Beef Wellington


I don’t usually read cookbooks. But my daughter does, and she has picked up a lot of information along the way: how to massage kale, for example, or brine a chicken. I learn something new every day that I spend in her kitchen with her.

Kids these days have a whole new food vocabulary than when I was growing up. We ate hot dogs and hamburgers and asked for ketchup; she and Joachim are making frittatas and asking for the sriracha. What language is that, anyway?

I like the fact that they are always open to trying something new. For me, menus are daunting. Just order something for me, if you don’t mind. For them, it’s an exiting challenge, and they like to roll a new taste around on their tongues and talk about it. We ordered a rare Kenyan coffee brew yesterday at Peet’s, and they were exclaiming about it to each other. What did I think? I’m not sure. It was nice ~ yes, I guess it was better than Dunkin’ Donuts.

This past week we were watching a food channel on Reddit~ that was a first for me ~ and saw Gordon Ramsey’s Beef Wellington video. We all got excited. “Let’s make it!” “Why not?”

Gordon called it a Christmas dish, but we decided to celebrate Easter day with a bike ride to Wellesley, the Kenyan coffee, and our first beef wellington. These are the photos Joachim and I took, and they’ll give you a basic idea. There were a few additional steps that we forgot to capture ~ like the layer of mustard followed by the mushrooms and prosciutto, which we used to just call thin sliced ham.

It was great, and we’re definitely going to be making this again 🙂

Sear the meat first.

Sear the meat first.

Finely chop the portobello mushrooms

Finely chop the portobello mushrooms

wrap meat with mushroom and prosciutto.

wrap meat with mushroom and prosciutto.

Roll the meat in a sheet of  puff pastry and brush with egg yolk.

Roll the meat in a sheet of puff pastry and brush with egg yolk.

Bake until golden brown.

Bake until golden brown.

Slice and serve!

Slice and serve!

If you decide that you want to try it too, you’ll be surprised how easy it is once you have all the ingredients gathered.

Happy Chefs

Happy Chefs

Bon Appetite!

More FOOD for Thought


Today’s FOOD for Thought: Baked Sweet Potato Slices

These little round treats virtually melt in your mouth. All you need is a flat baking pan, a little olive oil and your favorite seasoning, and a couple of sweet potatoes (peeled or unpeeled, as you like)

=Preheat oven to 420 degrees
-Peel and slice the potatoes about a 1/4 of an inch thick, thinner if you like them crunchier. Leave the skins for a heartier taste, just make sure you scrub and dry them well first.
-Toss in a bowl with several Tbsp of olive oil, until well-covered.
-Arrange on a shallow baking pan (or a cookie sheet), and sprinkle with your favorite seasonings.
-Cook for 10 minutes, and then turn the slices over and cook for another 10 minutes.
-Serve hot and enjoy!

White potatoes work well too.


FOOD for Thought

0310150717-01   I just want to say before starting this post that there are 3 things my food is all about:
1) healthy
2) tasty
3) beautiful

I always try to start with healthy ingredients. I am an avid label-reader! No additives like food coloring, preservatives, or chemical substitutes go in the basket, thanks. This means for the most part using unprocessed food, and making it myself. The good news is that it’s easier than it sounds.

The tasty part is secondary. I don’t use much in the way of seasonings, and I usually like what I make just fine.  I learned years ago when I was doing the Pritikin diet that simple food tastes good all by itself. I don’t need lots of sauces or dressings to make it yummy. But if you do, just add it yourself afterwards!

The third part is beauty. If you use whole foods, you’ll end up with something beautiful to serve without too much effort. Arranging food on an elegant bowl or plate is an art-form in itself and fun! I have a thing for collecting all kinds of pretty dishes. They make dining just so much nicer.  Take a picture, and preserve the memory before it’s gone.

Now, for the story:
I’ve been cooking in someone else’s kitchen or not cooking at all for eight months now. My body is 18 pounds heavier, and I’m really not feeling like myself. What have I done?

