Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, Monday

I wish I had something profound and lovely to write. I wish I had something profound and intelligent to say. 

I have nothing. 

I'm sitting here late at work listening to a group of people do some kind of ritual screaming and stomping in the lobby of the building. It startles me every few minutes when it gets rather loud. I have no idea what is going on and I'm just a bit too scared to go out there and figure it out.  I feel like I'm on a horror flick set. Maybe I should go home. Getting startled really isn't my thing. 

Or maybe I should go join them. They at least sound like they are having fun. 

So, since I'm not feeling inspired, here are a few things that have seemed inspired me recently. 

The chili was one that I made a couple of weeks ago. When the n&ns came over on our usual Sunday play date, I had forgotten to stock up on popcorn and apples, so I broke out this chili. Two of them turned up their noses at first, but once they took a bite, the soup was an instant hit. Within minutes my entire pot of soup was residing in their tummies. I got a thumbs up on the menu that day. I love finding food that I like that is kid friendly too. 

The cravings article is just one other great entry by DietGirl. I really enjoy what she has to say about weight loss and body image. She is sensible and funny without being a perfectionist. I concur rather often with what she has to say. 

So happy reading. And happy Monday to you all. I think I'm going home now. The stomping is really starting to spook me. 

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to Make Your Voice Heard

Look at the poll on the right. The ice cream votes are winning. Do I need to repeat myself? The ice cream votes are WINNING, people. It seems that ice cream has a magical hold over more people than just good, ol' chocolate. Chocolate. Really, really good chocolate. Hmmmmm. I love chocolate. 

If you want to change the course of history on this site, then hurry up and vote for chocolate! It really is the only sane way to go. Even if you are one of the many people who commented that your favorite is actually chocolate ice cream. I'm going to bet that it is the chocolate part of that equation that makes it so utterly satisfying to you. Hmmmmm. 

I mean ice cream is okay (emphasis on okay). But chocolate . . . chocolate is just simply lovely for a myriad of reasons. It tastes good. It looks good. It is good. And it is an important vital nutrient that should be a part of any healthy daily regimen. And this is all documented, people. Scientific studies have proven this as fact. 

Just remember, I'm all about highlighting important facts to you. So, let's get voting people. Only a few hours left to vote and either chocolate needs to win or someone really needs to convince me that ice cream should be part of your daily healthy regimen. 

And that is going to take some pretty amazing convincing, let me tell you. 

Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Ides of March: Photo Time

It's picture time here at Eden's Garden. My memory card was too full and scanning back through the photos over the past month, I've remembered several events that made me smile, so I thought I would share.

First, Katy and I went to the ballet Madame Butterfly back in February. The ballet was gorgeous, detailed and spectacular--everything I expect from the fine company to the north which is why we made the trek in the first place. I like to dip my toes in the cultural waters and see if I can get anything to stick. We even took this photo--illegally. The nice lady usher came up and told us this several times as we kept trying to snap a photo of ourselves with my camera and then with my cell phone. Both times we were encouraged to put away such devices as what we were doing was rather naughty. Apparently the management is rather frightened that we might end up taking a photo of something more important than the little, squished chairs we were crammed into up on the balcony. 

So, this was the best photo of the lot and one that made me laugh as I remembered the dinner that Katy and I had gorged on just shortly before and the smoking oven that resulted. We had roast chicken and my new favorite broccoli recipe and somewhere in there my little oven did its ritual bout of smoking profusely because of a pool of oil that had collected on the bottom of the oven. I'm learning that yes, I have to clean it more often. Katy just said that it didn't seem she and I could have a really spectacular meal unless a fire was involved somewhere along the way. 

Which is exactly why the two of us are friends. She gets me. 

Second in my stock of photos was this one from Dad's birthday earlier this month. Mom made another delicious cake and even went so far as to collect all 63 candles needed to celebrate Dad's age appropriately. 

Resulting in this rather exciting fireworks display that left some of the wee ones entirely entranced. And most of us big ones as well. 

And if we are being honest, I'm sure it left Dad himself a bit stunned. I never seem to be able to wrap my head around how old I'm getting so I imagine it only gets worse with age when you feel young and totally yourself on the inside but you start to realize that age and evidence are collecting on the outside after seeing a lighting display like the one shown. 

