Wednesday, August 27, 2008

farmers market and CSA foraging - this week's finds!

So I have been loving working with NYC greenmarkets. Its so much fun to just walk the market, see what's fresh and make up a recipe. Sometimes this can be frustrating for people who I meet at the market who want recipes right then and there. This is artist's work I tell them. The recipe didn't exist before the morning. I'm happy to take their name and email and add them to my mailing list. Each of my monthly newsletter feature one of the recipes I have created from a day of cooking at the greenmarket.

Lately I have been enthralled by two things at the market: eggplant and garlic. Its funny, eggplant just seems so ordinary. It has been around forever and its a staple of Italian, Japanese and Eastern European cuisines (especially in Jewish households hailing from Brooklyn like my Grandmother and Aunt who would put eggplant in everything). The funny thing though is I thought I didn't particularly like eggplant. At least I never liked the eggplant I had in Italian restaurants or that my Aunt prepared, and the eggplant I had in Japan was ok, but this past week I got two deliveries of eggplant with my CSA and I made stir fries and a version of ratatouille with them and boy were they delicious! I made the ratatouille with delicata squash, the eggplant and a peach that was just a bit too ripe to eat raw. Wonderful! I'll post the recipe as soon as I write it up and the first picture I've posted with this blog is the finished product.

As for the garlic. I've never seen garlic in its natural state before with stalks called scapes that are perfectly edible and taste like a scallion. They are wonderful too. I've used the scapes in stir fries and soups. I've not seen the scapes around lately and I am guessing they are now out of season. I see most garlic with hard brown stalks which I'm not adding to anything I am cooking! But the garlic at the markets lately is still so wonderful and soft. It smashes immediately into a wonderful oily pulpy almost syrupy mash and its just great to work with. I made some marinara sauce with fresh tomatoes using the garlic and it just was divine. Marinara sauce is probably the world's easiest food to make. Just tomatoes, garlic, oil and a bit of garlic. Boil, wait. mmmmm. I served quinoa pasta with it, which was also delicious and gluten free.

Salivating? Excited? You should be, I am! I advise you get out there to the market and buy some eggplant and fresh garlic. Cut both up (smash the garlic with a chef's knife) and roast it with a little olive oil and salt at 400 degrees for 30 min or wait just a bit until I post the recipe to see how to invent something a little different with your eggplant.

I work alternating Saturdays on the greenmarket on 106th and Central Park West, I hope to see you there around 11am and you can watch me make some interesting recipes with whatever is fresh that day. Bring your writing pad to take notes on how to develop the recipes or sign up for my newsletter and I'll send them to you.

See you at the markets!

Friday, August 22, 2008

kettleballs, oh my!

So I am going to be doing some nutrition programs at Asphalt Green in the Fall. In addition to doing their Triathlon Club a few years back where I trained for my first triathlon, with the help of their wonderful supportive triathlon coaches, I've been lucky enough to try out a few of their personal trainers at their very glorious athletic facilities. Equinox watch out! While Asphalt Green might not have Equinox's luxury (or Juice bar - which I have to admit, is a big draw), it makes up for in trainers. On Wednesday, I tried out Ralph, who was amazing and although I had a light workout where I wasn't really sweating, I definitely felt it in my posterior a few days later and worked out some muscles which have not been addressed in years.
Today, I had the mother of all workouts - the kettlebell workout. A kettlebell looks like an old school make it at home bomb, like the kind out of Marvin the Martian looney toons cartoons. Its apparently a Russian weightlifting technique (leave it to the Russians to develop instruments of torture...I mean, exercise equipment!). My kettlebell instructor, who was fabulous by the way, had me sweating in about two minutes. I worked harder than I have worked for most half marathons, in about 20 minutes and I kept having to be reminded to breathe. Every time my trainer, DeJuana told me I had 30 seconds to go, I thought that those 30 seconds would never end. I mean, do you know how long 30 seconds can be when you are swinging a 7 pound dead weight through your thighs? It is a very long time. Apparently, I was working with the "lightest" weight. Granted I have lifted 90-110 pounds with my quads in my prime or more but this 7 pound weight was hell. Absolute hell.
Anyway, I write about this because all in all, it was a fabulous experience and I highly recommend it. DeJuana tells me he has clients in their 80's doing this workout with him...and I bet they could kick my butt. I am a seasoned runner and triathlete and the kettelbell kicked me in the behind but good. I actually think it will be an excellent complement to my running and biking. I loved DeJuana's style and coaching. He's going to be a great partner as I kick off the Asphalt Green nutrition program in the fall and I am really looking forward to working with him. I encourage anyone looking for a fun workout, where you are going to work hard but where its really different and interesting to try a kettleball workout. Its unlike anything I have ever tried. DeJuana also teaches boxing and it was quite evident he was a boxing teacher. Kettleball workouts have many elements of boxing in the way you train. And my arms are starting to develop quite a bit of tone, Rocky watch out!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Digestive Wellness Part I

Acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, or worse diarrhea, nobody's talking about it, but just about everyone is experiencing it. If one of these foods is high on your daily consumption list, read on: cookies, ice cream, taco bell, McDonalds hamburgers, tortilla chips, licorice, potato chips, hot dogs, sandwiches, yodell's, orange and other fruit juices, bagels and cream cheese, soft cheese (cream, brie, fresh mozzarella, and other non aged processed varieties) cottage cheese or pinkberry/frozen yogurt treats. So why would these foods cause digestive problems? Let's look at some of the major culprits of some of these foods.

White flour - in cookies, taco bell, hamburgers, hot dogs, tortilla chips (don't have flour - but basically do the same thing upon digestion), licorice, sandwiches, yodell's, bagels...white flour has no fiber. It takes no effort for the body to digest it and it causes our intestines to become lazy and in people who suffer from celiac disease - the gluten in white flour causes a whole host of malabsorption problems. The other wonderful thing that white flour causes in the body is an overgrowth of yeast or Candida. Candidaysis is one of the leading causes of absorptive and digestive related problems as well as in some people brain fog and ADHD symptoms. So what can you do - first thing: replace white flour with whole grains...not whole grain breads, but actual whole grains. If you suffer from Crohn's, IBS, Ulcerative Colitis or any other major digestive problem - stick to gluten free grains like quinoa, millet, wild rice, brown rice teff,or amaranth.

White Sugar - sugar does what white flour does in the body. Its an addictive substance. It leads to candida overgrowth. It makes our digestive tracts lazy and we stop producing as much stomach acid if we eat too much of it. Try to get sweetness from natural sweeteners such as agave nectar, honey, succanat or stevia. Stevia is the only sweetener that will truly prevent candida, but the other ones can lessen its severity and are better for diabetics. Artificial sweeteners make you hungry. If only diet coke actually made us thin...dairy also leads to candida overgrowth.

Fructose - some people with digestive problems are actually fructose intolerant. Fruit juice and high sugar fruits such as mangoes, pineapple, melon and bananas cause the intestines to spasm and cause gas/problems with elimination. If you are suffering these problems try low sugar fruits in small quantities such as berries, apples or pears. Enjoy them a fruit smoothie with hemp seeds to lower the overall glycemic index and make them easier on your digestion. Cooked fruits also are easier to digest - cooked apples, peaches and pears make a wonderful dessert and are an excellent addition to a green vegetable stir fry.

Dairy - the process of pasteurization has rendered cow's milk products indigestible. Besides the lactose that causes many people intolerance, pasteurized casein is virtually indigestible and nearly half as absorbable as raw casein. Sheep and goat milk are somewhat more easily digestible due to a lower concentration of lactose and protein that is more easily assimilateable. The problem with many goat milks is that they are ultra pasteurized which pose problems. Look for raw dairy or dairy from your farmers market that may have been pasteurized just enough to meet FDA standards - but aren't ultra pasteurized. Also milk from pregnant cows (most of factory farmed milk, even some organic brands) which might not contain artificial hormones still has many many natural hormones in it because the cows are kept pregnant in order to ensure a large amount of milk production throughout the year. This milk may pose dangers to women either trying to get pregnant, control symptoms of PMS and polycystic ovarian syndrome and also those who are prone to women's cancers (all women!) or those who already have had cancer or have precancerous growths.