I was confused until I took a moment to reflect on what I’ve been eating all this time. A lot of it was stuff I normally don’t eat, or keep in my kitchen: ice-cream, ‘gourmet’ meals (lots of cheese, lots of cream, lots of meat, lots of bread), hamburgers, reuben sandwiches, shakes, cookies, cakes, grits, popcorn, chips, and lots and lots of nuts, which I normally ration carefully, but were always out on the table, and I’m a ‘see-food’ eater.

I prefer being in control of my diet, but that’s hard to do when you’re moving around like I have lately. Change is also stressful, no matter how exciting it is. I have a weakness for sweets, especially when in need of emotional comfort, so my policy is not to buy them. If I keep them out of the house they can’t get into my mouth.

Last week I arrived at the next place in my travels ~ Natick, MA, where Joachim and Emilie live~ and I’ve been shopping for the first time in months, stocking Emilie’s kitchen while she’s away with the food items I like and that I know like me.

0310150717-00 Everyday citrus. It tastes good, gives your system an alkaline boost, and satisfies the sweet tooth quite effectively. Plus it’s beautiful!

0310150730-00 Salad ~ I’ve been missing you!

My latest food creation is a Chinese cabbage and fresh kale salad~ It’s so good I can’t stop.

Here’s how to make it:

Chop off 4 or 5  1/4 inch slices of the cabbage, and some finely chopped kale leaves (not including the stems), and throw in a nice mixing bowl.  Add a TBSP each of the blue cheese dressing and some mayo (or whatever else you may find in the fridge if you don’t have these), a few shakes of Balsamic vinegar for taste (be careful, it’s strong!), and a generous helping of olive oil. Pumpkin and sunflower seeds sprinkled liberally on top, and you have the makings of a very healthy and mouth watering side or main dish salad. The metal Korean chopsticks I found in my daughter’s kitchen made it perfect!


Next: The Soup

I love to make soups, and recently my two standbys are lentil and split pea. Here’s the recipe for a simple lentil soup that will make you feel warm and cozy on a winter’s day in Boston (or good anywhere you are, even in sunny Florida).

Pour half a package of dried lentils into a large cooking pot. Rinse with water, and then cover with 3 or 4 inches of water. Add 1 or two fresh chopped carrots and boil for 3 -5 minutes. Cover and lower heat to a simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally and checking to make sure the water doesn’t boil down below the beans. Add water if it does.

Add chopped onions and fresh garlic when carrots and lentils are soft, and simmer just a few minutes longer. For seasoning, I like to use a little salt, some cumin, paprika, and a liberal shake of curry powder. My new favorite taste enhancer is a tablespoon or so of barbeque sauce, any brand you happen to have on hand. It adds a meaty taste and so much flavor ~ Thanks to Laura for that idea.

0310150719-00For the version above, I added some chopped kale at the end, and served it in a bowl with cabbage salad on top. I want to share this with the world~ it’s really FANTASTIC!

I’d like to acknowledge my cell phone camera for doing such a good job replacing my little Aldi. Now I have one more reason to totally LOVE my phone.

“WHEAT BELLY” ~ by Dr. William Davis……. A diet-changing book for 2015

What Giving Up Wheat Has Done for Me – An Update 2 Years Later (May, 2017)

I haven’t taken an AFTER picture of my belly like I promised I would, but I can tell you the dimensions have decreased substantially: Since writing this post at the beginning of 2015, I’ve lost 20 pounds, and 8 cm from my waist, and 9 cm from my belly. I’m feeling and looking good! The post below is about a diet change I made and have basically stuck with (with a few relapses before joining OA eight months ago) which has become a way of life, and given me back my health. For anyone looking to make some similar changes, read my original post below. All the best in your quest for a healthier YOU 🙂

Books drop into my life unbidden. Someone is talking about a book they’re reading, or I see the cover on a coffee table or online, and it’s like, I’ve got to read that.

It’s a new year, and that’s always a good time to make a new start. I was thinking about what I could do, and suddenly, there it was, the inspirational book to get me going in the right direction, health-wise, in 2015: WHEAT BELLY, by Dr. William Davis. Thanks to Brenda for loaning it to me before taking it back to the library.

Wheat Belly

Dr. Davis’ basic claim is that the need for ‘healthy whole grains’ is “pure fiction.” This blog post is my excited and enthusiastic report about what I read, and how my body is responding to not eating wheat anymore.