I hope it was a happy birthday, Dad, despite the rather bright reminder of your years. I'm lucky to have you and lucky you have allowed me the space and honesty to be myself--even braving the ride with me. I'm not sure you will ever know quite how much it means to me that you've stayed in my corner despite the ups and downs. Love you and all your years of collected wisdom and humanity. 

Here's another lucky little girl with her daddy. She has him completely wrapped up in her happiness and joy. I think there is nothing quite as tender as seeing your big, tough brothers turn into the fathers of little girls. They endure pink and princesses and even pouting because these little girls reach in and twist their hearts in a way just no other person can. And the heart-melting goodness of it never gets old. 

Nor does my desire to keep taking photos of those wee ones and their cohorts--the little boys. This one, who calls me "E'ee" and kisses me with gallons of love each time I see him, has me entirely wrapped around his finger. A position that I am unwilling to surrender any time soon. Because those kisses and that particular lilt to his voice when he calls my name makes life entirely too delicious. I just don't know how all you parents do it in the world of everyday life. I would gnaw on him full-time if I had access to him 24/7. And then his brother and sister enter the room and I'm a goner again. And don't even get me started on being surrounded by all 17 (soon to be 20!) of the n&ns. I think that's why "auntie" really is a pretty spectacular job--all the love, none of the actual hard work. 

Then, of course, this evening brought a big smile to my face. Christine (otherwise known as Chef Christine) and I went out for a girls' night and tried out Pizzeria 712 which is making a name for itself with its fabulous, fresh, amazing food. It is the kind of great food and great atmosphere that we've needed so much more of around here and I immediately became a fan, especially after eating their sweet potato bacon spinach salad with maple vinaigrette. Super yummy. Christine had one of their tasty pizzas and she assured me (and my gluten-free status) that despite not being able to partake, she could report that it was goooood. Hmmmmmm. 

If you are ever in town, stop by. You will thank me. 

And finally, I went with my brother and his family and my sister and her family to the open house of the Draper Temple. Thanks to Rus, we were able to take a private tour along with a group from India that our uncle invited.

The temple was gorgeous and it was fun to show the kids the rooms and talk about why the temple is so important. It was also fun to sit talk with our tour leader afterwards and hear the questions the group from India asked. We had a great discussion. 

Also, it was coooooooold. The temple is situated up on the side of the mountain and it was a bit bitter that evening. I got each family to pose for 1.7 seconds flat while I took the photo and then we all scooted to the warmth of the car. 

Warm is good. Which is another reason I love this month of March. It may begin a little cold, but by the end of this month, spring is upon us without a doubt. And spring really brings a smile to my face. 

UPDATE: Take my little poll on the right. I'm just very, very interested. When you eat a treat which is it? Ice cream or chocolate? I'd love to know!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Taste of Jam

This is the jam table from one day of our trip to Denmark. (A day that hasn't been published yet--keep dreaming folks. I will eventually complete the ENTIRE trip.) We found this table on the side of the road across the street from a tiny church located in tiny town on a tiny island. It was early in the morning and we saw very few people out and about in this little town. But the jam was there and for sale. And the payment was the honor system. You pick your bottle of jam, deposit the correct amount of money in the little glass jar and go merrily on your way.

I purchased raspberry lemon jam. Hmmmmm. I carried it back from Denmark in my already overstuffed carryon bag and I wrapped it carefully amid the clothes and shoes because most of all I wanted to bring a taste of Denmark back home with me. I spooned it on toast with almond butter and let its summery goodness glide down my throat. It did remind me of that beautiful morning and the smell of the ocean and the view of the verdant summer fields on that island.

The flag of Denmark is red and my jam was red as well. I know that today is St. Patrick's Day and I'm wearing green to celebrate the Irish-American heritage of our great country, but I must admit that on this day I bleed more Danish red than Irish green. I hope the Irish ancestors of America don't take offense because in remembering to honor them and their sacrifices and contributions to our land, my soul has been stolen by the beautiful isles of Denmark and the way they worked their magic into my heart . . . and stomach.

My bet is in the big picture, it mostly matters that we remember, whether we bleed red, blue or green, that many of the blessings we enjoy today have come because of the sacrifice and choices of so many before us.

And to that I say: Thank you.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

How Sweet It Is

I've been trying to get this entry done for a week. I have so much to say about this topic that I find myself writing too much and trying to fit all of my opinions and experiences in to one little post. So, I did my best to stick to the point of the benefits of low-glycemic eating.  

