This past weekend was the Jewish holiday of Purim, which commemorates a time in Jewish history when our enemies almost annihilated us, but we prevailed. Many of you are probably familiar with the Biblical Book of Esther, which tells the story of Purim. Esther, a Jewish woman, becomes Queen of Persia, but keeps her nationality hidden from the king. Haman, the king’s second-in-command, wants to destroy the entire Jewish people because he hates Mordechai, Esther’s uncle. At just the right moment, Esther reveals her Jewish identity to the king, who then has Haman executed and Mordechai is promoted in his place. The Jews rejoice and proclaim a new holiday.
Purim is celebrated by listening to the Book of Esther read out loud from a kosher scroll. These scrolls are hand-written with quill on parchment, just as they’ve been written for centuries. This is often referred to as “The Megilla Reading” because Megilla is the Hebrew word for “scroll.” Other observances include giving charity, having a festive meal, and giving gifts of food. It’s customary to dress up in costumes for the holiday as well. Many people eat hamentashen for the holiday. These are jam-filled triangular cookies said to be in the shape of Haman’s hat.
While the Mitzvah (commandment) can be fulfilled by giving a gift of 2 kinds of food to one person, it’s become customary to give to all your friends. There were friends in the neighborhood we wanted to give to, and my children wanted to give to some of their classmates and most of their teachers as well. This can get complicated and expensive, so we try to keep it simple.
Hamentashen are traditionally a part of the gift baskets, but the truth is that many people get tired of eating so many of them. We usually make chocolate chip cookies to give out instead. They’re less work to make and much more appreciated. We’ve been giving out popcorn before we started BTD, and we’ve continued to do so. It’s relatively inexpensive and easy to make, and people enjoy receiving it. Of course my kids will eat the leftovers, but Purim only comes once a year and I don’t worry so much about keeping things 100% compliant for this holiday. I need to keep a wheat-free house, but I don’t get sick from touching popcorn. So, rather than tons of candy and store-bought hamentashen, we give out pretty bags with mini chocolate chip cookies and popcorn.
We did make some hamentashen for ourselves. I’d intended to make a batch with rice flour so I could eat a couple, but forgot to buy enough rice flour. The kids made one batch of hamentashen with spelt flour; some filled with chocolate chips and some filled with apricot jam. Since I couldn’t eat the spelt cookies, I put some butter and jam on a rice cake and baked that. It wasn’t hamentashen shaped, but it had all the buttery goodness and baked jam flavor, it was totally compliant for me, and I wasn’t tempted to overeat because I only made one.
After all my careful planning for our own Purim goodies, of course we received many gift bags from our friends as well. Most of these contained things like corn syrup, wheat flour, and artificial colors. Leah brought a lot of candy to school with her the day after Purim, to share with her classmates. Some is in a bag destined for a food pantry. And some we kept, to be doled out slowly over the next few weeks so nobody gets sick from eating too much junk.
It was late in the week, I was at the grocery store, and I hadn't tried a new recipe for the week. I was in the mood for salmon.
Though salmon is a good choice because it is beneficial for us both, salmon is not my Honorable Husband's favorite fish. Truth be told, his favorite fish is catfish, which is an avoid for him. I don't hassle him about catfish in restaurants, because I feel like any kind of fish is better for him than most meats. However, I don't buy catfish to cook at home.
I decided to buy salmon and see if I could find a different recipe when I got home. There was a long line at the fish counter. While I was waiting my turn I started looking through the complimentary recipe cards on display at the counter. The name Lemon Herb Salmon caught my eye. I especially liked the total preparation and cook time of 25 minutes.
The recipe called for olive oil and lemon pepper. I didn't think I would like that. This is how I made it:
Large salmon fillet with skin
2 Tbsp rosemary
juice from one lemon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put the salmon in a baking dish. Crush the rosemary in your fingers to bring out the flavor. Sprinkle over the salmon. Pour the lemon juice over the salmon. Cover the baking dish with foil. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until fish flakes.
HH said it was the best salmon I had ever fixed. I'm definitely keeping this recipe.
It has been a long time since I have had really sore muscles.
I think I'm in pretty good shape. In fact, I think I'm in above average shape for a woman my age. After spending the first 23 years of my life sitting on sofas reading books, I discovered that I liked to run and swim. When I found the Blood Type Diet in 2003 and read that Type Os need "intense physical exercise" I could identify.
I exercise between 45 minutes and an hour 5-6 days a week. I let my body rest one day a week. For me it is a good Biblical principal, but I find it interesting that every physical trainers agree. Women my age are prone to lose muscle mass and replace it with fat. I fight that tendency continuously.
For all of these reasons, it has been a long time since I have had really sore muscles.
Saturday I photographed 17 basketball teams. I had been hired by a children's basketball league. The players were aged 5-12. I shot pictures from 7:30 in the morning until 4:30 that afternoon.
If you want good pictures, you do not stand when you photograph children. You get down on their level. So I was up and down; up and down; up and down all day long. While I was working, I felt great. But, oh my! Sunday morning when I got out of bed, my quads were screaming. I hobbled into the bathroom. I had trouble getting dressed. I walked around all day like an old lady.
