Join a CSA !

IMG_6384I ‘m always trying to inspire people to make good choices, especially when it comes to eating habits. But, in order to motivate others, I know I need to give a good example.
So a couple of weeks ago I joined a CSA, i.e. a Community Sustained Agriculture program.
What is a CSA? It’s a program that allows people to reap the benefits of eating local, seasonal, high-quality fruits and vegetables and at, the same time, ensure that the farmers stay in the business of growing organic food.

It’s a very sensible and innovative concept but, if you think, it’s not very different from what we used to do in the past. It’s ironic how, with our constant need to improve, sometimes we change things that are good just as they are. Until a few decades ago, we used to eat only what was in season and only what was local, simply because we had no other choice. But transportation and refrigeration have changed completely our diets. Add the fact that we love quantity, variety and convenience and so were born the supermarkets, brimming with produce that is in-season year round, often comes from thousands of miles away, and that looks so good that it seems fake. And fake it is: genetically engineered, pumped with fertilizers, dipped in chemical baths and waxed to extend its shelf life. Have you ever noticed that apples do not rot anymore? Well, at least apparently. They actually do, but from the inside out. The artificial waxing prevents them from “breathing”, so that their surface remains firm. As it happens, Mother Nature thought about waxing before humans did and apples do produce their own natural waxy coating. Over time, though, untreated apples wrinkle. Who would buy apples that look like these?
Actually, these apples are still delicious. I bought them eight months ago from a local organic farm and kept them in my cellar. In spite of their appearance, they are still edible. I cut them into big pieces, add water, some raisins, and cook them for twenty minutes. They absorb the water like sponges, plump up and they end up looking exactly like cooked apples bought yesterday. I eat them in the morning with my yoghurt or as a dessert.

IMG_6392After picking up my first delivery from Outer Aisle CSA – what a suggestive name! – and spreading that vegetal bounty over my counter, in my mind I thanked the good people at Outer Aisle for finding the courage to start their distribution network.
CSAs have existed for the last 25 years but where I live there simply wasn’t enough demand to support a CSA. Like all agriculture-related businesses, it’s in fact a risky and not so-profitable venture, but finally the local awareness scale has tipped towards choosing quality vs. quantity, and we can finally afford to have a CSA.

Advantages for farmers:

  • Get to spend time marketing the food early in the year, before their 16 hour days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:

  • Eat ultra-fresh food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Usually get to visit the farm at least once a season
  • Find that kids typically favor food from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown.

So find a CSA near you and join it today !

Do it for yourself and do it for the people you love.
Do it to teach your children how to eat right, what is in season and what is not, but also so that they can experience what you experienced as a child when “eating your fruit” meant savoring your neighbor’s juicy peaches or your grandma’s sweet cherries, not drinking a box of juice sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup.
Do it to pass on to your children good habits that will keep them healthy, not only physically but also mentally and morally because processed food might be cheaper and more gratifying than real food but, like any other shortcut in life, they are going to pay later for it.

Diabetes Awareness

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.

The key word in the sentence above might seem Diabetes, but it’s indeed Awareness.

Be aware of what you eat, be aware of your weight but most of all be aware of changes in your body, changes that you might be ignoring but that are trying to tell you that you should change your habits and choose healthier ones, not for the sake of how you look but for the sake of your wellbeing.

I encourage you to read this article on Life with Diabetes that was sent to me by Dr. Mario Trucillo, Managing Editor of The American Recall Center and keep it in mind during the Holiday Season (and for the rest of the year, too!)

I hope that it will help you make sensible food choices, for yourself and for your family.

Live Healthy to Avoid Diabetes!

Tips for Eating Right While Traveling

Cole Millen, an avid traveler and foodie, has asked me to post this article to share the tips and tricks that he has learned in his experiences of traveling and staying healthy on the road.
Sometimes it’s challenging to maintain a nutritious diet when indulging in cuisines across the world, but you don’t have to sacrifice flavor to eat right.
When I travel, unfortunately cannot leave my many food intolerances at home. Sometimes there is no way to control how the food is prepared and a meal with the wrong ingredient can ruin my experience of the places I’m visiting. That’s why being prepared and informed becomes important.
One more tip: don’t be shy and ask your waiters to accommodate your special needs. You’d be pleasantly surprised by how willing they are to make your meal an enjoyable experience.