I read a couple of articles the other day from the December 2007 O, The Oprah magazine that I wish had been written when I was a teenager going through the first throes of a body image horror. Not that I would want to promote diet mentality or further push myself into self-loathing, but simply so that as a young girl I could biologically understand MY BODY and why it was so different than everyone around me. 

The articles deal with low-glycemic eating, what it is and how it affects people who are high-insulin responders. 

The first article, "How Sweet It Is" by Nancy Gottesman  shares the example of a woman who started to put on weight when she hit puberty. Insulin is a hormone and as the hormone stew takes off in puberty, high-insulin responders can have a reaction that includes piling on the pounds.

When LeeAnn Henn turned 12, extra pounds almost magically appeared on her frame. "I was always a little chunky," she says, "but right around puberty I put on a lot more. . . Though she tried to cut calories and fat on a number of different diets over the years, the numbers on the scale just kept going up. "I'd eat less, exercise more, get frustrated, then quit," recalls Henn, now 28. "I could never lose much, and over time, I just got heavier."

I was always a little chunky too and found that when puberty hit my weight took off as well. I spent most of my teenage years wishing for a different body. That never happened and gradually I began to learn how to work with the body I was given. 

Also, I REALLY liked the article because of this quote below. I used to get mad when I was younger and people would say that losing weight was as easy as a calorie in and a calorie out. Yet, this was not my experience. I felt like I put on weight whenever I just looked at food compared to someone like my brother Adam who seemed to be able to eat anything and everything and store it in his hollow leg without gaining an ounce. What I didn't know at the time was I was high-insulin responder comparing myself to low-insulin responders. When I ate things like bread, pasta, crackers and fruit juice, I really was putting on weight because of the way my body responded to such foods. Which is why I agree with the statement below. 

[Dr. David Ludwig] is one of a handful of researchers trying to prove that all calories are not, in fact, equal; some of us are genetically programmed to pile on pounds much faster when we eat the wrong type of food, even foods we think of as healthy.
I knew from long experience that a calorie in and a calorie out theory didn't work which is why I would get upset when I heard it repeated over and over. It is so comforting to have that innate belief backed up by hard data. 

An easy way to gauge if you are a high-insulin responder is the example below.
"High-insulin secretors tend to be apples, with more fat around the middle," maintains Ludwig. "Low-insulin secretors tend to be pears."
I never developed broad hips, but I've always had a tummy. And that tummy is the last thing to go when I do lose weight. So, I'm an apple shape for sure. 

The accompanying article then gives some guidelines for what to eat on a low-glycemic diet. First though there is an explanation of the glycemic index

The glycemic index (GI) is a ranking of carbohydrate-containing foods on a scale of 0 to 100. The higher the number, the more quickly you'll digest the food and trigger extreme fluctuations in blood sugar. Low scores (55 and lower) mean the food is digested slowly and produces only gradual changes in blood sugar. . . . Ludwig advises that you avoid "eating by the numbers" and instead follow these simple guidelines.
The guidelines are:

1. Eat plenty of fiber-rich vegetables (dark leafy greens—good; corn—not so good), beans (all of them), and fruit (apples, pears, peaches, and berries have a lower GI than tropical fruits, like papaya and mangoes).

2. Limit potatoes to small side dishes.

3. Choose grains in their least processed states. For example, replace refined and white breads with stone-ground whole wheat, sourdough, or pumpernickel. Swap jasmine and arborio rice for basmati, brown, or long grain. Instead of processed cereals like cornflakes and instant oatmeal, stick with old-fashioned oats or cold cereals that have at least four grams of fiber per serving. Ration white-flour sweets like doughnuts and cookies for the occasional treat—there are no healthy substitutes for these!

4. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, and drink no more than one cup of 100 percent fruit juice daily.

5. Consume protein and fat at most meals and snacks. Eating a balance of nutrients will help keep your blood sugar steady and your hunger in check. Vegetable and lean animal sources (including dairy) are your best options for protein. Olive oil, nuts, avocados, seeds, and nut butters are healthy fats. Cut back on saturated fats, and banish trans fats completely.
My perception of eating healthy as a young girl was to not eat a lot of treats and to eat less food at each meal. What this led to was a constant battle with hunger and the feeling that if I didn't control my hunger better I was somehow a bad person. Now I understand that when I was eating potatoes and bread and cereals that those foods tend to make me more hungry because they spike my blood sugar--especially when they are eaten alone or without accompanying good fats and lean meats. 

