Hellooooooooo, Hummus!

olive-oil-heart-hummus-1024x768Hummus and I have been reunited and it feels so good!

My love affair with hummus started with my long stint of vegetarian/veganism during my sophomore year of college. One viewing of PETA’s “Meet Your Meat” was all it took (not recommended). A co-worker’s girlfriend shared her recipe and I became a hummus connoisseur. My family called me Hummus Holly and my siblings would tease me by saying “Hummus, Hummus, Hummus!” ala Jan Brady’s middle-child lament, “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!” such was my enthusiasm for this delicious dip. It hurt me, but I had to break up with hummus as I distanced myself from carbohydrates over the last 2-3 years. But those days are gone. Hummus and I are back! With a vengeance. (Editor’s note: This experienced diet-tryer is now hip to the Leptin Diet and diggin’ it.)

If you’re buying hummus instead of making it, you’re wasting money and depriving yourself and your loved ones of healthy delisciousness. All it takes is a can of beans, traditionally garbanzo, some lemon juice, tahini (sesame seed paste), salt, some seasonings and you’re off!

You can make hummus with any kind of bean and any kind of flavoring. For a party this weekend, I made double-layer hummus and sang an impromptu song about it, I was so over-joyed. The bottom layer was black bean with lime juice, cumin and cayenne. The top later was Sriracha hummus with garbanzos. So, I present to you, without further ado, a hummus how-to.

Basic Hummus Recipe
1 15-oz. can of beans – garbanzo, black, white, edamame, get crazy with it!
2 cloves of garlic, more if you’re awesome and like garlic
1/4-1/2 t salt or more to taste
2 T. tahnini, available either by the peanut butter or in the international foods aisle
Herbs, spices, flavorings: This is where you can get creative and experiment. Add a handful of pitted kalamata olives, a T or two of your favorite barbecue, hot, jerk or curry sauce, 1/2 cup of chopped cilantro, fresh herbs like thyme and basil, roasted red pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, whatever your heart desires.
1-2 T of lemon juice, if it matches your flavor profile. You can also use lime juice, or probably even orange, depending on what you’re going for. Dessert hummus is a thing!
A splash of olive oil, depending on bean consistency: Garbanzos are a bit dry, so you may want to add a T or so of olive oil -or- some olive oil and some water. Just a splash! Too much will leave you with a gross, soupy mess. Don’t do it!
A splash of soy sauce or Bragg’s Aminos: I used to do this, but prefer it without these days.

Blend these in a food processor, adding extra olive oil and water as needed. You’ll likely have to scrape down the sides and reblend a few times to reach the consistency you desire. If you want to up the presentation for a party, make a dip in the middle of the hummus with a spoon and add a bit of olive oil, then sprinkle the spices or sauce you flavored the hummus with in the the middle. Que elegante!

Eat your delicious hummus with veggies, crackers or on a pita or wrap. Hummus is super healthy, with a mix of unsaturated fats, carbs and protein, as well as the added benefits from the herbs and spices you may include.

So there you have it! Friends don’t let friends eat Sabra. It’s the junkfood of hummus because it’s full of cheap, nutritionally-deficient vegetable oil. Make your own, save money and enjoy the experience! And eat it in good health.

Have any awesome hummus ideas? I’d love to hear about them!

 

 

Food Resolutions for Thought

How’s that New Year’s Resolution going? Perhaps you vowed to drink less or hit the gym more? Maybe you promised to eat healthier food.

f3b8The Washington Post must have resolved to knock it out of the park with food-related columns and articles this year. For instance, food isn’t healthy, NOT EVEN KALE. Before you toss the device you’re reading this on away from you in disgust, check out the article. Or read my summary: foods hold different nutrients. It’s how we nourish ourselves with them makes us healthy. The whole of our diet matters more than kale or bacon alone.

Moving on, this WaPo column, The surprising truth about the food movement, details the chronic over-hyping of the Food Movement, the fruit of self-sufficient ideas planted by Back-to-the-Land hippies in the 1960s. Their ethos grew into the ideologies behind bestsellers, such as anything by Michael Pollan, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” and the evolution of New York Times columnist Mark Bittman from a foodie to the founder of vegan-ish-ism.

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The Food Movement’s message is loud clear: people want real food. Real food is nutritious, lacks pesticides, local and doesn’t hurt anyone in its production. It’s also nice to the animals you’re eating. Wild is better than farmed. Foraged is best. (Note: This last point may be a sentiment confined to Wisconsin thing.)

But, in general, Americans aren’t so clear about whether they want a food movement. The amount of processed foods purchases barely budged from 2002-2012.

