Thursday, January 21, 2010

Unsung Superfoods

The Chicago Tribune put together a great list of 10 unsung superfoods that we should try to eat more of. MMMM...eating roasted pumpkin on whole wheat sourdough with a broiled tomato and shredded mozz. I can definitely incorporate more pumpkin into my diet!

Homemade Yogurt

Making yogurt at home is incredibly easy and does not require much specialized equipment. However, as most fermentations go, it is a somewhat lengthy project. If you have a yogurt maker, feel free to use it. If not, try this method. A hot water bottle can be used in place of the heating pad. The only important factor is that the milk must remain at a temperature around 110 degrees for 8 hours or so. The desired thickness is up to you. Strain until it reaches a consistency of your liking. We used a dollop of Fage Greek yogurt to start our yogurt, but in the future, we will not be using a commercially produced starter. With every batch made, we will set aside enough to begin the next batch.

Once the process is finished, you may use it as a spread (IE. on a smoked salmon sandwich), as the base for dips, sauces, and dressings, or as a simple breakfast. For a relatively unprocessed granola recipe, check out this link to the Boston Globe. A recipe that I have made many times, it was contributed by my predecessor, the former pastry chef at Flour Bakery and Cafe and the current owner of Ula Cafe, Korinn Koslofsky.

1 half gallon skim milk
2 heaping tablespoons yogurt (as a starter)

1. In a large bowl, set over a large pot of simmering water, heat to milk to 185 degrees, stirring often.
2. Remove the bowl from pot and cool, stirring, until the milk reaches 110 degrees.
3. Whisk in yogurt.
4. Pour mixture into a non-reactive container (like glass or stainless steel). Cover the opening of the container with cheesecloth, butcher paper, or a coffee filter. Secure with a rubber band.
5. Place container inside a cooler, and wrap container with a heating pad. Place lid on cooler. Turn on heating pad in order to maintain a temperature of 110 degrees inside the cooler for 8-10 hours. We set our heating pad on medium, but you will have to experiment with your own.
6. Chill yogurt in refrigerator overnight. At this stage, you may consume the yogurt, but we prefer a thicker style.
7. Place yogurt in cheesecloth or a very fine mesh sieve. Wrap the yogurt inside the cloth, and suspend it over a container in the refrigerator. Allow the yogurt to drain overnight.
8. Check consistency of yogurt. If it is too stiff for your liking, stir in some of the liquid that collected in the container.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Can't Wait for Shavasana

For years, friends have urged me to take up yoga, but terrible work schedules meant that I could never make it to a class. I might not always be thrilled with my current job, but there are a few perks. One of them is that I have been able to regularly attend Candlelit Yoga on Monday nights with MeiMei Fox at Aha Yoga Studio in Cow Hollow. (Thanks, P, I never would have gone without you!)

The health benefits of developing a yoga practice are extensive. In addition to the obvious muscle strength and weight loss, yoga relaxes the mind, lowers stress, lowers anxiety, and aids with depression. Many times, I leave class feeling like I am on top of the world -- a kind of self-love that I can't get anywhere else. Particularly important for those at risk of developing type 2 diabetes (or living with it), some claim that yoga increases circulation and lowers blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels -- all while boosting your body's metabolism and immunity.

Perhaps you are intimidated by the idea. I know I was. Find a friend to go with you. Indeed the best part about yoga (and candlelit, in particular) is that nobody's looking -- honestly. The mental practice of yoga makes it so that each student is purely focused on themselves and their own experience. It amazing, really. If you still need more convincing, check out this site and this one for more reasons to start today!

Pictured above is someone who has not only been an amazing friend for the past 10 years but is also a very dedicated yogi. In this photo, she is pictured with Bikram Choudhury, a very famous yoga guru who developed his own self-titled style of yoga. Thanks, T, for the friendship and the inspiration.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Another Way to Help Haiti

A few days ago, I ordered a pair of New Balance's Lace up for the Cure running shoes. When they arrived, I looked quizzically at my old shoes. Too beat up for me to continue using them but not quite destroyed enough to feel good about sending them to the landfill, I thought,"There has to be someone who can use these." How fortunate I am that I can even ponder such things.

Luckily, I received an email from Soles4soles asking for used and new shoes. The organization, in operation for quite some time, is ramping up their efforts to help Haitians. Aid workers and citizens are without shoes, a terrible thing when the ground is covered in broken glass, rubble, raw sewage, and sharp metal. Perhaps you have a few pairs that you have been meaning to part is the time.

They are asking that the shoes be sent to:
The Clog Shop
61 Middle Neck Road
Great Neck, New York 11021