Hopeful Weekend Links

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New Parenting Study Released - Sarah Miller, The New Yorker

Science Compard Every Diet, and the Winner is Real Food – James Hamblin, The Atlantic

The Wonders and Eternal Shelf Life of Honey - Natasha Geiling, Smithsonian

When Mothers Get Moving, Children are More Active Too – Linda Poon, NPR

The Simplest Thing that Makes the Happiest People in the World So Happy – Eric Barcer, Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Lessons in Organic Urbanism from India – Taz Loomans, Blooming Rock

Why You Might Need More Bitterness

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Your mouth probably puckers at the thought of eating something bitter. But according to many experts, including clinical herbalist Guido Masé and integrative physician Tiearona Low Dog, a small dose of bitter can prevent and cure a litany of complaints.

Why do we need bitter foods?

Masé explains that plants developed bitter compounds to stop mammals from eating them. Then mammals developed detoxification systems, i.e. our livers, to deal with the bitter compounds. So bitters are the reason we have a liver, and it doesn’t work right when we don’t eat them.

Masé and Low Dog say ingesting more bitters, particularly before we eat, can:

  • Improve digestion

When there’s no bitter flavor in our food, Masé says we run the risk of poor digestion. “We see fat and cholesterol synthesis problems in the liver. … We see food passing untouched through the digestive system.” He recommends that instead of trying to “restrict, restrict and remove, remove” for concerns like toxicity, chronic inflammation, liver dysfunction, and digestive complaints and sensitivity, we “reincorporate bitterness.” When we activate our taste buds with the bitter flavor before a meal, the pancreas secrets enzymes, the liver secretes bile, and the valves through the compartments of the gastrointestinal tract work better. “As a result, the drama of incomplete digestion is really tempered.”

  • Nix heart burn

The mouth is not the only thing that puckers when we eat bitters. According to Masé, the valve at the bottom of the esophagus also scrunches up, keeping acid in place.

  • Eliminate food allergies and excema in adults and children

“I’ve seen big changes in the skin when we focus on enhancing digestion and restoring the microflora in the gut,” writes Low Dog in her book Healthy at Home. She prescribes children’s bitters for kids with food allergies, to be taken a half an hour or so before dinner.  She also recommends bitters for adults with seasonal and environmental allergies.

  • Curb sugar cravings

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, we shouldn’t seek to eliminate the sweet taste from our diet, but to balance all five tastes. In the same vein, Masé is convinced that ingesting more bitters is the solution to sugar addiction. “Just make sure you get a little bit of bitter every day and you’ll find that your relationship with sugar is a whole lot easier.” He carries a tincture of bitters in his car and takes a little bit before he goes to the grocery store. That way, he insists, it’s easier for him to keep the chips and sweets out of his basket.

5 ways to ingest more bitters:

  • Greens

One of my favorite foods — dandelion — is a bitter, and this is prime time to harvest the leaves. You can learn more about how awesome dandelion is in my (all-time most popular post) Dandelions are Super Foods.

Chicory, arugula, radicchio, escarole, turnip greens, mustard greens, watercress, endive, and other bitter greens also make delicious pre-dinner salads.

  • Teas

Dandelion root, burdock, milk thistle, hops, gentian and other bitter herbs make excellent pre-meal teas.

  • Tinctures

Urban Moonshine, Herb Pharm, and other companies make bitter tinctures and tonics that you can take with a glass of water as a quick before meal ritual.

  • Dark chocolate

Dark chocolate is a delicious way to add some bitterness to your diet, and it was featured in this week’s People’s Pharmacy because of its many other health benefits.

  • Cocktails

Bitters are a common bar ingredient. Look for bitters at your grocery store and learn how to mix up a Manhattan, Rob Roy or Old-fashioned.

Do you like bitter foods and beverages? Have they helped you solve any health issues? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Hopeful Weekend Links

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How green microbeweries stoke sustainability – Peter Brewitt, Orion

The full-fat paradox: Whole Milk May Keep Us Lean – Allison Aubrey, NPR

How to Change the World – Renee Tougas, Fimby

60 Plus Nutrient Dense Recipes That Any Kid Will Love – Kristen Marr, Live Simply

Some good news in the farm bill – Karen Stillerman, Union of Concerned Scientists

It took this man two hours a week to change the world – Sage Cohen, The Path of Possibility

The Best Fast Food You’ve Ever Had

Here’s my article about Portland’s food cart revolution, from the current issue of YES! Magazine. We’ve had a week straight of ice-cold fog, and these photos, taken last July, are making me delirious with summer longing (not to mention hungry).