I started 6 days ago~ no bread of any kind, no cakes or cookies, no chips, or tacos, or pasta. Have I forgotten anything? Yes. Lots of processed foods have wheat in them, so I’m reading labels now. I’ve decided to be careful, and vigilant, not because I have Celiac disease and experience the painful consequences of ingesting gluten, but because my unsightly wheat belly is an indicator of all kinds of potential problems that I will face if I keep going the way I have been. Like many Americans, I’ve been addicted to bread products in all their varied and wondrous forms, and I’m also overweight.

The book made sense to me. All I had to do was look down to recognize the result of my food choices hanging solidly around my middle. The research also scared me into action. I don’t want to become a diabetic like my sister, or have my toes amputated like my diabetic friend at the pool. He’s younger than I am, and I definitely recognized a wheat belly while we were sitting and chatting in the sun. I don’t want to have my knees or hips replaced like one of mom’s friend. She has a wheat belly, too. I know I need to take better care of my bones, joints, organs, and brain, not to mention all the other indispensable parts of me that I love and appreciate and don’t want to lose. I don’t want to eat food that leaches the calcium out of my bones, elevates my blood sugar and sets off an unhealthy chain reaction, throws the pH balance off, or sneaks past the blood/brain barrier and messes with my mind. As Dr. Davis points out, today’s genetically modified and hybridized wheat isn’t really the same food as our forbears ate. He calls it a ‘synthetic’ food, and after reading WHEAT BELLY, you’ll understand why.

I’m feeling inspired to have found a way to improve my health this year, and I’m already seeing the results of making a commitment to living wheat-free. After only 6 days I feel lighter, cleaner, and good about taking more responsibility for my constant companion, my body. After two days I had the best bowel movement in a very long time. Some readers will understand how exciting that is. I thought immediately that this is the beginning of a cleaning out process, and that I’m really onto something here.

The third day, I had a second helping of ice-cream with whipped cream on top, and I noticed that I didn’t feel good afterwards. No more seconds! On the 5th day, I didn’t feel good after a medium-size DQ shake, AND I had terrible smelly gas 😦 Whew! No more large ice-cream portions. Ice-cream is not a wheat product, so it’s allowed, but I’m starting to see what my body likes, not just what I think I want. I promised myself that next time I indulge in a coffee milk-shake at DQ, I’ll buy the small size and split it with a friend. That probably won’t be for a long time.

I’ve been feeling happy, in spite of the fact that I have no idea where I’m headed or what I’m going to be doing tomorrow or the next day. I left my home and my family, and I’m on the road, and that can be very scary. But it’s what I want and need to do right now, and having the boundaries of a clear eating plan removes some of the decision-making, and provides a sort of anchor, or steadying presence. I’m experiencing less mood swings, and in spite of the fact that my life is in a state of flux, I feel like I’m on an even keel~ I’m calm and happy, my mind is clear, my energy is good, and I’m not on drugs.

For anyone who knows me, that’s a big change. Of course, it’s not ALL about the wheat. I’ve been doing a lot of work on myself lately. But changes in fuel quality and quantity make a difference. I’m not experiencing any of my usual cravings for sweets, especially in-between meals or in the middle of the night. I feel satisfied for 5 or 6 hours at a stretch, just like Dr. Davis promised I would. Food is just not on my mind as much.

I’m eating raw nuts to make up for the breads I used to crave. I carry a bag of almonds with me in my purse, and if I think I need to eat and it’s not a meal time, I just pop a small handful into my mouth and chew on them. It satisfies, and does no harm. I’m using more vegetables when I prepare meals, and finding it’s easy to do. Also, keeping carbs like rice, oatmeal, and beans in the 1/2 cup portion size like Dr. Davis recommends, controls spikes in blood sugar, and I eat less in the process. Fruits are totally healthy, but should be limited because of their sugar content. All of that is fine by me. It’s about downsizing, in every way.

I weighed in at 191 pounds last week when I started ~ almost the heaviest I’ve ever been~ with a waist measurement of 106cm, and the belly 127cm. All I had in my suitcase was my tape measure from home in Belgium, so I’ll stick to centimeters. I’m going to keep track, and I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to my wheat belly in 2015.