What’s more: it’s a bit of nostalgic fantasy that Americans in general have the time and money to buy, prepare and eat all whole, local, sustainable foods while living modern lifestyles. Who has time to prepare 21 fresh meals each week? Who’s going to give up their guilty-pleasure Girl Scout cookies and Bagel Bites? Luckily for today’s Americans, it’s that whole-shebang diet, not just an heirloom tomato or a Twinkie, that makes up our diet.

So, the column continues, food manufacturers are producing the next best thing to Food Movement-friendly, whole foods: processed perishables produced with more natural ingredients that are closer to foods than, as Polan would say, food-like substances.

Nonetheless, people are thinking more about food, and it’s grown into a conversation that’s taking root in public policy. SNAP money is redeemable at farmers markets. More insurance companies (at least in the Madison, Wisconsin, area) are offering to pony up for part of your CSA (community-share agriculture, which is kind of like a ritzy subscription to a farm). As increasing numbers of consumers seek sustainability and food transparency, the big players in an industry starved for profits are listening more closely.

Campbell’s Soup Co. announced it’s in favor of GMO labeling on products, a food fight that’s been raging nationally for more than a decade. Kellogg’s has resolved to remove all artificial ingredients in its cereals by 2018. Food industry consultancy and thought leader Euromonitor named sustainability one of the top trends of 2016.

The WaPo column says these food formulation changes are a pittance in regards to the big picture. But I disagree.

Food tells a story about how we once lived. The United States was, at one time, a patchwork of farming communities. But we’ve been uprooted. The most recent U.S. Department of Agriculture Census showed that those who count farming as their livelihoods is decreasing rapidly as farmers age.

Humans, being the hunters and eaters that we are, have been disconnected from our natural habitat. Our bodies weren’t designed for a leisure-rich technological age. But reconnecting to our food, even if it’s just through naturally colored Annie’s Homegrown White Cheddar Bunnies crackers, is important. It reminds us of where we came from. Because that means we’re thinking about it. We want to be healthier, like nearly every New Year’s resolutioner.

Change to a more nutritious food system won’t happen overnight. But moves toward more natural products, ingredients and production methods help us feel more connected to the land that sustains us, the land we’re all joint stewards of. And that keeps us thinking.

So maybe you haven’t completely followed through on your New Year’s Resolution. But you’re thinking about it, right? An extra trip to the gym and a few fewer drinks or donuts each week make a significant cumulative difference. Small changes incrementally result in a new norm, leading to large and long-lasting results.

Fat-Free to Fat Bomb: Amber waves of grain meet everything coconut

 

stop-the-insanityAmericans and food: we’re a fun pairing. Take a hodge-podge of cultures, unleash them on a virgin landmass, throw in a few major wars victories and you’re in for an interesting culinary ride.

My most recent food musing is how the pendulum has swung toward eating fat. For background, I recommend In Defense of Food by Michael Polan. Polan explains how American dietary habits were politicized through the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Association. Essentially, what we consider rule-of-thumb healthy eating habits resulted from elites bargaining for daily food recommendations that benefited their states’ agricultural producers. National health and food trade associations also lobbied to represent their interests. Polan’s take-away is that the fat-phobia that manifested in the last quarter of the 20th century led to high levels of heart disease. This is because fat is actually healthy for your body, moreso than cheap grains, which have been sustaining societies since agrarianism became the norm, ca. 8,000-10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent.

Fast forward to 2015 and spin 180 degrees toward the Atkins Diet, which (still) hasn’t died out, and prevailing Paleo, Ketogenic and Low-Carb High-Fat (LCHF) diets. American culture has a habit of moving from one end of a spectrum to the other every 20-25 years or so.

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Historically, dietary trends have shifted with populations and the available resources. In the past, when nutrient-deficient sugar was scarce and costly, Americans walked, biked and performed manual labor on a daily basis. At that point, people ate whatever they could get, which was undoubtedly in season. But these days, sugar is abundant, the food on store shelves has enviable travel experience no matter the time of the year, and we’re generally parked in front of screens during the bulk of our waking hours. Cue the low-energy diets, please!

No matter which lineage of LCHF diet one follows, fat, rather than carbohydrates (glucose, fructose and sucrose), is the your primary source of energy And not just animal fat, mind you. A major market has developed around the new superfood, coconut. Truly, calling coco a superfood in today’s environment is an understatement. The wondrous coconut, which, like quinoa, is technically a seed, is a source of products including: coconut water, oil, sugar, flour, butter, milk, “milk” and shredded coconut. Once a niche product found in the international food aisle, coconut product are now a money maker throught the perishable goods market, which has thin margins and requires constant innovation to increase sales and show profits.