Monday was a little better. If I had been sitting for a while - at the computer or in a meeting - when I first stood up my quads were stiff and painful. However, once I started moving around, they loosened up. Today is a little better, but still noticeably painful.
I'm disappointed and dismayed. How could someone who exercises as much as I do have muscles this sore? I know the answer, while I exercise up to an hour a day, I don't work my leg muscles all day the way I did on Saturday.
What I have learned from this experience is that the exercise I'm doing is not pushing my muscles anywhere close to their limits. I may be in better shape than most women my age, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
Today for breakfast I had one fried egg, over. Served it salted, peppered, flat, and halved on a halved toasted bagel.
Whatever it is about eggs that makes their taste so "complete" for me, so satisfying, I haven't figured it out yet. I suspect it nutritionally has to do with the protein in the yolk, and something about the interaction of salt, butter, and egg-white that just sends me over the top taste-wise.
I marvel at the perfectness of the egg. It's a spiritual experience for me, really humbling me as a cook, because for all my learnedness in the culinary arts, there is nothing I can do to rival (though I can sort of imitate) the flawless dovetailing of nutritive need and gustatory delight so elegantly stated by The Egg.
Food for Thought, indeed.
It’s my half-birthday today. Interestingly enough, it’s my half-birthday on the Jewish calendar as well. I know that my actual birthday will line up in both calendars every 19 years, but I have no clue how often my half-birthday does! This is truly a momentous occasion!
Or not. I’m forty and a half. I stopped keeping track of those halves when I was about eight, and only picked it up again a few years ago when my kids pointed it out. Is this really a day for celebrations and unhealthy foods?
Last Friday, when I made my little discovery with the calendar, I decided I’d celebrate my half-birthday with a mug of that delicious smelling vanilla-hazelnut coffee I’d bought for my daughter. But then I ended up having a cup on Friday afternoon instead, when she brewed some for herself and I asked her to make some extra for me. I poured in a little coconut milk and completely enjoyed the beverage. It was all natural and chemical free, but it was also 100% avoids. I’m not supposed to have vanilla, hazelnuts, coffee, or coconut milk- but none of those foods are things that REALLY affect me. I still kept away from corn, wheat, milk, and sugar.
Yesterday we were invited to a friends’ house. The kids went sledding in the backyard while I chatted with the adults. Again, I didn’t have anything truly toxic for me, but I didn’t make perfect food choices either. I had things like mandarin orange flavored seltzer- I shouldn’t have oranges and who knows what’s in the “natural flavors”? When we ordered from a pizza place, I got a tuna salad and nibbled a bit of my daughters’ gluten-free pizza. Again, I stayed away from “the biggies” but I don’t know for certain what oils were in the tuna, and I know I ate tomatoes and cucumbers in the salad, along with a little tomato sauce and mozzarella cheese in the bits of pizza.
Between the coffee on Friday, too many carbs all weekend long, and dinner at a friend’s house yesterday, I’ve really had my share of “avoids” for quite some time! I decided that I’ll celebrate my half-birthday by having a 100% compliant day, and I’ll even do a little detox by making it a grain-free and dairy-free day as well. I’m celebrating by taking extra-good care of myself today.
This week was our Strong Son's birthday. As I planned his birthday dinner I wanted to cook some old favorite foods, and I wanted to try a new recipe. The old favorites were chicken breasts with broccoli, butternut squash soup, and egg custard made with almond milk. I served the egg custard over blueberries to make it festive, but truthfully, I like it better plain.
SS is a Type O who loves pasta, so I wanted to try a new recipe with Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta. I have bought many neutral grain pastas over the year, and Tinkyada is the only brand that is as good as traditional pasta. If you can't get Tinkyada in your local health food store, you can order it from VitaCost.
SS also likes Mexican food, and I wondered if anyone had tried Fajita Pasta. There was nothing close on the Blood Type Diet Recipe Center . Though I did see some other intriguing pasta recipes that I want to try. When I Googled Fajita Pasta, I found several recipes, but none of them were BTD friendly, and almost all of them relied on packaged seasoning mixes. I chose one recipe that came close to what I had in my head, and made a lot of adjustments.
Bell peppers are avoid for Type As, but they are neutral for non-secretors. There are several things that make me suspect my Honorable Husband is a non-secretor. Someday I need to get him tested, but I did not worry about his eating the peppers in this recipe.
Here is the recipe I came up with. I served it as a side dish without chicken for the birthday dinner. I'm going to make it again next week with chicken for a ladies' luncheon. My family gave it rave reviews.
8 oz Tinkyada Pasta spirals or elbows
2 Tbsp light olive oil
1 white onion, sliced into strips
1 Green bell pepper, sliced into strips
1 Red bell pepper, sliced into strips
2 garlic cloves, minced
1.5 tsp cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp cilantro
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup black beans
Optional additions: chicken breast cubes, chopped tomato, guacamole,
How to make it:
Cook pasta according to directions
Stir fry onion, bell pepper and garlic. When vegetables are soft, add seasonings. Stir and cook for 1-2 minutes to blend flavors. Mix pasta, vegetables and beans together. Add chicken if desired. Top with tomato and guacamole if desired.