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Portland’s Food Truck Heaven: How a New Kind of Fast Food Brings Jobs, Flavor, and Walkability

Immigrants and other restaurant workers get a way to rise in local economies. Communities get the best fast food they’ve ever had.

by Abby Quillen

At noon on a sunny day in Portland, Ore., in what not long ago was a vacant lot, customers roam past brightly painted food carts perusing menus for vegan barbeque, Southern food, Korean-Mexican fusion, and freshly squeezed juice.

The smell of fried food and the tent-covered seating bring to mind a carnival, but a number of Portland’s food carts take a healthy approach to street food. The Big Egg, for instance, serves sandwiches and wraps made with organic farm-fresh eggs, balsamic caramelized onions, and arugula. Their to-go containers are compostable, and next to the order window is a list of local farms where they source their ingredients.

“We don’t have a can opener. We make everything ourselves, so it’s very time-consuming. And that’s the way we want it,” says Gail Buchanan, who runs The Big Egg with her partner, Emily D. Morehead.

The Big Egg usually sells out, says Buchanan as she hands a customer the last sandwich of the day, one made with savory portobello mushrooms. And on weekends, customers form a line down the block, willing to wait up to 45 minutes for their food.

Buchanan and Morehead dreamed of opening a restaurant for years. They had food service experience, saved money, and spent their free time developing menu items. “Then 2008 happened,” says Buchanan. Difficulty getting business loans after the recession convinced them to downsize their dream to a custom-designed food cart. When a developer announced he was opening a new food cart lot, Buchanan and Morehead jumped in.

Portland’s permissive land-use regulations allow vendors to open on private lots—food cart “pods”—like the one that hosts The Big Egg. Local newspaper Willamette Week estimates there are about 440 food carts in the metro area.

The food cart scene has taken off in Portland in a way it hasn’t in other cities—transforming vacant lots into community spaces and making neighborhoods more pedestrian-friendly and livable.

Recent features in Sunset, Bon Appétit, Saveur, and on the Food Network have pointed to Portland’s food cart pods as tourist destinations. There are even food cart walking tours.

Despite their success, Buchanan and Morehead have found that running a food cart isn’t easy money. They both work 70 hours a week, most of it prepping menu items—their fire-roasted poblano salsa alone takes three hours to prepare. But they’re grateful for the experience. They plan on opening a restaurant soon, like a growing number of he city’s most popular vendors.

Many of those vendors are first-generation immigrants who’ve found a way to make a living by sharing food traditions.

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A few blocks from The Big Egg, Wolf and Bear’s serves Israeli cuisine from Jeremy Garb’s homeland. But it’s Israeli cuisine with a Portland influence, says his co-owner, Tanna TenHoopen Dolinsky. “It’s inspired by food in Israel, but we sprout our chickpeas and grill everything and don’t use a deep fryer.”

Wolf and Bear’s has grown to two locations and employs 12 people, and Garb and Dolinsky are considering opening a restaurant. “There’s a feeling of opportunity in Portland, and I think the rise of cart culture is representative of that,” says Dolinsky.

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Nong Poonsukwattana has made the most of that opportunity with her food cart, Nong’s Khao Man Gai, famous for her signature rice and chicken dish. She describes hers as the best kind of fast food: “Fast service but not fast cooked. It’s fresh. I serve happiness.”

Poonsukwattana arrived from Bangkok, Thailand, in 2003 with $70. She waitressed at five different restaurants, working every day and night of the week, before buying her own downtown food cart in 2009.

Now she has two carts and a brick-and-mortar commercial kitchen and employs 10 people. Recently she started bottling and selling her own sauce.

Poonsukwattana likes the sense of community in the food cart pods, “even though competition is fierce,” but especially the cultural exchange with customers, many of whom she knows by name.

“I think it’s always good to support local business, mom-and-pop shops, or small businesses with different ideas. It’s beautiful to see people fight for a better future for themselves.”

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Abby Quillen wrote this article for How To Live Like Our Lives Depend On It, the Winter 2014 issue of YES! Magazine.