It has been such a relief over the last few years to discover that hunger is a normal, natural state and that feeding that hunger with foods that are low-glycemic is one of the best ways to eat for my body. This is not about depriving my body of any foods--this simply is about learning the balance and learning that eating lean meats, fruits and veggies, and good fats like olive oil and raw nuts as well as whole grains or complex carbs like brown rice, sweet potatoes or butternut squash makes my body feel its very best.

And now, my stomach is grumbling and I wish I'd started dinner an hour ago. At least I know exactly what to eat.  

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In The Pink

This is me at nine years old dressed up as an I-don't-know-what and walking in a little parade. My family had taken a trip to a scout camp in Philmont, New Mexico and each child was assigned to our age group where we spent the day with camp leaders who took us on hikes, told us camp stories and tried to distract us by making us dress up in giant pink flowers and walk around the camp while our parents clapped and told us we were beautiful.

For this trip, we borrowed an RV and we drove all the way down to New Mexico in style. My favorite part was riding in the loft right above the driver's seat in the RV and seeing the road stretch out in front of me. I felt like I was flying. I never tired of staring out at the scenery in front of me and watching the summer fields or metropolitan cities that rolled by.

If I could tell myself anything at this age, I think I would say "Hold on tight, honey. The journey is just beginning. " I had a lot of joy, pain and bumps in the road to encounter and I wish I could have given myself a stock of courage for those bumps that would bruise the most and linger.

And next I would have said, "Never wear those pink flowers again."

At least I would have my best interests at heart.

Monday, March 9, 2009

The Mormon Question

I saw a great video over on cjane's blog about an LDS Harvard student who is questioned intensively about her religion. The student is Rachel Esplin, a twenty-year-old East Asian Studies major from Blackfoot, Idaho, who is also the president of the Latter-day Saint Student Association at Harvard. Ms. Esplin handles all the questions with aplomb and seems so articulate for someone so young. In short, I think she represents well the LDS faith and answers the interviewer's questions adeptly.

I wish I had half of her abilities when I was near her age and knocking doors in the Delmarva Penisula. And a degree from Harvard wouldn't have hurt me either.

Day of Faith: Personal Quests for a Purpose - 3. Rachel Esplin from Harvard Hillel on Vimeo.

Friday, March 6, 2009

That Thing I'm Doing


So, it's been nearly two months now on the allergy-free diet. I'm still plugging away. Two months without dairy and wheat and sugar.

And I'm actually enjoying myself. I've been cooking a lot and finding new recipes and expanding my tastes and repertoire of meals. 

I know, can you believe it? Someone said to me the other day that I must be pretty committed to this thing to do it. I don't know that it is so much committed as desperate and grateful and a little bit crazy all rolled into one. It is nice to feel better.

I went back to the doctor today. We chatted about the elimination diet and how I was doing. I did complain because I'm supposed to be off all citrus too and I've not been as strict about that one. I really like lemons and limes. I can also turn on some serious whine when something seems particularly hard. Yet I got no love from the doc. She just smiled and said "Do it anyway."

Okay, then.

The next question was "how much longer?" Oh, three or four months was the answer. Then likely another allergy/sensitivity test to determine the next step.

Gulp. Three or four months? Are you crazy? Am I?

I guess so. And here we go again.

Then just to keep it real, I came home and made some chocolate hazelnut spread to make it very clear that despite the challenge of this experience, I'm so happy that chocolate--really, really, really good dark chocolate--is what is keeping me sane. Thank you, Universe, that I didn't test allergic to that.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Cooking Like a Star

My mom loves to cook. She loves it. My whole life I've watched her in the kitchen working her magic making dishes and treats and snacks that wow the taste buds, lift the heart and make you come back for more and more and more.

My mom loves to cook so much that she takes classes, tries new recipes and discusses food a lot. She also cooks incredible food and feeds her whole family every Sunday. That means seven of her eight children and five of their spouses, plus 16 grandchildren. That's 30 people every week. That's a lot of people to cook food for each week. When my baby brother is in town with his family our numbers bump up to 33 at dinner.

A couple of months ago, Mom took a class by a girl named Kelsey Nixon who is a minor celebrity around here for having competed on The Next Food Network Star reality show last year. Ms. Nixon is young--only 24 years old--but she is bubbly and cute and full of energy. And she likes to cook and talk about it.