What can I eat? Try an elimination diet where for two weeks you eat green vegetables, grains, fish and lean animal protein and avoid white flour, sugar, fruit juice, high sugar fruits such as banana, mango and pineapple, acid containing foods such as tomatoes and citrus, dairy products and caffiene.

After a week, slowly add in each of the foods you have been avoiding daily, one at a time and see which ones cause problems for you - you should be able to tell each day because you have cleansed your system. Sometimes a longer cleanse of two to four weeks is necessary.

Its best to avoid these problem foods for a little while or reduce but not eliminate from your diet, slowly you will realize which foods are causing the problems.

I encourage you to post questions and comments on this post and stay tuned for additional posts in this series.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Dairy, does it do a body bad? Conflicting research on dairy...

I have been advising many of my female clients lately to avoid dairy products. I have come across a lot of research that speaks to dairy being the source of hormonal imbalances, ovarian cancer, breast tumors and many other female issues. So if you suffer from female issues, infertility, cysts in your breasts and ovaries its time to give up the milk, cheese and yogurt. I know its difficult. We all like cream in our coffee (I'll talk about caffeine in another post!) and creamy puddings and ice creams. Where would we be without tasti delite? Oh my? But here are some articles that point out the dangers of the white stuff for women at risk for cancer, cancer survivors or those experiencing exacerbated symptoms of polycystic ovarian syndrome:

and other articles that refute such claims:

I want to present both sides here. But I also want to point out that this latter article talks milk positively affecting health in terms of vitamin D levels, calcium intake and healthy bones. It does not mention women's cancers or polycystic ovarian syndrome at all. I am not saying to eliminate dairy, but with all things, think about moderating it in your diet. Something else to consider is the value of small farms and unpasteurized milk. If the cows are no longer pregnant when they are being milked, the level of hormones that increase PCOS symptoms and cancer decrease. So it is possible that if one consumes small amounts of unpasteurized milk from a small non-industrial farm, she might not be affected quite as much as if she were eating commercial non-organic dairy from a large industrial farm. Even organic dairies keep cows pregnant, so despite the artificial hormones not being present, there are still quite a bit of detrimental natural hormones in organic milk and organic milk products. Perhaps yogurt or good quality ice cream is a Saturday night treat (maybe once a month, I know I enjoy a good ice cream when I go out once a month in the summer). I just want you all to think about just how much dairy you consume and think about restricting it to once a day or once every two days. Don't over do it on other "fake" dairy products such as soymilk either. The key to a healthy and lean diet is moderation and portion control. Have real, unpasteurized dairy if possible. Have a little bit. Have a small amount of soy, almond or hemp milk in its place once in a while. Enjoy your life, enjoy whole foods, but let's try to curb the pinkberry!

Buckwheat honey, yogurt and walnut treat

I've been working hard on developing recipes for an upcoming cookbook. One of my newest delights is buckwheat honey which I have been enjoying from trembaly apiaries. I bought the honey a few weeks back during my first cooking demonstration and photo shoot at the union square farmer's market. Tremaly is there on Fridays and Dwayne is very knowledgable. I've made a lovely honey yogurt dessert which I once had in a greek restaurant. The darkness and complexity of the buckwheat honey adds a depth of flavor to this treat. I am developing a recipe for goat cheesecake which will not contain any sugar or cow's milk products and I'll be using the honey as a sweetener. I'll publish the recipe after this weekend when I've had some time to experiment on my friends for my birthday dinner. In the meantime, please enjoy this recipe I developed this afternoon.


