Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Ninety-One, Updating Day One-Hundred Thirty-Three (Three Studies Point to the Gut As A Place to Find Better Health)

During the summer of 2011, an on-line customer informed me she eats Spelt Right products because her diet change, which included replacing wheat with spelt, helped her reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.  She said that, on the recommendation of her endocrinologist, she removed white starchy flours from her diet and replaced them with ancient grains like spelt and quinoa.  As a result, she lost 30 pounds.

I have heard similar stories, but this piqued my curiosity. 

I started researching and found an interesting article in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science, entitled Adjuvant Diet to Improve Hormonal and Metabolic Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Prognosis.   This article contains some incredible information based on medical studies.

In a nutshell, it states what many of us already know, but hate to admit. Americans (and others adopting the "Western Diet") eat a lot of junk, don't exercise much, and are getting sick as a result.  The good news is that there are ways to turn this around. One way is to eat better, and one of the recommendations for better eating is to chose spelt and other heirloom grains over processed grains.

The abstract of this article states that “western lifestyle, characterized by reduced physical activity and a diet rich in fat, refined carbohydrates, and animal protein is associated with high prevalence of overweight, metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and high plasma levels of several growth factors and sex hormones….[T]hese factors are associated with breast cancer risk and, in breast cancer patients, with increased risk of recurrences.  Recent trials have proven that such metabolic and endocrine imbalance can be favorably modified through comprehensive dietary modification, shifting from Western to Mediterranean and macrobiotic diet.”  (Emphasis added).

Among the other dietary recommendations, the article suggests that breast cancer patients should “reduce high glycemic index and high insulinemic index foods, such as refined flours, potatoes, white rice, corn flakes, sugar, and milk, using instead whole grain cereals (unrefined rice, barley, millet, oat, spelt, quinoa)."  

The human body's ability to "heal" itself  when fed the proper foods is the topic of a recent Harvard study published in Nature in December 2013.  The study indicates that the types of foods (plant based proteins vs. animal based proteins) influence the bacteria in the gut almost immediately, and that the human gut rapidly adapts to positive dietary change.

Similarly there are recent studies demonstrating that gut health is related not only to physical wellness, but also is connected to brain function.  A study conducted by CalTech published in
Cell in December 2013 demonstrates that there is a connection between the gut and the brain, suggesting that the use of probiotics may alleviate the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorders.  "Traditional research has studied autism as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to ASD-like symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated," says Prof. of Biology Sarkis Mazmanian. "Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions."

All of these scientific studies support what my family has been unscientifically proving over the past eight years.  A balanced diet rich in whole foods (no additives or highly processed foods or grains) leads to a healthier, more productive life, with less "down time" and a stronger immune system.  The benefits of our "clean diet" lifestyle are most prominent with our son whose health and behavior have improved dramatically as a result of the change.

Americans have been in a state of amnesia, forgetting to listen to their bodies which have been the primary indicators since time immemorial of what is good and what is not.  We ignore the signs when we abuse our bodies with bad food choices and we are led down a false path that a simple pill will fix it.  We simply need to look to the past for our answers today. As the Ancient Greek Physician Hippocrates is oft quoted, "Let food be thy medicine; let medicine be thy food."

Monday, November 18, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Ninety (On Learning to Slow Down and Relax with the Help of a Spelt Banana Muffin)


Here is a really moist, completely lovely, spelt banana bread that comes with clear instructions on how to make and how to eat. Certain of the instructions are mandatory, others offer some flexibility.

1) Make Muffins as set forth below.
2) Eat only when sitting at your nicely lit table (no eating on the run)
3) Enjoy with a glass of milk (cow’s, goat’s, soy, almond - your preference), or cup of coffee (or cup of chai)
4) with the newspaper open (sounds so antiquated),
5) No electronic media allowed near or on the table or in your hand
6) savor each bite, sip your drink, relax for a moment.

1/2 cup soft butter
1 cup organic sugar
2TBL organic black strap molasses (optional)
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups whole grain VITA SPELT flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking soda
1/4 cup orange juice
2-3 ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream butter and sugar, beat in eggs.  Add dry ingredients, and then mix in mashed bananas and orange juice.   Mix well.  Bake in 12 muffin pan.  Bake for 30-35 minutes.