Tips for Eating Right While Traveling
by Cole Millen

melaThe stress of travel can be multiplied if you don’t take care to eat healthy while away from home. Even vacations can become hazardous to your health if you don’t take the time to find healthy options while away. Although you regularly incorporate healthy eating habits at home, it may be challenging to maintain these habits when traveling. I find that a little advanced preparation goes a long way toward helping me remain committed to my healthy habits when I’m on the road.
First, I try to learn a little about the place where I plan to travel before I embark on my journey. Information including what amenities are available at hotels and what restaurants can be found in an area helps to give me a good handle on what to expect. I was even able to find restaurants offering gluten-free menus by browsing reviews of different Las Vegas hotels and digging through reviews from real people. I have found that these are the most unbiased and honest forms of information when looking for a place to stay.
When booking my flight, I also check for the healthiest available options. In-flight meals and snacks are notoriously unhealthy. If an in-flight meal will be served, I make sure to request a healthy vegetarian option to avoid high-sodium, processed meats. I also pack raw almonds, dried fruits, and other healthy snacks in my carry-on to enjoy, rather than succumb to caloric goodies served on the plane.
At my destination, I frequently find a local health-food store where I can stock up on a few healthy snacks to keep in my room, and I always refuse the key to the tempting mini bar. This helps me avoid the pitfall of late-night binge eating. At hotels that offer a complimentary breakfast, I look for fresh fruit, whole-grain toast and perhaps a boiled egg or two. These give me good energy for a full day and help me avoid starchy, caloric foods like muffins and waffles.
Eating out while traveling provides its own dangers to a healthy diet. I try to stick by the same guidelines that I use when eating out at home. “Broiled” and “steamed” are good words to look for on a menu, while I stay away from anything labeled “batter fried.” Also, the more color there is on a plate, the healthier it tends to be, so I often choose menu items by pictures loaded with veggies.
The stress release a vacation provides is a boon for our health, and we all need to take a little time off now and then. And while it’s ok to indulge a bit on vacation, there’s no need to send your diet off the rails and quash any potential health benefits your getting from your trip. If the place I am visiting offers an absolutely irresistible regional treat, I will treat myself once or twice during the trip, but otherwise, I stick to the tips above to get the most out of my vacation!

Food for Thought

Instead of a new dish, today I’m posting a video worth one thousand healthy recipes, and certainly your time and your consideration.

If you are still thinking that your diet doesn’t affect your health, think again.

In this incredible video, Dr. Terry Wahls talks about her experience defeating MS (multiple sclerosis) with foods commonly found in the paleo diet. She was diagnosed with MS in the year 2000.  Over the course of 7 years Dr. Wahls lost her ability to walk normally and was dependent upon canes to move around. When she wasn’t struggling to move around normally she was forced to use a tilt recline wheelchair. All of this while her memory and cognitive motor skills continued to decline.
Then, in the fall of 2007, she had a very important epiphany. She thought that if she were to dramatically change her diet, and began eating healthy, she may be able to gain the upper hand on MS. She set out to perform a life-or-death experiment on herself based on her findings in the latest animal research.

After having observed on myself the amazing results that a change of diet can make, I’m not completely surprised by the success of Dr. Wahls, although I find it nonetheless astonishing. If you reflect on the premises on which she based her research, next time you are planning your meals you might want to think twice about the kind of food you want to choose.

Regardless of current dietary practices or lifestyle I believe everyone can benefit from watching this amazing TEDx talk that the Doctor gives on her life-changing story:


Cancer and the Importance of Nutrition by Jillian Mckee

The other day I received a request to post an article on the importance of nutrition for cancer patients. After reading it, I could only agree that what its author writes makes a lot of sense and can be applied not only to cancer patients but also to everybody who is affected by any long-term disease.
After all, didn’t it use to be common sense to recommend light, nutritious diets (like the famous chicken broth) to sick patients, so that the organism could concentrate on recovery without being overwhelmed with lengthy digestions?

