Vegetables

It's the last day of July. Summer is peaking! And I'm about to bid you farewell as we drift into the dog days of August. It's been strangely cool in these parts and the nights have been downright chilly, which makes for some powerfully good sleeping under a fluffy duvet. But the garden needs a lot of heat right now to keep producing—those tomatoes especially!—so I'm hoping it's just a blip. Speaking of the garden, ours is featured on Gardenista today; come for a visit here. Even if you don't have a vegetable-producing garden of your own, summer produce is abundant at farms and farmers markets. I stopped in at the Union Square market last week and came away with a big bag of red okra (I love it sliced and pan-fried, sprinkled with salt and cayenne pepper), another of English peas and 6 ears of sweet corn. These tastes really define the season for me and I can't seem to get enough of them!
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photos by gluttonforlife

7.22.14 Blenheim Bouquet

A good apricot is an elusive thing. As in the quest for a good man, you have to bite into quite a few before you find a winner. I read recently that Frankenstein farmers are taking the best elements from an apricot and the best from a plum and creating delicious hybrids with names like pluot, plumcot and apriplum. And yet I still want that perfect apricot, with its faintly downy curves, rosy bloom and fudgy flesh. Once in a blue moon, you might come across such a specimen, most often of the Blenheim variety. (Those of you familiar with Penhaligon's fragrances will remember Blenheim Bouquet, a bracing mix of citrus oils, spice and woods that has nothing to do with apricots but provided inspiration for the title of this post.) But somehow even the very best apricot never seems to quite live up to the taste I carry in my sense memory. Which is where roasting comes in...
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7.4.14 Born Free

Well, the first thing I have to say is that you all are poets. Talk abut using your words! In telling me what summer means to you, you conjured up so many ripe images, so much nostalgia. (Those of you who have not yet had a chance to leave a comment on my last post, still have time to do so before midnight on Sunday 7/14 to be in the running for a box of summer treats from the Glutton for Life kitchen.) Turns out we all love being outdoors more. Swimming, gardening, visiting those green places we return to every year. School's out. We kick our shoes off. Everything loosens up a bit. How fitting then that on this day of high summer, on this Independence Day, we celebrate freedom. In this country, it's a bit tattered but there's always hope that we'll rally and reclaim our birthright. In the face of all that is so blatantly bleak, I choose optimism. There is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way.
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photos by gluttonforlife

6.3.14 Oil Slick

A few months ago, yet another large and important study was released with irrefutable evidence that 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease could be prevented if high-risk individuals switched to a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, beans, fish, fruits, vegetables and olive oil. It's been established that low-fat diets simply can't achieve these results and this is good news for those of us who love olive oil in all its diverse splendor—from mellow gold to vivid green, from rich and buttery to bracing and peppery. Quite frankly, there are few foods it doesn't improve.

Although you might not think of it this way, olive oil is essentially a fresh fruit juice and thus is fairly fragile. It needs to be extracted in a process that doesn't involve nutrient-damaging heat ("cold pressed") and it has to be properly bottled and stored to protect it from air, light and extreme temperatures. Finally, it should be consumed fairly quickly, generally within a year or two of production. Without all of these protections, olive oil (and all high quality oils, really) can quickly turn rancid, developing an off taste that some people liken to crayons or old peanuts (I swear) and a greasy mouthfeel. (For more horifying facts, see this.) The sad truth is that the average American has grown accustomed to consuming rancid oils because that is what is predominantly available. Intrigued? Read all about it in Tom Mueller's excellent Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. If you don't have time for that, just be sure the olive oil you buy has been produced and cared for with integrity.
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photos by gluttonforlife

5.21.14 Char Woman

This is going to be short and sweet because I'm about to head out to hunt for morels with my mushroom club. I sound like I should have grey hair and wear those polyester khakis from Patagonia. Oh wait! I do have grey hair and I am wearing those Patagonia pants. Whatever, if I come home with freshly picked morels, who's going to notice anything else? In the meantime, let me distract you with this easy and indispensable recipe for grilled pineapple salsa. It's perfect to slather on everything this summer—a season which officially starts prematurely on Memorial Day weekend! The pineapple is actually charred in a hot skillet, but you could make it on the grill, of course. It's delicious on fish tacos and pork kebabs, scooped up with chips, and stirred into a simple bowl of brown rice, especially if it's drizzled with a little crema.
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photos by george billard

5.13.14 Work in Progress

Just shy of a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Imperfectly Fine about my struggle to find balance in life. I had just had my first session with a health coach and, as I do every summer, I was dreaming of spending more time in the hammock. After nearly 50 sessions with my coach, I'm here to report back. I have a meditation practice now. Taking this course in the city kicked it off and, though I may not sit in meditation every single morning, mostly I do. And it's there for me when I really need it, which is most of the time. I am back to exercising regularly. I ferreted out a gym in my town—it's a fairly ghetto set-up at the local high school, but it's open to residents three mornings a week and it's enabled me to reconnect to weight training. All incipient back issues have totally cleared up. I now see a Chinese acupuncturist every couple of weeks and take herbs twice daily and my herpes outbreaks have nearly vanished.

I'm learning to say no to the things that take me away from what I really want to do. After a couple of publishers expressed interest in a Glutton for Life book, I am finishing up a proposal. (I am elated and terrified in equal measure.) My coach helped me with all of this. She gave me the support, encouragement and love I needed to explore my fears and desires and goals and failures and successes. But the process is not "over." It will never be "over." Just this past week I fell into a giant pit of despair, feeling overwhelmed by my life and everything I still have not managed to accomplish. I am not thinner, richer, more famous or more successful than I was a year ago, and I panicked that I was no happier either. But I am taking deep breaths, sitting in meditation, remembering all the things I have to be grateful for, making plans to do the things I care about most, strategizing for the future and trying to fully inhabit the moment. It's incredibly hard work. But it's also exciting and fun. 

I read something by Annie Lamott yesterday that wrenched me to the core and reverberated through my whole being. I am humbled by her ability to write so completely in her own voice. She expresses her wisdom in a way that is so accessible and friendly, yet so profound. I just love how these words give us permission to be equally at home in our own skins. They came to me at a time when I needed them most and reminded me of what is truly important. I hope they fill you with hope and purpose.
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photos by gluttonforlife

5.7.14 Wild Green Yonder

If food is fuel, don't you want to be powered by something that looks this amazingly alive and vibrant? Are you willing to go further afield to nourish yourselves in all the extraordinary ways you deserve? Foraging is one practice that brings you so much more than food. It's a wonderful way to get outside, connect to nature and discover the abundance that is available to all of us. One of the very first wild plants to emerge in spring, and one of the most commonly found in meadows, parks and fields, is the nettle. It's a little dangerous, as anyone who has ever tried to pick it without gloves on knows. But, like most prickly characters, with a little understanding and the proper care, it reveals its better qualities. Before you know it, nettles become putty in your capable hands.
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