OK, did it work?  Did you slow down for at least 20 minutes?  I hope the answer is yes.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Days One-Hundred Eighty Two through One-Hundred Eighty Nine (Seven Days - On Eating)

Cinnamon Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding
In the Shadows Reflecting on the Week
In the shadows, we gain perspective. As we peer back and look forward, we see what worked, what didn’t, what we should change, and what we should keep just the same. Last week was a first for us, but perhaps, not the last. As Tim scaled the Great Wall in search of vast opportunities in the eastern frontier, I had to take on the daily drive from Upper Manhattan to Westchester and back again, throwing in a few Brooklyn and NJ detours along the way. Tim works where the kids go to school, so the drive is usually not on my agenda, and certainly not round-trip twice a day. The kids and I planned how to make seven days less stressful even though the days and nights required more organization from the tween and teen and more mileage from the quinquagenarian. We did seven days solo, and we did it well.
Homemade Home Fries
Spelt Right Bagels, CC, Bacon,
Homemade Pear Sauce, Homemade Custard

We planned it around food, around dinner and breakfasts, around go-to-bed times and early rise times, around planning ahead, packing your backpacks, having your phones, and not-losing it when you did not have your phones. We planned for mistakes, we made mistakes, but we got over them. We cooperated. We made messes. We cleaned them up. We did homework. We forgot homework. We laughed, sang, yelled, danced, and smiled.
The Dining "Room" Table -
 It's More Like the "Dining Corner"

Most transformative of all, though, was that for each of our meals - breakfast and dinner - we sat at our dining "room" table beautifully set and lit as if for guests, and ate our foods with appreciation of their inherent gifts rather than inhaling the foods as an afterthought on the way out the door. It became ritualistic to gather together to share these two meals, talk about the day to come, and the day that just finished. By being purposeful, we calmed our souls and set the tone ready to take on the challenges of each day. We started a new tradition, which we will incorporate into our daily routines. It worked, and we like it.

In all of this, I also made some new recipes, received feedback, and made them again, modified and better as result of the input from the peanut gallery.

So, we are not going to offer all of the recipes for the week (that would be totally insane), but we will tell you our menu, show you some photos, and give you a revised version of the recipe that started and ended this 7 day sojourn: Cinnamon Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding, but this time with less bread, smaller chunks of bread, and less sugar. Definitely, a better version within the shadows."

• Lunch and Dinner: two batches of moujadara (Lebanese lentil rice stew)
• Dessert: Cinnamon Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding

• Chicken Pot Pie (I made the inside; Spencer made the crust) YUM! and salad with homemade dressing
• Protein Bars for Olivia (made by Mom with love as a sure solution to curb the protein lows. Quick recipe: 3 cups all natural rice crisp cereal (I used Trader Joes), 1 cup unsweetened raw almond butter, 1 cup Bob’s Red Mill ground flax seed, 3/4 cup natural Tjs natural chocolate chips, 3/4 cups natural Tjs white chocolate chips. Mix all ingredients but chips together in large bowl. Melt chips in double boiler. When they are melted, mix in. Press the mixture into a buttered 9 inch pyrex pan. Cool in fridge. Cut in squares when done. Put in baggies for quick snacks for school.
• Homemade apple sauce (just peel, slice, de-core a bunch of old apples, add water as need, cook until mushy, add cinnamon to taste, organic sugar (optional), mash with a potato masher)

• Breakfast, homemade spelt banana muffins (made the night before), homemade apple sauce (made the night before) scrambled eggs
• Snack - protein bars (recipe above)
• Dinner: Shepherds pie (made the night before) and salad

• Breakfast - homemade custard (made Tuesday night)
• Dinner - the most amazing chicken and mushroom soup with onions, carrots and potatoes. In large sauce pan, sauté a finely chopped onion with pulverized garlic and 1 teas salt, add 4-5 chopped carrots, keep sautéing, add 2-3 chopped potatoes, keep sautéing, add 2-3 chicken breasts, sprinkle in tarragon, basil, salt and pepper, add frozen green beans if desired, cover all with filtered water. Cook until all is cooked. Take out cooked chicken, cut up chicken in small chunks and put back in. Add more flavor if desired (made Tuesday night)

• Breakfast: (spelt right bagels with cc and bacon!?!, homemade pear sauce (pear-ple sauce as named by O), homemade custard squares, side of bacon)
• Dinner: leftovers – lentils, chicken soup, hamburgers, and whatever else remained in the kitchen with homemade homefries.
• Time to go grocery shopping

• Green Bean Stew with tomatoes and chickpeas
• We all fell asleep after dinner, then Olivia woke grumpy and protein deprived (the green bean stew was not enough to help with a protein low). I made a quick meat and tomato sauce over noodles to help her out.

• Both kids out
• Beth dinner solo at local Italian Restaurant (It was a little over-the-top to have so much free time!!). No clean up, no planning, no nothing. Wow!