When did we forget this basic principle and started to feel entitled to eat only junk food just because we are sick, to end up with more problems because of our poor choices?

So thank you Gillian for reminding us the importance of a healthy nutrition, especially when we are sick.


“Cancer and the Importance of Nutrition”  by Jillian Mckee

When you have cancer, it can be challenging to maintain good nutritional habits.  Regardless of whether you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, bone cancer or colon cancer, there will be changes to your appetite and the way in which your system tolerates common foods during the course of treatment.

Nutritional Needs Change

Previous to diagnosis, your doctor probably recommended a diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in calories and fat.  However, living with cancer will cause changes to your nutritional and dietary needs. Some obstacles that many cancer patients encounter include fatigue, depression, and difficulty maintaining a healthy weight. A proper diet can help combat these obstacles. Continue reading

I’m back!

Some of my aficionados have been complaining that I haven’t posted any new recipes in more than a week.
Where have I been? Simply outdoors, since it’s the time of the year when gardening is the most demanding of my activities and it cannot wait, forcing me to neglect my blog.

While the garden work is ceaseless and it peaks right now, up here at three thousand feet the growing season is short. We plant our summer veggies and annuals after Mother’s Day because a late frost can still surprise us, even in May. But, before we get to plant, we need to pull tons of weeds, amend and till the soil, check the irrigation, and do all those little things that every passionate garden does at springtime. Did I mention mowing the grass? That is a daily chore because, by the time you are finished with the last area of your yard, the grass has already grown back where you started.
As you can easily imagine, after many hours a day of such hard work, I’m so exhausted that I can’t even
think of writing recipes – least of all my articles – although I’ve missed my writing more than you’ve missed your reading, believe me. Continue reading

Of Mushrooms and Marmalade

I’m a strong believer in the old proverb that says that “What goes around, comes around”.
It might be a way of the Universe of re-balancing itself or simply the way things work on planet Hearth. I’ve witnessed countless examples where both good and bad actions have found strange ways of ricocheting until they went back to where they had originated, closing an imaginary circle.

Now that we have an empty nest, cooking in big quantities doesn’t make any sense for just my husband and I, but I still love the satisfaction that comes from looking at a table covered with food that I have prepared or at a big batch of orange marmalade, wondering what I would do with all that preserve, way too sugary for us to eat often.
The solution is easy: I give my food away. I choose special occasions to plan dinner parties so that I can cook for an army of friends, without worrying of eating too much because my guests gladly do that. Continue reading


The other day, while waiting in line after shopping for groceries, I was double-checking my  list and my cart for my usual two reasons: to verify that I had bought everything I needed and to make sure that there was enough variety.
I love variety, not only because I know that it’s a good habit but also because it affords me the luxury to be creative with my menus and to satisfy my eating whims.
I’ve been this way since I can remember. When my mother sent me to the grocery store with a list of things to buy, I regularly came home with two or three extra items “just in case”, like I used to tell her to justify my digressions from her precise instructions. My purchases didn’t reflect the typical desires of a child of my age (ice cream, candies, chips, etc.) but simple alternatives to what my mother was going to cook. Continue reading

With a grain of salt

Last year a couple of dear friends of mine were waiting for a delayed flight when, as it often happens in these situations, they started chatting with another passenger.
Noticing his accent, one of my friends – a gourmand who owns a beautiful restaurant in Napa – asked if he was from “down under”.
The guy was indeed Australian and when he specified that he came from “the Murray River area” my friend exclaimed, “I know precisely where it is!
“I betcha you do, mate!” the Aussie replied, giving her a skeptical look. Continue reading

Ideas for breakfast

 If I were a car, I would have one of those old diesel engines that need to be warmed up.
My mornings start slowly, very slowly. I’m so grumpy that my son has given me a fridge magnet that reads “Just plain evil without my coffee.”
It is indeed only after a strong, sweet espresso that I can start to reason, but still not enough to be creative about my breakfast. My upbringing doesn’t help either. In my family breakfast was strictly sweet and most of the time consisted of milk and coffee with cookies. Continue reading