Hopeful Weekend Links

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Instructions for a bad day – Melissa Gilkey, Upworthy

Kids in the Kitchen: Readers’ Best Tips – Aimée, Simple Bites

It’s Never Too Late to Become a Lifelong Learner – Robin Dance, The Art of Simple

How to Have a Happy Family – 7 Tips Backed by Science – Eric Barker, Barking Up the Wrong Tree

Best. Year. Ever – Marco Visscher, The Intelligent Optimist

My New Favorite Cookbook

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I’m smitten with this cookbook right now. I’m not sure how I missed Deb Perelman’s popular blog all these years, but it’s almost worth denying myself all of that goodness to stumble upon these recipes for the first time in this stunning book.

Everything I’ve made so far — Slow-Cooker Black Bean Ragout, Kale Salad with Cherries and Pecans, Harvest Roast Chicken with Grapes, Olives, and Rosemary — is mouth-watering. As you can see, the photos, which she took herself, are delectable.

But the very best part are her one-page introductions to each recipe, where she reveals morsels of her personality. It’s hard not to fall in love with her. For instance, here she is on zucchini:

Can we promise to never talk about the weather? For example, New York in July is hot. So very hot. Also humid. And unpleasant. And have I mentioned this heat? It’s unbearable. But tomorrow the weather will change, and you’ll have spent fifteen minutes talking about something that you don’t even remember. In my mind, this is infinitely worse than spending an evening discussing the finer points of different vegetable-roasting temperatures. (You are welcome to pity my husband right now. I understand.)

But if I were going to discuss the weather — which I won’t, I promise — on those days in July when the zillion inhabitants of this tiny island are squeezed into structures coated with heat-soaking concrete from floor to sky, while vehicles weave through the grid in a way that makes living in New York City challenging, I would suggest an antidote in the form of a cold, refreshing salad. One that required no heated cooking and, even better, helped us with summer’s real torment — zucchini population control.

“Maybe we should try to cook every recipe in here this summer,” I remarked to my husband as we salivated over the aforementioned kale salad for the second night in a row. Yes, salivation-inducing kale salad — seriously, a wonder!

And he agreed. So apparently, Perelman’s recipes manage to strike the perfect blend of crunchy and full of vegetables (me) and rich with butter and cream (my husband) to beguile both of us. It’s a marvel. I definitely recommend checking out The Smitten Kitchen. And now you’ll find me over at her beautiful blog catching up on what I’ve been missing over the past seven years.

What’s your favorite cookbook right now? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Ten Top Chefs Dish Up Local Cuisine

Travel Oregon is promoting Oregon right now with the Oregon Bounty Wanderfeast:

From the wine crush in Applegate Valley to the chanterelles hiding in the Coast Range to the fish and game that frolic in every nook and cranny of Oregon, ten top chefs will chase after ten of Oregon’s finest epicurean products. It’s ten weeks of foodie bliss, from one end of Oregon to the other.  And you’re invited to come along.

During Week One, a chef visits a farm , milks a cow, picks fruit and herbs, and makes a soft cheese. Week Four features a chef, who harvests heirloom pears near the base of Mount Hood, and prepares a local fish dish with them. And check out Week Five, where my sister brews up a one-of-a-kind “Artisan Spirits” out of juniper, purple thistle, and sage she finds near the Painted Hills of Eastern Oregon.

In Search of Healthy Cookies

Credit: D Sharon Pruitt

Anyone who’s spent any time with my son Ezra in the last six months has heard about his favorite food: “Hookies!” (The rest of us call them cookies.)

Ezra turns to me at least a dozen times each day and says with the utmost seriousness: “I need a hookie.” Dog, Bear, Turtle, and Seal eat a lot of hookies when we play make-believe. And as Ezra spins the steering wheel on the jungle gym at the park,  he invariably explains, “I’m going to get some hookies.”

Back when I was pregnant and scarfing down organic salads, wild salmon, wheat germ smoothies and the like, I never imagined how many cookies this child of mine would eat. But he loves them. He really does. And as much as I’d like to see him develop a fondness for say, alfalfa sprouts and endive, I can’t help but enjoy seeing the sheer pleasure this boy gets from a cookie. Oh yes, he delights in them that much.

I have a couple of favorite cookie recipes, which are easy to make and produce cookies that are tasty and as healthy as cookies can be. They are in heavy rotation around here these days, and I will share them below. Oh please say you also have a favorite healthy cookie recipe you’d be willing to pass on.