I usually take copious notes from books that inspire me, but I don’t own, and are just passing through my hands briefly. It takes time, but then I have something to look back on when I want to re-inspire myself. It’s also a way to share key points with other people. The following excerpts are for the sake of anyone out there who is feeling stuck in a way of life that isn’t feeling quite right, and who is interested in doing something for their body this year. I’m not much of a scientist, so I left a lot of the biological explanations out~ to avoid all the extra copying~ and just wrote down the practical parts that spoke to me. One story in particular resonated with me. It was about a 61 year old woman who weighed 182 pounds, and decided to give up wheat. In 14 months she lost 55 pounds, and 12 inches around her waist. I’m 63, and equally overweight (I almost typed ‘overwheat’) and I have a very distinct wheat belly which I’d like to lose. But more than that, I’d like to gain a better and more healthy lifestyle to protect and preserve this totally wonderful organism that has been serving me so well. I like it the way it is, and I’m not ashamed about how I look, but I want to be healthier on the inside, so I can be around longer, and enjoy my life until the end.

Wheat isn’t really wheat anymore: According to Dr. Davis, “Wheat strains have been hybridized, crossbred, and introgressed to make the wheat plant resistant to environmental conditions. Genetic changes have been induced to increase yield per acre~ more than ten times that of farms a century ago. Drastic changes to genetic codes have come at a price. Today’s bread bears little resemblance to the loaves that emerged from our forbears’ ovens.”

“The health profile of a wheat-deficient person: slender, flat tummy, low triglycerides, high HDL (good) cholesterol, normal blood sugar, normal blood pressure, high energy, good sleep, and normal bowel function.” What’s not to want about all that?

The author had a wheat sensitivity, and tested his body’s response to both the einkorn bread (the evolutionary predecessor of modern-day wheat), and modern organic whole-wheat bread. He ate 4 oz of each, on two consecutive days, and documented his blood sugars after consuming each. His starting blood sugar was 84 mg/dl. After eating the einkorn bread, his blood sugar rose to 110 mg/dl, and he felt fine. The next day, after eating the conventional whole wheat bread, his blood sugar rose to 167 mg/dl, and he had his usual bad reaction~ nausea and a headache~ for the next 36 hours. The difference in his body’s response was a revelation to him. The book documenting his research about wheat and its effects on the human body and mind became a New York Times Bestseller in 2011, and it is my new wellness guide this year.

Genetic Modification: “The science of genetic modification has advanced. New strains can be genetically tailored to be compatible with specific fertilizers or pesticides…Incremental genetic variations…can make a world of difference. Take human males and females…the crucial differences originate with just a single chromosome, the diminutive male Y chromosome and its few genes… Public pressure has now prompted the international agricultural community to develop guidelines, but no such outcry was raised years earlier as farmers and geneticists carried out tens of thousands of hybridization experiments. Hybridization efforts continue, breeding new ‘synthetic’ wheat.”

The cost of carbs: “Wheat is a supercarbohydrate: Whole wheat bread increases blood sugar to a higher level than sucrose. Aside from some extra fiber, eating two slices of whole wheat bread is really little different, and often worse, than drinking a can of sugar-sweetened soda or eating a candy bar. The glycemic index (GI) of white bread is 69, the GI of whole grain bread is 72, and the GI of table sugar is 59. The GI of a Mars bar is 68, and the GI of a Snickers bar is 41 ~ far better than whole grain bread.”

“Wheat products greater elevated blood sugar levels than virtually any other carbohydrate, from beans to candy bars… The higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited. That’s why eating a 3-egg omelet that triggers no increase in glucose doesn’t add to body fat, while 2 slices of whole wheat bread does, particularly abdominal or deep visceral fat.”

“Wheat is, in effect, an appetite stimulant. People who eliminate wheat from their diet consume fewer calories….A Mayo Clinic/Univeristy of Iowa study showed 27.5 pounds of weight loss in the first 6 months of a wheat free diet.”

