Thursday, September 25, 2008

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #3

What is the most popular page on my web site right now? In the upper Midwest the months of August and September are the "tomato months", those much anticipated months when locally grown fresh tomatoes are finally available in abundance, just bursting with their peak flavors, and are loaded on the tables at the roadside farm stands and local farmers' markets. Apparently people are looking for a recipe for Fresh Tomato Soup on both and, as thousands are finding their way to the recipe for tomato soup that I have posted on my web site, which is the same recipe I have been making for my family for nearly 25 years.

Here is the Fresh Tomato Soup Recipe as I made it for this group, which was essentially tripling the recipe on my web site so that it would serve 10-12 easily:

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped (about 1 cup chopped) - I use yellow onions from our garden
3 garlic cloves, chopped small - from our garden
3 carrots, chopped small
2 sweet red peppers, chopped small
3 Tbsp. whole wheat flour
12 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes - a variety of heirloom tomatoes from our garden
9 cups tomato juice (homemade by putting stewed tomatoes through a food mill but purchased juice would work)
3 Tbsp. tomato paste (homemade, but store-bought is fine)
1/2 tsp. salt (omit if using store-bought tomato juice)
Fresh basil, chopped fine to use as garnish
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat olive oil over medium high setting. Add chopped onions and garlic to heat for a few minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic). Chop remaining vegetables by hand or in a food processor (I used the food processor) and then add to onions and garlic. Heat through for a few minutes until just starting to soften. Add the whole wheat flour, stir, and cook for a few minutes. Then add the tomatoes, heating until tomatoes soften and just start to fall apart. At this point, I carefully put about half the soup into my blender (it will be hot) in batches so that the blender is never more than half full. Puree those vegetables and put back into the soup pot. Then add the tomato juice and tomato paste and cook on a simmer until everything is heated through. Add salt to taste. Serve either with a sprinkle of basil or cheese (or both).

This robust soup is what I chose as the centerpiece of the meal I served for our third book club dinner and discussion. Along with it, I served our kale-bean salad plus freshly made whole wheat French bread (my first time to make my own). The recipe for the bread came from a great cookbook I have used for several years called Fix-It-Fast Vegetarian Cookbook by Heather Reseck. In addition, we had lots of cherry tomatoes from our garden and concord grapes from the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market.

We finished discussing In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan along with some professional peer-reviewed articles that reviewed the Registered Dietitian's role in the protection of our natural resources and the promotion of ecologically sustainable food systems. Much of the discussion was on the apparent disconnect between (1) much of the content of ADA's position paper regarding the need to conserve and protect the natural resources that are part of the food production system and (2) ADA's partnerships with various food companies (however, calling a company like Coca-cola a "food company" seems like the very definition of the word oxymoron).

I don't remember which blessing I chose to start our book club meal. So instead I'll close with a food blessing that a friend had picked out to read as the grace before the dinner at her daughter's wedding reception last weekend. She forgot to bring the book to the reception so instead said a beautiful blessing totally from the heart (the only wedding reception blessing I've ever heard that thanked the farmers for growing our food) but later gave me a copy of what she had intended to say. Here it is:

As we begin this meal with grace,
Let us become aware of the memory
Carried inside the food before us:
The quiver of the seed
Awakening in the earth,
Unfolding in a trust of roots
And slender stems of growth,
On its voyage to harvest,
The kiss of rain and surge of sun;
The innocence of animal soul
That never spoke a word,
Nourished by the earth
To become today our food;
The work of all the strangers
Whose hands prepared it,
The privilege of wealth and health
That enables us to feast and celebrate.

~~John O'Donohue in To Bless the Space Between Us, Doubleday, 2008

Weddings are some life's most treasured moments, indeed they are true wealth. I feel so fortunate and count my blessings to have the health that allowed me to travel to this lovely wedding last weekend surrounded by very good friends! The friends at this wedding took care of me, my husband, and my children (who were ages 7 and 2) during my 9 months of chemotherapy in 1984-85. As I was recovering after completing chemotherapy, I realized that I could never, ever repay in kind all the countless ways these friends helped my family. I actually remember the instant when I first really understood the concept of "paying it forward". I have never forgotten the love and support these friends showed me and my family during those long and very difficult months, and I have kept their love in my heart, paying it forward ever since.