Well, I was invited with some of my family to attend a cooking class with Ms. Nixon the other night. We got to watch her cook some amazing food and we got to talk about food. A lot. We chatted about knives and knife sharpening and how to cut an onion and how to let meat rest when you pull it out of the oven. We talked about culinary school and the Food Network show Kelsey was on. We had a great time. She made Greek grilled veggie panini sandwiches, a roast pork, a veggie orzo salad, and a lemon curd and berry dessert. Good food.

The amazing thing to me was that Kelsey could cook and talk for the whole two hours. I think I would have poured lemon curd into the pork roast and put berries in the panini sandwiches if I was up there. She didn't have problem though and chatted away merrily throughout the class. 

And then we got to partake of her labors. Yummy. It was all food that we call "girl food" around our house and all the girls thoroughly enjoyed it. I even saw my dad and my brother sneak in and steal some bites of each dish. 

Mostly, just a fun night that reminded me that I really like food and it is a lot of fun to talk about it with a group of like-minded women. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

RECIPE: The Best Broccoli

I stumbled across this recipe about a month ago and it has become a new favorite. I'm always buying broccoli and looking for new ways to introduce it into my menus before it rots in the fridge. Mostly, I've steamed the broccoli and dressed it with olive oil, lemon juice and salt which is good but this recipe kicks the whole taste factor up to an entirely new level. An entirely yummy level.

This recipe comes directly from the Amateur Gourmet who says it is a play off a recipe from the Barefoot Contessa and her recent cookbook called Back to Basics. Well, the Contessa has my vote for getting this basic just right.

I ate nearly the half the pan of broccoli the first time I made it and was certainly enjoying the mix of flavors when I suddenly felt profoundly full. It was like my body had been calling out for this particular mixture of roasted broccoli, lemon, garlic and salt and when I had received just the right amount of nutrients, my body proclaimed a halt. I sat around after that just feeling completely satisfied all the way down to my toes.

Hmmmmm. That is a gorgeous feeling that I want to replicate more often in my life.

Now, as to the food photography, I recognize I will win no awards for that photo but I'm trying to remember to catalog these recipes visually so I can share the love. Hopefully, we will see an improvement in the photography skill as I continue.

Also, I changed the quantities on the recipe a bit because I didn't want 4 to 5 lbs. of broccoli just for me and I don't use Parmesan cheese, I only use almond mozzarella cheese because of the food allergy thing. You can use either regular mozzarella cheese or Parmesan cheese with this. So, here's a recipe to enjoy.

The Best Broccoli
from the Amateur Gourmet via the Barefoot Contessa

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

1 large bunch of broccoli cut into florets (washed and dried thoroughly--it won't roast as well if it is still wet or damp)
3 Tbsps olive oil
3/4 to 1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
3 garlic cloves, sliced

Place broccoli florets on cookie sheet and toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and cloves. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes.

When the broccoli comes out of the oven it will be tinged brown on the edges of the florets. Now dress it with the following:

Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 to 1 lemon
2 Tbsps of toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup of shredded almond mozzarella cheese
I paired it with my favorite roast chicken the other night and the meal was delicious. So, now you know that broccoli can not only be good for you but also just plain good.

Monday, March 2, 2009

RECIPE: Elana's Rosemary Apple Chicken

This recipe has become a recent favorite in the last few months. It is a simple, quick recipe to prepare and then you let it roast in the oven for 1 1/2 hours and it will come out smelling salty sweet and will be tender and juicy. Every time I've made it I nearly swoon from excitement as the smell permeates my house. For me, it is the kind of recipe that makes the centerpiece of a great meal when paired with a big salad or roasted veggies. I've served it to friends and family and it is the kind of go-to recipe to have on for times when you take food to neighbors and friends.

And the best part is it takes all of five minutes to put together.

Once again, this is Elana's recipe over at I certainly am inspired regularly by her and feel so, so lucky to have her as a food mentor right now. You may feel lucky too once you try this.

from Elana at

1 chicken (2 to 3 pounds)
¼ cup grapeseed oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon celtic sea salt
4 apples, cored and sliced
4 sprigs rosemary

  1. Rinse the chicken, pat dry with a paper towel and place in a 9×12 inch glass baking dish
  2. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, then sprinkle with salt
  3. Arrange the apples around the chicken in the baking dish
  4. Place the sprigs of rosemary under the chicken
  5. Bake at 350° for 90 minutes, until browned on the outside
  6. Serve

Serves 6


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