In Celiac disease, the one conventionally accepted example of wheat-related intestinal illness, gluten protein provokes an immune response that inflames the small intestine, causing abdominal cramps and diarrhea…Wheat is also unique among foods for its curious effects on the brain, effects shared with opiate drugs. People who eliminate wheat from their diet typically report improved mood, fewer mood swings, improved concentration, and deeper sleep within days or weeks.”

Having read all of the above, I was already determined to give up wheat and lose MY wheat belly. Who wouldn’t want to feel better? Here’s more:

Schizophrenia and diet: “Dr. Curtis Dohan observed that during WWII, there were fewer hospitalizations for schizophrenia when food shortages made bread unavailable. More recently, a Duke University doctor described a 70 year old schizophrenic woman who experienced complete relief from psychosis and suicidal desires within 8 days of stopping wheat.” It’s inspiring to me to read about natural causes and cures to mental illness. When I was in college, I read a book that suggested fasting as a possible cure for mental illness. I immediately put myself on a 7-day fast, and turned my life around. I believe that what we eat affects us. Why wouldn’t it? It looks like we may have to learn that the hard way, though.

The blood-brain barrier: “Wheat polypeptides have the ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. Once having gained entry into the brain, they bind to the brain’s morphine receptor, the same receptor to which opiate drugs bind…wheat is therefore one of the few foods that can alter behavior, induce pleasurable effects, and generate a withdrawal syndrome upon its removal.”

“Wheat is an appetite stimulant, specifically the exorphins from gluten. Lose the wheat, lose the weight. Foods made with or containing wheat make you fat. Wheat over-consumption is the main cause of the obesity and diabetes crisis in the US.”

Americans are big, and fat. I realized that after living in Asia for many years and coming back home. It was a shock. And when I walk down the grocery store aisles, I can see why. Here are some statistics from WHEAT BELLY: “According to the CDC, 34.4% of Americans are overweight (BMI of 25-29.9) and 33.9% are obese (BMI 30 or more). Less than 1 in 3 are normal weight. Belly fat is created by bulging fatty internal organs. It is the surface manifestation of visceral fat contained within the abdomen, and encasing abdominal organs (liver, kidneys, pancreas, large and small intestines). Visceral fat is dangerous. The more visceral fat is present, the greater quantities of abnormal inflammatory signals released into the bloodstream. The list of health conditions triggered by visceral fat is growing and now includes dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, colon cancer, diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease. Waist circumference is proving to be a powerful predictor of all these conditions, as well as of mortality.”

Visceral Fat: I wasn’t sure what the word meant, but I wasn’t in the dark for long. “In the human body, all fat is not equal,” writes Davis. “Belly fat is a repository for inflammatory white blood cells (macrophages) and is in effect an endocrine gland much like your thyroid or pancreas. High blood sugar provokes high blood insulin. High blood insulin provokes visceral fat accumulation. Visceral fat is also a factory for estrogen production, stimulating growth of breast tissue. Increased visceral fat has been associated with a 4-fold increased risk for breast cancer.”

The average weight loss of a group of Dr. Davis’ patients who eliminated wheat from their diets was 26.7 pounds in 5.6 months. “If there’s no glucose-insulin cycle, there’s little to drive appetite and when appetite shrinks, calorie intake is reduced, visceral fat disappears, insulin resistance improves, blood sugars fall. Diabetics can become non-diabetics. Where there’s diabetes, there’s wheat. In 2009, 24 million Americans were diabetic. It’s the fastest growing disease (other than obesity). For every diabetic there are 3 or 4 people who are prediabetic. 22-39% of all US adults have prediabetes. More limb amputations are performed for diabetes than any other nontraumatic disease. Diabetes was formerly uncommon. Unhealthy weight gain is exceptionally costly. More money is spent on health consequences of obesity than on education.”

“The average American consumes 133 pounds of wheat per year,” according to Davis’ research. “That’s approximately half a loaf of bread per day. Goodbye to wheat, goodbye to diabetes. Diabetes should be regarded as a disease of carbohydrate intolerance.”