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Saturday, September 13, 2008

What do dietitians eat? Book club menu #2

Sorry this is SO late getting posted (Book club #3 will be this week!).
Here was our dinner menu for the August book club meeting:

• Soup - Midsummer Corn Chowder w/Basil, Tomato, and Fennel from Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook
• Salad - Tabouli (from my web site)
• Breads - Italian Whole Wheat w/dried basil and garlic powder plus Italian Whole Wheat w/fresh rosemary and freshly ground black pepper, basic recipe from my bread machine instruction book
• Iced teas - Chai flavored (recipe from my web site) and decaffeinated English Breakfast

The fresh corn on the cob and fennel were purchased at my local Farmers' Market in Ypsilanti, MI, from the New Age Farm in Clinton, MI. The potatoes were purchased at the Ann Arbor Farmers' Market from Tantré Farm in Chelsea, MI.

This soup recipe actually started by making corn cob stock, the first time I have ever done that. It's simple and worth the extra step. Just cut off the corn kernels from the corn cobs while still uncooked (set aside). Put 6 corn cobs, break in half, into 8 cups of water. Add whatever additional vegetables or tops or herbs you have on hand for a fuller flavor. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 60-90 minutes. Allow to cool enough to strain, then store covered in the refrigerator until ready to make the soup. Many little pieces of corn came off the cobs, which I assume was the germ for each kernel. I scooped them up and popped them into my mouth, rather than sending them down the drain (horrors!) or even into the compost pile. Yum, yum, yum, yum!!

The soup recipe is easy to put together and just delicious, well worth waiting for great mid-summer locally grown corn to make this recipe. I will give you the basic recipe, which I doubled for my group.

• 6 ears fresh corn, husks and silk removed (see above for removing corn kernels prior to making stock)
• 3 Tbsp. olive oil (I always use less)
• 3 cloves garlic (I always use more!) - finely diced
• 1 large onion, cut into fine dice (I used a yellow onion)
• 1 small bulb of fennel (~1/2 pound) - diced
• 1 stalk celery - diced (I didn't use this)
• 1 large carrot - diced
• 1 # white waxy potatoes, peeled and diced (I used organic Yukon golds)
• 2 teaspoons dried thyme
• 2 quarts (8 cups) fresh corn stock, veggie broth, or water (as mentioned above, I took the time to make the corn cob broth)
• 1 # tomatoes, seeded and chopped small (I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes from our garden)
• 1/3 cup fresh basil, cut into thin strips
• Salt and freshly ground pepper (I didn't use any)

Preheat a large soup stock pan, add the olive oil, then sauté the garlic for only 30 seconds or so (do not burn). Then add the onion, Stir and sweat for 5 minutes (again, be careful not to burn). Add the carrots and celery, stir, and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the fennel, cover, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Then add the potatoes, cook covered for ~3 minutes, then add the corn, stir, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Add the stock, stir, cover, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium and allow the soup to simmer, covered with the lid tilted so a small amount of heat can escape, for 45 minutes. At that point, take out ~1-1/2 cups of soup, cool a bit, then pureé with an immersion blender or put into a counter top blender (be careful not to burn yourself with escaping steam or hot soup!).
Add back to the put, then add the tomatoes and basil, heat over medium heat just until heated through and soup is hot.

We just thawed a quart of this to eat the other night and my husband and I were surprised to find that we ate the entire quart between us for dinner - it is THAT good! If you can still get fresh corn on the cob in your area, get out your large soup pot and make some of this to enjoy now and also to freeze for later, enjoying the taste of fresh corn at a later time when it is not available any more.

Our group of dietitians have been reading The Omnivore's Dilemma and In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan to get our book club started. These are both informative and unsettling books. Reading either of them cannot help but change how one thinks about our food and its sources. The owners of one of our local brew-pubs (Arbor Brewing Co.) consider reading The Omnivore's Dilemma to be a life-changing book and have dedicated themselves to undertaking the enormous task of redoing the entire menu with a goal of providing choices made from foods that are locally grown or produced, natural, and sustainably grown. (I have a friend who wishes she had a personal budget large enough to purchase a copy of this book to give to the owner and/or chef for each and every restaurant in Ann Arbor.)

I would like to end with a blessing sent by a colleague (Sanna Delmonico, MS, RD). It captures several of the major messages in these two books that we need to develop a values driven food system in which food produced is not only good, clean, and fair (as promoted at the recent Slow Food USA event) but accessible and affordable for all, too.

Bless this food we are about to receive.
Give bread to those who hunger.
And hunger for justice to us who have bread.
~~ Traditional American Grace

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Recipes: Dr. Dick's Kale Slaw and Diana's Kale-Bean Salad

I've been off the web for a month, so I have lots of ideas for catch-up. Let's get started!