Honey Peanut Butter Cookies

(From Laurel’s Kitchen)

  • 1 cup natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup honey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

Cream peanut butter and honey together. Stir in egg and vanilla. Sift together salt, soda, and flour, and stir in peanut butter mixture.

Drop by teaspoonfuls onto oiled cookie sheets. Mash each cookie slightly with the back of a fork.

Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 8-12 minutes. They burn easily, so keep a close eye on them.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies

(From Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair)

  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips

Combine oats, flour, and salt together in a large bowl; set aside.

In a separate bowl mix together maple syrup, butter, and vanilla.

Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and mix well. Stir in nuts and chips. With moist hands form dough into 3-inch cookies and place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet.

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Do you make healthy and tasty cookies? Will you share a favorite recipe? (Links to blogs or online recipes more than welcome.)

More Flavor, More Nutrition, Less Food Waste

For years, making vegetable stock sounded like a good idea, but it wasn’t something I would actually do. It seemed difficult, like something I would need to buy a new pot for. But now I make it on a weekly basis, and I can attest, it is incredibly easy. And it’s a great way to:

  • Waste less food
  • Increase flavor in soups, stews, and dishes
  • Add more vitamins and minerals to your diet.

How to make vegetable stock:

Designate a container in your refrigerator or freezer for vegetable scraps. This is where you’ll put all of your onion and garlic skins, carrot tops, celery greens, outside cabbage leaves, etc.

You can use any kind of large pot for making stock. I love my cast iron dutch oven.

To make the stock:

  • Chop an onion and saute it in olive oil until soft.

Add

  • the onion skin
  • a carrot (chopped)
  • 2 celery sticks (chopped)
  • any other vegetable you have on hand, i.e. leeks, mushrooms, tomatoes, etc.
  • a tablespoon of culinary herbs. I use marjoram and thyme.
  • a teaspoon of salt.
  • the contents of your vegetable scrap container.
  • a couple of garlic cloves (optional)
  • a piece of kombu (Kombu is a savory, mineral-rich seaweed. You can learn more about it here.) (optional)

Cover the vegetables with water. (I usually make about 8 cups at a time.) Simmer for at least half an hour. Taste the broth. If it’s not flavorful enough, simmer it longer. When it’s done, strain it, let it cool, and pour it into jars. (If you’re going to freeze it, leave some space at the top of the jars.)

Stock is not just for soup

You can use stock to puree baby foods or cook rice. Or you can just pour it in a mug and sip it. It’s the perfect nourishing drink for a cold day or to build strength when you’re ill.


A Spring Giveaway!

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I’ll be away this week, so what better time for a giveaway?

If I had to own just one cookbook, it would be Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair. Many of Lair’s recipes are staples in my house – Whole Grain Bread, Kasha and Eggs, Mexican Bean and Corn Casserole,  Sweet Squash Corn Muffins, Yakisoba, Black Bean Tostados, Split Pea Soup with Fresh Peas and Potatoes, Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons and so many more.

Lair includes information for feeding babies and tips for raising healthy eaters. But this is a great cookbook whether you have kids are not. The recipes are easy to make, healthy, and incredibly flavorful.

Lair writes in the introduction:

Sitting down together and sharing food has enormous power. This ritual is an essential element in the spiritual glue that holds us together as families and communities. Learning to prepare and eat simple, whole foods that the earth naturally provides can transform lives.

This cookbook has definitely transformed my life and my family’s meals. And I would like to give away a copy of Feeding the Whole Family to one of you.

To enter:

  • Leave me a comment and tell me: What’s your favorite cookbook?

Double your chance of winning by:

  • Subscribing to New Urban Habitat. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)

Triple your chance of winning by:

  • Mentioning the giveaway in your blog. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)

Quadruple your chance of winning by:

  • Tweeting about the giveaway on Twitter. (And leave a comment telling me about it.)

Make sure you leave me your correct email address. The giveaway will close on Friday, March 26 at 6 p.m. (Pacific time). I’ll randomly choose and notify a winner by email on Saturday, March 28. The winner should reply to my email and provide me with a mailing address by Tuesday, March 30 . (If I don’t hear from the winner by then, I’ll choose a new winner from the entries next Wednesday.)

Good luck!

- Comments closed. Winner will be announced soon.-