Longevity Kitchen

 

Longevity Kitchen Cookbook

 

Of all the life changes that having a baby brings on, perhaps the most pivotal is that it makes you examine what would happen to this new little being if you were suddenly gone. Our own mortality is abruptly mirrored back to us with the entrance of offspring, so some of us sign up for life insurance, talk about creating trust accounts, or set up legal documents and wills. I think that to truly take care of our children and create a stronger sense of security, separate from the paperwork and bureaucracy, parents need to take care of themselves first. And there is no better time like this fresh season to start. Luckily, we have Rebecca Katz’s  newest book, The Longevity Kitchen , to guide us.

The Longevity Kitchen is not a sensationalized, trend-centered tome on the latest superfood. It does not preach extreme cleansing programs or offer strict dietary regimens, nor does it make huge exclamatory claims about losing weight or solving every problem you’ve ever had. Instead, Rebecca Katz, known for her reputation for blending culinary sensibility with nutrition knowledge, has put together this latest collection of recipes by simply following the theory that real food is good for you.

Her co-author, medical writer Mat Edelson, fills us in with the facts, proving that our dietary choices can heal or hinder. With a culture that is currently overwhelmed by obesity, type 2 diabetes and similar lifestyle related illnesses, this book suggests some refreshingly grounded and positive ideas towards cooking for health.

With a foreword by Andrew Weil, today’s guru of holistic health, we can see that Katz is among the heavy hitters making inroads in proving to the larger public that we are what we eat. After letting us know that lifespans are actually decreasing today due to our society’s poor health, Weil writes:

In a time of crisis – the vast majority of Americans no longer know how to cook – Rebecca’s book is literally a lifeline to longevity. It meets readers wherever they are along the cooking/nutrition spectrum. That’s the key to creating a rapport. The delight in these pages is that for those who just want to eat delicious and healthy food, any recipe in this book will accomplish that. But inevitably, that first encounter will draw you in deeper.

After reading and using the book myself, someone who is already pretty used to being in the kitchen with whole foods, I couldn’t agree with Dr. Weil more.

The 100-plus recipes are centered around 16 “power foods” that are ingredients some of us can easily access and possibly already do: asparagus, avocado, basil (and in the same family, mint), blueberries (plus other dark berries), coffee, dark chocolate, garlic, green tea, kale, olive oil, pomegranates, sweet potatoes, thyme, walnuts, wild salmon and yogurt. Katz then discusses the importance of how whole foods are “team players” and should be eaten accordingly.

We can’t just say, “well, I want to fend off cancer, so I will just eat a ton of kale.” We would miss out on how greens interact with other foods, such as citrus with Vitamin C, to maximize absorption. For this reason, she also argues that actually eating food is much better than relying on supplements to enhance our health. She explains, “One theory about why this is so is that life nourishes life. Foods are components of complex living entities that require, and therefore contain, a broad spectrum of nutrients to survive, just as we do.”

My only critique is that even a brief point about the controversy surrounding cooking with olive oil should have been addressed. There is so much confusion about whether or not heating olive oil causes cancer and/or strips its nutritional value, that it begs at least a sentence or two, especially since it is the cooking oil called for in all of the recipes.

For someone like me who generally picks up a cookbook and flips right to the recipes (or, more accurately, straight to the back to look at the desserts), I would definitely recommend not to do that in this case. Weil’s foreword, the Introduction and the first three chapters do a really good job delivering the book’s message. After absorbing this information, I honestly felt like I wanted to eat better, and was that much more ready to delve into the recipes presented to me. I specifically loved The Culinary Pharmacy section in Chapter 2, which listed the nutritional and health benefits of ingredients alphabetically from Allspice to Yogurt based on the latest research from over 500 studies.

This drives home the point that a huge diversity of whole foods are good for us, and presents a lot more options than the primary sixteen that the recipes are based on. Chapter 2 also provided an interesting and clear-cut look at what each recipe in the book is particularly good for, health-wise. For instance, the delicious Sweet Potato Bars that I chose to make for a dinner party are listed under the Stress Reducers and Blood Sugar Regulators headings. I also made Maple-Glazed Brussels Sprouts with Caraway, and now I know that combination of ingredients makes them the perfect Immune Boosters.