Kale is definitely more than decoration on the plate in our house. In fact it often takes center stage. Here are two fabulous recipes, mine a variation of my husband's creation, plus more suggested variations than even we could make in a month! I've included my husband's narrative about his creation of a recipe for Kale Slaw first, followed by my recipe for a Kale-Bean Salad that was a big hit at a recent Ann Arbor Lady Food Bloggers Picnic.


Dr. Dick’s Kale Slaw

While working in the garden in late July 2008, I broke off a piece of a kale leaf and was munching on it as I watered tomatoes and harvested onions. Pretty tasty, I thought and then the idea came to me. Maybe raw kale would make a great slaw. After all, most American slaws are made with cabbage, which is a member of the same brassica family of plants, so why not give it a try. An internet search confirmed that no great idea is unique and, in fact, the term “kale slaw” turned up lots of links but few recipes. So, here is what I came up with, and it turned out to be pretty tasty. The basic recipe is adapted from another for Texas Cole Slaw in our 1971 edition of The New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook by Jean Hewitt.

Fresh kale leaves sufficient to prepare 4 cups diced kale
1 green or red pepper, diced
1 large carrot, shredded
1 onion, diced (sweet onions are better than yellow onions for this)
4 cloves garlic, pressed

1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons white vinegar
¼ cup water
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed

Prep is easy. Harvest fresh kale leaves the day you prepare the slaw. Wash the leaves and shake them dry. You may trim the stems but I leave them in. With a sharp knife dice the leaves until you have pieces the size you would enjoy in your slaw. Combine and mix the kale, pepper, carrot, onion and pressed garlic in a ceramic bowl. You may want to reserve a small piece of carrot to put through the garlic press after the garlic to get as much of the garlic as possible through the press. In a small food processor (preferred) or bowl, mix the remaining ingredients thoroughly to dissolve the brown sugar and emulsify the oil with the remaining liquids. Pour this dressing over the mixed veggies and let the mix marinate in the refrigerator for at least a few hours. Very crunchy and tasty!

Options I want to try: The recipe above is exactly what I prepared on my first try and it was good. Alternatives might include adding a teaspoon of fennel or dill seeds, some dry mustard, or a diced jalapeno pepper. It might be nice to include cucumber, celery or other crunchy vegetables or an apple. Perhaps curry powder and raisins.

Sorry to admit this yummy salad got eaten completely before a photo was taken. I'll be sure to insert one the next time Dick makes this!


Kale-Bean Salad Recipe

For days after tasting Dick's kale slaw, I kept thinking it reminded me of something else I had eaten, in fact eaten a lot of. Hmmmm, it finally came to me (aha!) that the dressing was very similar to my mother's recipe for a 3 bean salad. Thus, my recipe is a variation of Dick's kale slaw with several types of beans added to more mimic my mother's bean salad recipe and a couple of other changes, which turned out to be a very pleasant taste surprise.

• Fresh kale leaves (a variety is preferable, which you can easily grow or find at your local Farmers' Market, rather than just using the standard and tough curly kale found in the grocery store) - enough to end up with ~4 cups of small chop kale leaves without stems
• 1/2 medium onion, small dice (I used a yellow onion from our garden)
• 1/3 fennel large bulb, small dice (or more to taste, but this was all I used)
• 1/2 red sweet pepper, small dice
• 1-2 cups garbanzo beans, cooked, drained (one 15 ounce can, rinsed well and drained, would work fine for all the beans)
• 1-2 cups black beans, cooked, drained
• 1-2 cups adzuki beans, cooked, drained
• 1-2 cups flageolet beans (or any white bean, but the light green of the flageolet beans adds a lovely, unusual color), cooked, drained
• 3-4 bulbs fresh garlic, very small dice (I used one huge elephant garlic clove)

• 1/3 cup brown sugar
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
• 2 tablespoons white vinegar
• ¼ cup water
• ¼ cup olive oil
• 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
Blend together in a blender or food processor (the fennel seeds did not completely blend but end up as chopped pieces, which is fine)

I washed the kale, trimmed away the big or tough stems, shook the leaves dry, then spun them in the salad spinner to dry even more (surprisingly little water was left after shaking dry initially). I diced the leaves into small pieces with a chef's knife. It sounds like a lot of work, but the dicing went quite quickly. In fact, I had picked more than enough kale from our garden.