Sunday – start all over again (Tim arrived home safely from his eastern adventure, but still is on eastern time, so went right to bed after an early dinner. Just to prove that I love him as much as I love the kids, I made….)
• Spelt Right Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding –with less sugar (in the shadows)
• Chicken pot pie, non-traditionally made by being folded in Spelt Right triangles (pictures to come)
• Green Bean Stew – repurposed from Friday’s dinner with local ground beef, onions, eggplant, and olives sauteed in EVOO with the green beans. Very very good!
• A new batch of apple sauce
• Green leaf salad with endives, black olives, dill pickles, and tomatoes with homemade dressing with EVOO and balsamic vinegar
• AND, whole spelt white and dark chocolate chip cookies.

Monday- will see a repeat from all the leftovers from Sunday.

What are we going to do for Tuesday??

I believe I am obsessed….

Here is the revised recipe - a picture of which is in the shadows.

7 slices Spelt Right cinnamon raisin bread. Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 – 400 until crisp (10 minutes each side). Let cool. Put in plastic bag, and crush with rolling pin Set aside.
2 TBL melted butter
4 eggs beaten
2 cups milk
1/4 cup organic evaporated cane sugar (so much better than bleached white sugar!) (we halved the amount)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon natural vanilla
(we took out the raisins)

Butter the bottom and sides of an 8" glass baking dish. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Put bread in bowl, pour melted butter on bread.
In medium bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.


Sunday, November 3, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One Hundred Eighty-Two (Spelt Cinnamon Raisin Bread Pudding)


The New York Marathon is in town!  Thousands of toned tonies have descended upon the City to show their super human endurance running 26 miles through this concrete jungle.  I totally admire and am slightly envious of these folks.  For god's sake, I am proud when I accomplish 2 miles!  Not that I would not want to be one of those Superhuman Toned Tonies, I'm just not.

To jog or to blog?  That is the question.

To blog, cook, bake, and clean.  Those are the answers.   That is my life - at least for this week while my spouse is world traveling and I am preparing to stave of the inevitable chaos of the coming school week.   The goal with baking and cooking on overdrive today is to make the mornings less grueling and the evenings less exhausting during my solo parenting week.

So far, I have made:
            Two batches of lentils with rice (mojadarah).  One has already been eaten.
            Cinnamon/Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding - already half eaten

My plan is also to make:
           Chicken Pot Pie (there are already rumors that it will be devoured in full tonight)
           Chicken Soup
           Stuffed Mini Eggplant
           Shepherds Pie
           Lubi - green bean stew

Perhaps too ambitious?  Maybe I should call this my own little marathon.  26 hours of cooking rather than 26 miles of running.

Here's the recipe for the Bread Pudding.  Definitely counterproductive to any two mile jog I have done, but  downright AWESOME according to two eleven year old critics.

Notice the beautiful organic sugar.
So much flavor and not that weird color white
Spelt Right Cinnamon Raisin Bread
Toasted to Crisp
Cinnamon Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding – adapted from All

9 slices Spelt Right cinnamon raisin bread.  Place on baking sheet and bake at 375 – 400 until crisp (10 minutes each side).  Let cool.  Break in to one inch squares.  Set aside.
2 TBL melted butter
1/2 cup raisins
4 eggs beaten
2 cups milk
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane sugar (so much better than bleached white sugar!)\
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon natural vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
What the Goo Mix
Should Look Like When Ready
Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter over bread.  Sprinkle with raisins.
My Young Friend Ying Adding the Ingredients
In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

According to my two eleven year old assistants, Olivia (photographer) and Ying (baker), the bread pudding was TOTALLY AWESOME!

 Photos by Olivia K, age 11

Totally Awesome
Cinnamon Raisin Spelt Bread Pudding
Pour Goo into Bread
Just Before Baking

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One Hundred-Eight One (French Toast with Spelt Right Cinnamon Bread, Slivered Almonds, and a Touch of Bourbon Vanilla)

I am almost half way to my original goal of 365 posts, but it already has taken me more than double the time to reach half of the entire goal.  But that is the subject of another post.

This post is simple.  A restful breakfast on a beautiful day in NYC.  No plans, no work, no rushing around.  Just making good food and feeding my family.  Kind of sweet.

RECIPE:  French Toast with Spelt Right Cinnamon Raisin Bread, Slivered Almonds, and a Touch of Bourbon Vanilla.