Chapter 3 offers similarly useful and interesting content. The “Culinary GPS Quiz” helps us assert our own personal approach to food and what we are really seeking when we eat, cook and embark on healthier lifestyles. An important note on using organic ingredients is included as well, suggesting we look at the Environmental Working Group’s annual “Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen” list to determine what to steer clear of if organic is not an option.

There is also a nice section on “Global Flavorprints,” which breaks down regions of the world by common ingredients for easier improvisation in the kitchen and reminds us how beneficial spices and herbs are. It is also a nod to our diversity and proof of a common thread, discussed in the book as well, that our grandmothers way of cooking is what we need to channel–a time before so much packaged and processed foods took their toll.

The element that makes The Longevity Kitchen a good cookbook and not just a health book is Chef Katz’s attention to flavor. She reiterates that if something doesn’t taste good, we will not adopt it as part of our lifestyle, so we might as well make healthful food delicious. It makes perfect sense, and she is really great at creating recipes with flavor in mind. Her discussion of FASS (fat, acid, salt and sweet), in this case, olive oil, lemon juice, sea salt and Grade B maple syrup, explains that there is a balance in well-crafted dishes that speak to our whole mouth.

For a person who may be entering the kitchen timidly, this is much needed guidance that is often left out of other cookbooks, and is perhaps the formula for success in eating for a healthy, long life.

 

Originally posted on Civil Eats

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Harvest Time

I just harvested a baby. Picked after 40 weeks plus five days of ripening, she weighs in at a whopping 9 pounds, 1 ounce and stretches 21.25 inches long. Her genus is Sonial Stimpson, but commonly referred to as the “Hazel” variety. There really couldn’t be a more perfect example of her species, and we are tempted everyday to just eat her up!

The special “Hazel” variety

Preserving her takes a lot of preparation and work, though. And unfortunately there isn’t really a recipe for success…mostly trial and error to get it just right. We are two weeks into the testing phase, preliminary research and development did not provide comprehensive guidance into the project and we are working overtime to say the least. Lots of sleepless nights, but all worth it. In fact, the brevity of this field note entry is a testament to our time constraints and level of activity poured into putting up Hazel. I’ve learned by now that caffeine doesn’t adequately fuel the energy needed for this type of work, and can have disastrous secondary effects on the specimen. However, highly nutritious fuel is required to keep the project moving forward. The following recipe, with room for adaptation to suit anyone’s preference, has proven to be a great start to each day.

Hazel’s Harvest Time Granola

4 cups rolled oats

2 cups unsweetened, wide flake coconut

2/3 cup chopped dried fruit (currants, apricots, cherries, etc.)

1/2 cup nuts, seeds, or combination

1/2 cup unsalted butter, oil, or combination

1/2 cup sweetener (honey, agave, etc.)

1 egg white

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp vanilla (optional)

Preheat the oven to 300F degrees. In a large bowl, combine the oats, coconut, dried fruit, nuts/seeds and salt.  In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter (if using). Stir in the sweetener and remove from heat. If using oil, mix in a small bowl with sweetener. Add the vanilla (if using) and pour into the dry ingredients, stirring well until everything is combined. Whisk the egg white in a small bowl and add, stirring well to coat. Divide the mixture between two rimmed baking sheets and spread into a thin layer on each.

Bake, stirring occasionally and then re-spreading evenly, for about 30-40 minutes or until deep golden brown. Rotating the pans is a good idea to ensure even baking. Remove from the oven and press down with a spatula. Let cool completely before transferring to an airtight container. Makes about 8 cups.