Dice the onion, fennel, and red pepper.
Toss all together with the kale and beans in a very large bowl.
Add the dressing and toss again. This dressing recipe made the bare minimum of dressing for this amount of salad. I think next time I might experiment with making 1-1/2 times the dressing amount.
Allow to marinate to blend flavors, then transfer to a serving bowl where all the beautiful colors of this salad can be seen and appreciated.

I was worried both that the fennel would be too strong or that it would not be discernable. However, I was as pleased as could be at the subtle flavor that the amount of fresh fennel and seeds I used contributed to the overall salad. One friend attending the picnic said she didn't think she liked fennel but maybe she did! I don't recall that my mother ever used fresh fennel or fennel seeds in anything she cooked. I think adding the fennel and kale makes a refreshing update to her bean salad (which was my only introduction to dried beans while growing up).

This is a photo of the row of kale (about 3 feet) we planted in the spring, still going strong in September. We also have one plant that wintered over, which is still growing leaves to pick and is also producing seeds that we are collecting to plant next year. In addition, we have MUCH more kale planted (gosh, maybe 20-25 feet??) for the fall that will be producing in abundance throughout the next many months with plenty for freezing, too.

Guess what my husband and I will be doing this fall? Like my T-shirt and water bottle say, "Eat More Kale!" :-) Enjoy the taste and feel fulfilled. (Believe it or not, even our dog eats kale!)

I'm going to end with an abbreviated version of a prayer that captures a spirit of gratitude and enjoyment for the nourishment to body and spirit that good food and a good life provide.

Taste and see that God is good.
Why spend your substance on what does not nourish
And your labor on what cannot satisfy?
Listen to me, and you will enjoy what is good,
And find delight in what is truly precious.
~~ Abraham Isaac Kook (1865-1935)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Tribute to Mona

My good friend, Mona Jones, died last week from breast cancer. As I have written in past postings, I regularly start my week by lighting three candles at The first candle is always for all people on a cancer journey, sending them love and support while also sending my best wishes for health, healing, and hope. The other two candles are lit in gratitude for cancer caregivers and cancer researchers. This week I lit one additional candle in honor of my friend Mona who is being buried today in her Kentucky hometown. Cancer did ultimately claim her body seven years after her initial diagnosis but never laid claim on her fighting and loving spirit.

Also last week, I had looked ahead on the calendar to count down the days until my husband's birthday, making sure I figured out how old he would be - 58?, 59?, yes 59! - oh golly, that sounded so old. The next day I heard that Mona was very close to death. Mona is my age, 58, and in a flash, both 58 and 59 seemed so young.

Although I have had more than my share of cancer experiences with associated fears of a too young death, I have not walked as far down the cancer path as Mona did. She and I did not talk about our similar yet different paths in the deep sense of what were our fears and our hopes once her cancer had spread to be considered incurable. It was certainly much easier to talk about the "technical" or logistical details related to cancer and more enjoyable to talk about the current lives of our grown children. I sensed an awkwardness and a distance, more a sadness rather than bitterness, on both of our parts about bridging a discussion about one of us having higher odds of living longer than the other, with hopes of experiencing more of the future of our own individual life and those of our children.

I have tried reflecting on the number of friends, relatives (including my father), coworkers, neighbors, along with the large number of friends of friends that the world has lost to cancer, all taken prematurely while still loving life and having much to give. I confess that I have lost "count". The vast number almost seems mind-numbing. However, it would be a dishonor to all these courageous people to permit the overwhelming number to become numbing. Instead, I hope reflection of Mona's death along so many others leads to an individual and community call to action that in some meaningful way contributes to prevention, caring, or curing of this difficult and unfair diagnosis.

Mona had a peaceful and pain-free death, at home, with her family who loved her dearly, in stark contrast to a description of death in today's New York Times, "Perhaps Death is Proud; More Reason to Savor Life". One quotation that I keep near and dear to my heart, with a deep understanding in every cell of my body, is a Russian proverb that I saw stitched into a square of an AIDS quilt many years ago: "Hope is the last to die". Cancer is a tough taskmaster and may claim my body one day too. I finally accepted and came to peace with that possibility many years ago. However, my hopes are that I too, like Mona, will have a peaceful, pain-free death, at home, with my family, will have led a purposeful life, loved and savored life by creating my own community and beauty right up to the end of my life without letting cancer lay claim to my spirit. Otherwise, I will have given cancer permission to kill me twice. No way, no how, will I allow that.

Thank you, Mona, for showing us all how to live and how to die. I am sending you love and a hug up to heaven. With love and friendship, my heart and home, along with those of of your neighborhood friends, will always be open to Wayne, Jeremy and Jenny.

Diana Dyer