Spelt Right cinnamon raisin bread (this particular loaf had been in my freezer for months).  I used the whole loaf.
3 eggs
1/2 cup of milk
a teaspoon of Bourbon vanilla (yum!)
3 TBL organic cane sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/4 cup slivered almonds
(butter for the pan)


Mix together all ingredients (except bread and butter) in a glass dish with high enough sides (like a pyrex dish)

Soak individual bread slices, each side until soaked with the mixture.  Make sure the almonds stick.  In a stainless steel pan, melt butter to coat bottom of pan on medium heat.  When butter is hot, put slices of bread on pan.  Pan fry each side until golden brown.  Repeat until all bread is made into French Toast. Serve with real maple syrup and cut up fruit.

If you have left-overs, you can freezer in plastic baggies.  They are perfect not only for a lazy Saturday morning breakfast, but also for a quick before school breakfast treat.  Take out of freezer and pop in toaster oven.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles (Day One-Hundred Eighty)(Spelt Right Toast, Chevre, Pomegranates, Oh My!)

Well, I officially went the entire summer without a blog post.  Life sometimes is THAT busy.  Well, here is an easy and incredibly delicious appetizer for those of you who love good food but are busy, busy, busy.

Thanks to Olivia's burgeoning talent as a photographer and overall mega social networker, as well as a tough food critic, I have a great picture and an honest, critical review of this new recipe.  "Yumm"

Spelt Right toast with goat cheese, pomegranate molasses, and chopped walnuts.

Easy! Easy!

Toast up some Spelt Right bread.  Smear with your favorite chevre (either plain or herbed), top with chopped walnuts, and drizzle with pomegranate molasses.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Lunch Box Chronicles: Day One-Hundred Seventy-Nine (Let Good Prevail Over Evil)

(Writer's Note:  This piece was written shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013)

Tell me it is not so.  I like to believe you don’t exist, that you are not so lost and disconnected from the beauty of life.  Please tell me that your choice is not to destroy it.

But, you show me otherwise.

You rattle my psyche.  You unnerve my children.  You bring terror in a backpack.  I like to think you do not exist.

But you are there.

And, you rattle, unnerve, terrorize, and destroy.

But we are here.   And, we calm, comfort, protect, and create.

You almost silenced me.  But, I won’t let you.  If I am silent, you have won. I am here to tell a story – simple as it is, of family, love, and food; of good over evil.  

There are stories of hope, of sharing, of simplicity that are wedged in between the episodes of tragedy.

And one day, a simple meal was created with love, by cousins lost and found.  Strangers the day before, now forever entwined by blood.  They worked together to recreate the flavors of those who preceded them.  And the spirits of their common great granddads and great grandmoms danced in the crowded kitchen whispering secrets from 100 years past when they landed on Ellis Island in the same City in search of a better life.

10, 10s have passed, and those great grandchildren have unknowingly returned to the same place to hear the stories, smell the scents, and taste the flavors that were brought here just for this moment.

And locked in time, cloistered from the noises from without, the stories unwind from within…..

“Kristen, did you know your granddad, my uncle, was a war hero, with his picture in Life Magazine?”

“And that your grandma, my aunt, was perhaps one of the best cooks on the planet?”

“Olivia and Spence, did you know your granddad, my dad, worked on airplanes during WWII…?”

“And that your grandma and granddad, my parents, had a big pool, where people paid to swim, and all the relatives visited, and laughed, and danced, and ate?”

“And all of you, did you know that your great great granddad was a slave to a sultan somewhere in the Middle East?  He was told he could win his freedom if he fought and killed a bear with his bare hands.   Do you think he won?”

“Are you here today because of the bear?”

“And, kids, please just keep chopping the onions, squeezing the lemons, and measuring the olive oil.”

We made quite a feast that night.  Enough to serve multiple generations.   We made fitayers with ground beef, fitayers with spinach, red-pepper pies, and tabouli (with quinoa – not something our ancestors would have recognized, but something we believe they would have appreciated.)

And here we share one of those recipes, Tabouli with Quinoa, that combines tastes and cultures from across the globe that weave in and out of generations.  Here is to good eating, and good people.

Recipe for Tabouli (with quinoa rather than cracked wheat)

2 bunches of fresh curly parsley – rinsed, destemmed, finely chopped
1 small bunch fresh spearmint – rinsed, destemmed, finely chopped
1 onion or 3/4 cup scallions finely chopped
2-3 red plump tasty tomatoes finely chopped
2 fresh lemons squeezed
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 cup quinoa cooked and drained according to instructions (let cool)

Toss the parsley, spearmint, onions, and tomatoes together.  Add lemon, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Toss.  Add cooled quinoa.  Gently toss.

ENJOY your favorite dishes, BROUGHT to you by your great grandparents, MADE by your parents (and first cousin once removed).   TOAST to family, food, love, and PRAY for GOOD over EVIL.