My Mom’s best friend has a terrier mutt named Robbie. Whenever the two of them travel together, Robbie stays with us. They just returned from 11 days in Florida, and the house seems kind of empty without the sweet little doggie.
The last time I dog-sat for Robbie, I used him as my inspiration to take more walks. At least once a day, I’d grab the leash and go for a walk with him. Things worked out differently this time. I got sick a couple of weeks before he came, and the coughing and fatigue are still lingering. I simply haven’t had the energy to take walks daily, especially not with the cold weather we’ve been having.
I took a walk with him to the corner mailbox the first day he came. My daughter needed me to mail some important letters and I didn’t want to leave him home alone the first day he came. I also wanted to take him for a walk to help him get settled in. That’s the routine we developed the first time I dog-sat; his “Mommy” left, he was sad, we went for a walk together, and he came home feeling happier and more settled in. Between the brisk weather and my state of health, that short walk to the corner was quite a workout for me!
I was simply too worn out to go for a walk the next day. Jack took him around the block a few times during this visit, but the only other time I took Robbie for a walk was Saturday afternoon. All 3 kids were away for Shabbos, so it was just me and Robbie in the house. I enjoyed the quiet time, but I still figured it would be good for me to get outside at least once that day, so I made sure to take him for a walk around the block.
Instead of walks, I usually put him on the cable in the backyard when he needed to go out. While that setup gives him far more exercise than it gives me, I’m still required to walk down the steps, bend down to hook him up to the cable, go back upstairs, and then repeat the process when I hear him barking to come in. Sometimes I’d go down the stairs before he was ready to come in and have to repeat it all a few minutes later. Sometimes I could get one of the kids to do this, but I still found myself up and down the stairs several times each day. Additionally, he needed his harness taken off at night and put on again in the morning. He resists getting the harness on, and it usually required two of us to get on- one to hold him and one to actually put the harness on. I got one of the kids to help me, but I never got two of them to do it without me!
Plus there’s the activity that’s part of my life even when Robbie isn’t here: grocery shopping, carrying items up and down stairs, doing laundry, and cooking and cleaning. I haven’t done any formal exercise for a while, but I’m certainly staying active!
Saturday I took a friend who lives in San Antonio out to lunch for her birthday. I had read on the internet about a Hawaiian restaurant called Aloha Kitchen. It is a tiny restaurant in a strip center; probably more of a café than a restaurant. I had expected to find lots of tropical fruit and coconut on the menu. Instead they serve a variety of meat and rice dishes with oriental sauces which celebrate the blend of cultures in Hawaii today.
I ordered a combination plate with Huli Huli chicken and Draggin' Meat. I chose mixed squash and a spring roll for my two sides. Everything was delicious.
I had told our server that we were celebrating my friend's birthday. They hung leis around her neck and sang Happy Birthday in Hawaiian, accompanied by a ukulele, of course. Then they brought her a piece a guava pie. I ordered a slice of mango pie. What a perfect way to end an unusual lunch.
On the drive home, I turned on the radio and listened to a show about GMO foods. I confess I was ignorant about the subject. The two things that caught my attention were a list of ingredients to avoid if you wanted to stay GMO free and a list of ailments that some research associates with high intake of GMO products.
The radio guest said there were eight foods on the GMO watch list. Corn, soybeans, canola, cottonseed, sugar beets are almost always GMO. In addition some papaya and a small percentage of zucchini and yellow squash are also GMO.
I really don't eat the first five on the list. Corn is avoid for Type Os. Soybeans are toxic for Hunters and Gatherers. There are so many beneficial oils, that I don't waste my time with canola or cottonseed oil. I sweeten with agave, honey, or turbinado sugar, not beet sugar.
The radio guest was particularly concerned about high fructose corn syrup. I agree with her about avoiding any product with corn syrup on the ingredient list, though our reasons are different.
The radio show emphasized a French study that was released in the fall of 2012. I read some more about it when I got home and was disappointed. They fed the rats in the study GMO corn, and gave them water mixed with Roundup herbicide. The rats developed lots of problems particularly breast tumors and organ failure. The results lost their impact on me because two potentially dangerous variables were used.
Making rats drink water mixed with herbicide is cruel, and I'm not a bit surprised that it led to health problems. How am I to know which problems were the result of the GMO corn, and which were the result of drinking herbicide?
As a Christian, I believe that the closer we eat our food to the way that God created it, the better off we will be. So I am skeptical of GMO in the same way that I am skeptical of any processed food.
I'm glad to have a short list of GMO foods to watch out for, and glad that none of them are foods that I often eat. But I do not approve of the scare tactics used by the French study or the radio show guest.
Since Aloha means both hello and goodbye, I'll say hello fun Hawaiian food and goodbye GMO.