About the alkaline/acidic balance: “Vegetables and fruits are the dominant alkaline foods in the diet. Our natural body pH is 7.4. Acidosis, and its acidic pH, pulls calcium carbonate and calcium phosphate from bone to maintain the body pH of 7.4. The more protein intake from vegetables rather than animal products, the fewer hip fractures occur. Modern eating practices create a chronic acidosis that leads to osteoporosis, and fractures in 53% of women over the age of 50. A decline in bone density begins years before menopause, and is not due to a loss of estrogen after menopause. It is largely due to the chronic low-grade acidosis we create with diet, at any age.”

“Wheat is among the most potent sources of sulfuric acid, yielding more per gram than any meat. Sulfuric acid is dangerous stuff. Although the sulfuric acid produced by wheat is dilute, even in tiny quantities in dilute form it’s an overwhelmingly potent acid that rapidly overcomes the neutralizing affects of alkaline bases. Grains such as wheat account for 38% of the average American’s acid load. In one study, increased gluten intake increased urinary calcium loss by 63%. A chronic acid burden eats away at bone health. Remove wheat from the modern diet, replace the lost calories with vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, and the alkaline balance is restored. Wheat-free people consume 350-400 fewer calories per day. Hunger is curbed, and it’s easy to go for 5 to 6 hours between meals.”

The affects of wheat on the joints: “Osteoarthritis is the most common form of arthritis worldwide. Loss of cartilage resulted in 773,000 knee and hip replacements in America in 2010. The same inflammation that issues from the visceral fat of the wheat belly and results in diabetes, heart disease, and cancer also yields inflammation of the joints. The greater the degree of overweight (i.e. higher BMI) the higher the quantity of leptin within joint fluid, and the greater the severity of cartilage and joint damage. Losing weight, particularly visceral fat, improves arthritis. Cartilage cells are incapable of reproducing. If cartilage proteins, such as collagen and aggrecan, become glycated, they become abnormally stiff, making cartilage brittle and unyielding, eventually crumbling. Remove wheat and reduce joint inflammation, get fewer blood-sugar ‘highs’ that glycate cartilage, and shift the pH balance to alkaline.”

The diet: If you stay away from processed foods, you will most likely find yourself eating differently. I like to think of it as a REAL FOOD diet. If you can grow it, you can eat it. If it comes in a package, it’s probably got stuff in it that your body would prefer not to ingest. Real foods that make up the foundation of this diet are vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats (not processed), eggs, avocados, olives, dairy, and beans. Controlling the amount of starches, like rice, potatoes, and oats, keeps blood sugars in a normal and healthy range.

My Wheat Belly, Jan 2015

My Wheat Belly, Jan 2015

This is what a wheat belly looks like. Not very pretty, eh? I NEVER show this part of my body off. Hiding it drives almost all of my fashion choices. But I took some pictures of my body this past year, and it seems appropriate to show this particular reality here. Before and After shots are always so inspiring. This is the BEFORE. I will post an AFTER shot when there’s less to show, and more to report.

Thank you, and Bon appetite!

Tea, anyone?

Tea, anyone?

90 DAYS OF HEALTHY EATING~ DAY 17: Clay cookers


It’s not just WHAT you cook~ What you cook IN matters too.
I know cooking in aluminum pans isn’t good because the aluminum leeches into the foods. And I store food in glass rather than plastic when I can.

But last week I made a discovery I NEVER heard about before, and I found it at the thrift store!

I saw it sitting amongst the clutter of kitchen items, and did a double take~ What’s that? Upon closer examination, I realized I was looking at exactly what I had said I wanted only the day before~ something to cook a chicken in, big enough to hold some potatoes and carrots and apples and onions, and that has a cover. I grabbed it, determined to search online when I got home about how to use it, and what it was actually made for. I knew that as it said made in Germany on the bottom, it must be GOOD. 

I was right! The one I have is made by Romertopf, and will hold a 3-4 lb chicken with all the trimmings. The lady at the thrift store told me you have to soak it in water for 15 minutes before using, and the porous nature of the terra cotta clay makes the food so much more succulent. Reading up a bit, I also discovered that the clay is also alkaline, and that makes a difference in the taste of the food as well. I’m sold (and I haven’t even used it yet).

Today’s the day. We’ll be eating clay-baked chicken when Jean gets home from work today.  (I’m enjoying being a stay-at-home wife these days).