Sunday, November 17, 2013


"Bellywash! Mmmmmm!"

That's what my husband exclaimed when I told him I was making escarole and bean soup for dinner  ("'scarole and beans," as he says, Italian fellow that he is). (Apparently "bellywash" is how his father referred to this simple soup, which is peasant comfort food at its best.)

Now, I love this soup not only because it's homey, delicious and healthy, but because it really is the easiest soup in the culinary universe to prepare. Here's how I do it:


About 6 cups organic low-sodium free range chicken stock
Escarole - 2 medium heads
Garlic - 3 large cloves, chopped
2 cans organic cannellini beans
1 tbs olive oil
lemon juice
Salt to taste

Wash escarole thoroughly, chop and set aside in a large bowl. In a large Dutch oven, add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add escarole and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. (It will look like a lot of escarole, but have no fear, it will cook waaaaayy down).

While the escarole is simmering, heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium low heat. When the oil is hot, add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add beans with liquid, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the escarole has cooked down and is nice and soft, add bean mixture.  Finish with salt and a zap of lemon juice, to taste.

Ladle into a big bowl and top with a generous heap of parmesan reggiano.

Serve with nice, crusty whole grain bread.

It's not fancy, but a really nice, simple meal to warm the belly on a cold winter day.

You can easily make it vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock and eliminating the cheese. Conversely, meat lovers will enjoy the addition of sausage or even chopped pepperoni (I found a delicious uncured pepperoni in my local supermarket. Even I like it--and I usually hate pepperoni.) Just be sure to use the best quality, richest stock you can find. This soup really demands that for depth of flavor.

Now, my behind-the-scenes (or should I say "behind-the-beans??) confession:

I only had one can of beans on hand, but had a container of small white beans in the freezer which I had soaked overnight and cooked up last week. (BTW, overnight soaking is my preferred method for dried bean preparation, but I realize that not everyone has the time or inclination.) Since I didn't need all the beans I didn't want to thaw the entire container. So, in my infinite wisdom, what did I decide to do? Hack at the frozen mass with a knife! Not a great idea. The tiny rock-hard beans flew up in the air and  landed all over the floor.

Did I stop cooking and pick them up? Heck, no. I kept on keeping' on….that is until I stepped on one (Did I mention I was wearing slippers?), which resulted in a skating move that almost landed me flat on my back. (Kristi Yamaguchi, you've got nothin' on me!)

Ok, I confess…I am not a patient, organized or neat cook. Goop flies everywhere; I make a godawful mess. Oh well, as long as dinner tastes good, it's worth it!

Are you a neat cook? If so, I want to hear from you. Help!

Ciao for now,


Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Food Is My Medicine"

These wise words, spoken by a woman who runs a local organic food group, resonate with me on many levels. To that end, I'd like catch you up on my "foodie" evolution. (I know it's been a while. I have a lot to say!) 

What's up with me? Well, many things, but let's start with this. Like every good, newly post-menopausal woman should, I went for a DEXA scan to measure my bone density. (We're going back almost two years now). That scan was compared to a "baseline" scan done two years prior. Well, well well. I was shocked and dismayed to find that I had osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis. 

This news put me in a tailspin. Whaaaattt?? What to do now? My doctor said,"You're young to have this--I recommend medication." She was none too happy when I refused suggested meds and fled from her office. 

No, thank you!! 

Now, this is not the forum to discuss the risks/benefits of osteoporosis medication (or whether it is appropriate for those with osteopenia--a contentious topic). Whether to medicate or not for this condition is a personal decision.  

After looking into the various medication options out there, I knew they weren't for me. My plan of attack: research, research and more research. 

Ultimately, I formulated an approach that I was comfortable with.

My plan:

Revamp my diet to be more alkalizing--reduce consumption of sugar, animal protein and some dairy products (more about dairy another time). Many experts believe that osteoporosis is caused by chronic acidosis (the more acidic your blood is, the more calcium your body pulls from your bones to compensate). 

Natural, food-based supplements--calcium along with vitamins D & K, boron, silica, and other synergistic elements (bone health depends on much more than calcium and vitamin D). Given studies linking calcium supplements with increased stroke risk in women, I'd rather ingest calcium sourced from algae and sesame seeds rather than crushed rock...wouldn't you? I also opted to take strontium at bedtime, separated from calcium supplements (and calcium-containing foods) by at least 3 hours. (All this along with my usual multi and  EFAs.) 

Greens, greens, greens! Let's hear it for kale, collards and chard, lightly cooked--all great sources of calcium and other good stuff. 

Exercise--walking with a weighted vest (love that thing!) and interval/weight training. (Jillian Michaels I adore and fear you, all at the same time!)

I also opted for additional vitamin D and topical magnesium spray/lotion. 

Has the "natural" approach worked its magic on my poor, porous bones? You'll find out in my next post….

Caio for now,