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The world coconut market reached $71 million in 2014, showing a compound annual growth rate of 103% from just two years earlier, according to a recent report from IndexBox Marketing. Top coconut exporters are Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka and Mexico, with the latter two countries boosting their market share in recent years. (Note: I did not create that image. Nonetheless, it’s fantastic.)

China is the leading importer of coconuts, accounting for 87% of the global market. Take note of your lables: many coconut products are produced in China, as well as their countries of origin, for example, the Philipinnes. The United States, along with Australia and Italy, each accounted for 2% of global coconut imports. The combined imports of these countries totaled 93% of the world market in 2014. The United States’ coconut imports rose 2 percentage points from the the previous year in the same timeframe.

If you’re a coconut oil user, I urge you to purchase the Dr. Bronner’s Fair Trade variety. It’s a bit pricier, but the Fair Trade certification guarantees that the people producing the product are being paid a living wage and the company is investing in their community. You can pick it up at your local food co-op or Whole Foods.

You can also use it to make fat bombs, which are actually much more delicious than they sound. Eat your fat bombs with a side of social responsibility, I say! (Note: I was introduced to coconuts by my holistic chiropractor. She suggested them, so I consume them under doctor’s orders!) I’m experimenting with some fat bomb recipes I’ll share just in time for holiday merrymaking.

I can’t help but wonder where our culture will be dietarily in another 20 years and what the hot superfoods will be. Dare to venture a guess? Leave your ideas in the comment section below!

Here’s another use for coconuts and a few thoughts about their export…

This is Your Brain on Sardines

Gross no more! Sardines are packed with biovailable Omega Fatty Acids. They’re cost-effective and surprisingly tasty.

Sardines: not gross.

That’s news, right? I grew up on a cattle farm in the Midwest. The amount of beef I ate through age 17 is enough for my entire lifetime. It did send me into a decade-long vegetarian and vegan cycle, from which I’ve recovered. But my current protein kick is sardines.

I’ve always equated sardines with anchovies, the tiny little fishes used as pizza toppings. And though I’ve often turned to canned tuna for a cost-effective, ready-to-eat source of protein, I shuddered at the thought of sardines. Grossness.

However, I was recently discussing Omega 3s with my chiropractor, a happy, healthy, holistic paleo-enthusiast. She’s of such sound mind and body that her word is gospel to me. She recommended I lay off of the Omega supplements (super costly, btw) and eat fish. Daily. And not tuna, which is a larger fish that’s likely to contain more mercury, so it should only be eaten a few times a week. She recommended salmon, scallops, oysters (which even she admitted to finding unpalatable) and shared that one of her favorite fishes is sardines. I nearly scoffed and gagged at the same time. The odor of anchovies from grade school pizza parties flooded my memory as she assured me they were delicious on salads and in a variety of dishes. Eating Omega 3s as part of food makes the fatty acid much more easily available (bioavailable) to your body. You have to eat anyway, she argued. Why not get your nutrients in the form of food?

It made sense. And, as a primarily paleo eater, I’m always on the hunt for a bargain. Omegas are mega important to me in the winter, as seasonal affective disorder is part of my life I combat with Vitamin D, a light lamp, a gym membership and lots of hot baths. I actually wrote a song about it that’s a hit with folks who hear it. So, I strode into the food co-op with a mission. On the shelf above the wild-caught tuna fish were rows of sardines: in water, in oil, in tomato sauce. I opted for a variety in oil with lemon. You can’t go wrong with that combo. I also grabbed a box of herring kippering snacks for good measure. The fish revolution was beginning.

I got this boxed tin of sardines home ( Wild Planet is my preferred brand) with little idea what to do with it. I didn’t want to eat them cold on a salad; the idea of those textures didn’t appeal to me. So I sautéed some chard and kale in bacon fat with garlic and threw the sardines and the oil in, just long enough to heat them up. I plated the weird stir fry, along with my typical carb of choice: a mashed sweet potato with butter. Then I hungrily dug in.

It was awesome! My brain tried to cling to memories of anchovial disgust, but my tastebuds embraced the smoky flavor and robust texture. Canned tuna pales in comparison to sardines, which are typically deboned and beheaded before canning. I was in. Sardines are now an item on my shopping list.

Here are a few recipes I’ve tried or look forward to trying. I probably won’t eat them every day, but 3-4 times a week as an easy fallback meal is likely. Please let me know if you have any sardine insights to share!

And here’s your somewhat topical music video.