Eating For Two

I’m 5 months pregnant. Actually, in baby speak, the language they communicate in here in the land that I suddenly find myself in, that’s referred to as 20 weeks pregnant. It is quite an experience, has its ups and down’s as any woman with child will tell you. And as my first crack at it, I have to say that I am astounded every day that something so scientifically magical can take place pretty much without intervention, at least when all goes well, thankfully. My body keeps rolling along, expanding and stretching and creating a little life that will pop out in a few months like a cake hot from the oven. Which brings me to the point of all of this: FOOD.

I can, with all honesty and confidence, tell you that my relationship to food has always been a strong one. My work, my life, my self is intertwined in the subject and has been for as long as I can remember. I write about, I make it, I sell it, I eat it, I think about it all the time. So when something like getting knocked up occurs, silly me assumes that my food self will stay the same as always. I’m healthy, I listen to my body, I eat a very balanced, clean yet delicious diet, so what could change? And why would I need to change anything? Well, things do change, and it has led me to ponder some big questions in a way I never have before.

One of the main things I keep running into has to do with cravings. And it’s not at all a cliché to say pregnancy causes cravings. It really does, in a primal, needful kind of way like a wild animal must have. (It also causes really abrupt aversions, so drastic that once-favorite flavors can cause a gag reflex practically overnight). So what happens when a person, let’s say me, who ardently promotes seasonality and supporting local farmers and producers (like my own business), finds herself craving pineapple. So desperately that she has to leave work to go hunt one down. I know it sounds dramatic, but it happens. This brings me to think about moral dilemmas that become less important in the name of nutrition.

I must have needed potassium or Vitamin C. Pineapple also is high in fiber and actually contain large amounts of serotonin, according to “The New Complete Book of Food, A Nutritional, Medical, and Culinary Guide,” by Carol Ann Rinzler. The week or two of pineapple gorging that I had was enjoyable, but I kept having this somewhat guilty feeling as I looked at my counter, otherwise piled with seasonal bounty like Oro Blanco grapefruits and Meyers Lemons from our orchard. The Costa Rican Pineapple (it was organic, at least) stood out like sore thumb. And then there was the weird carob craving, despite the suspicion that the “grain sweetened” (i.e.: malted barley and corn) carob covered almonds I was wolfing down were not organic and most likely contained GMO ingredients, not to mention the soy lecithin, which is a whole other topic.

I’m actually not a crazy, uptight, hyper-vigilant person. I acknowledge that you can never avoid everything harmful or know how to fix everything. I don’t live in a prison of restraint or try to preach it to others. But when you do know certain things, about food additives and politics in this case, it is hard to let yourself go blind to it, especially when you are consuming the very same “bad” thing for two. Yes, I could have maintained stronger willpower and breathed through the cravings, but then I would be ignoring an important voice that my body was literally screaming at me to obey.

Another issue I have come across has to do with food restrictions. Every pregnant woman in America has been told to avoid certain things. Mainly, the list consists of unpasteurized cheeses and dairy products, caffeine, a wide variety of fish (and never raw), and alcohol. We take all of this as scripture, baffled that there was once a time when doctors advised you to limit your prenatal martini intake to only two at cocktail hour. How many of our parents came out just fine, relatively speaking? And I’d love to see some statistics about how many French women refuse to eat genuine Camembert for nine months, or Japanese women who bypass their daily fish diet. What about all the female winemakers or relatives of them, in any of the hundreds of winegrowing regions across the world? (Seriously, if anyone finds stats on this stuff, send it to me…). I’m not disregarding the proven hazards or nutritional research to these dietary recommendations; I’m just bringing up the extreme black and white nature that is often the standard of western medicine.

The point of this diatribe, I guess, is to bring attention once again to trust and intuition. We are all just struggling along in our own little worlds, navigating through life the best we can. The importance lies in letting ourselves listen to ourselves, trusting that our decisions will guide us, and not getting lost in the quagmire of information that is hurled at us every single second in this day and age. So let yourself eat a tomato in Maine in January if you absolutely need it (remember that it won’t taste very good though) or order a milkshake knowing it isn’t organic once in awhile. Just listen, and come back to yourself.