Honey Yogurt Walnut Dessert
Serves 1
1 cup thick greek style yogurt (I used liberte brand 2%, fage 2% would work as well)
1 handful of chopped of crushed walnuts
3 tbsp bee pollen (local if possible, I use trembaly aparies from union square greenmarket)
2 tsp dark unrefined honey (I used buckwheat honey)
Add yogurt to a bowl. Add bee pollen, honey and walnuts to yogurt. Stir to combine. Enjoy as a dessert or breakfast (at breakfast time use one tsp honey). Serve immediately.

COPYRIGHT Sobel Wellness, 2008

Sunday, August 10, 2008

greenmarket cooking continues, this week's inspiration

This week at the greenmarket beets are in season! I never knew that you could eat the tops of beets. But I have been stir frying them with the tops of carrots, something else I just assumed you threw away, but did you know that both beet greens and carrot greens are nutritious and delicious containing many of the vitamins and nutrients in both plants. The beet leaves are actually quite sweet. I've been adding fresh peaches to my stir fries as well because they are also so in season and delicious now.

I've been roasting the beets themselves and having them in salads and just on their own. They are wonderful and chock full of so many vitamins and nutrients. You just need to be careful when you cut them and cook them, not for anything health related, but because they make a mess with their deep red color which can stain cutting boards and roasting pans. I've been cooking them in their skins in aluminum foil in the oven (I might switch to earthenware given the aluminum absorption problem) for about 30-40 minutes. I don't even bother peeling them (I've scrubbed them prior), the skins sort of melt off and you can just slice the beets and enjoy them at this point with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper. I enjoy them in a salad with goat cheese or just on their own. I try to cut them over newspaper after I scrub them really well. I've been hearing that it is not necessary to peel beets, carrots and other vegetables we always assumed we had to peel. Instead, I scrub them vegetables well, flick off the visible dirt with a knife or use a vegetable spray to get the grit off - but eat the peel which contains many nutrients and much of the vegetable's fiber.

I've been eating a lot of fresh corn and summer squash too. Heirloom tomatoes. I don't even like tomatoes, but the heirlooms, especially the yellow ones are just delicious. They taste like the tomatoes in Greece and Israel. Try them! Visit to find out where your local farmers market is and how you can get your hands on this fresh produce. Give me a call if you need a recipe or some help navigating the market. I'll be teaching at Strangers Gate on 106th and Central Park West through the end of August and some Fridays in Union Square.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


I have been cooking at the green markets. On some Fridays, I will be cooking at Union Square green market and on Saturdays at Stranger's Gate on 106th and Columbus. Today at Stranger's Gate market I cooked a swiss chard stir fry with apricots and a peach, apricot and cilantro salad with sheep's cheese with stinging nettles. Pierre, the cheese guy has the most amazing sheep's cheese and a mix of sheep and cow's cheese. All his cheeses are raw and there was an amazing dry mozzarella which was to die for. I've never had garlic so fresh and the cippolini onions are fantastic as well. I made my stir fry with cippolini onions and fresh chopped garlic, a touch of olive oil, a bit of sesame oil and the apricots balanced out the bitterness of the chard. It was marvelous and not a drop left.

On Friday, I did a photo shoot at Union Square. My photographer was fantastic. My new website is currently under construction and going to be fabulous with wonderful pictures of me cooking at green market. Stay tuned. On the menu Friday a stir fry with swiss chard, summer squash and turkey sausage. I made some more of that tonight for dinner with the leftover sausage. I'm in the process of putting together a cookbook on tastebook ( I'll let you all know how to order it soon. I'll be compiling all the recipes I've been making up while walking the green market. I'm trying to take advantage of all the summer vegetables, between green market and my CSA ( I am staying true to not shopping anywhere else. Although, in a weak moment where I felt I needed snacks, I went to the health food store the other day to buy some spelt cookies and spelt bread. I've been experimenting with spelt lately. I still love my quinoa (these days I've been eating lots of red quinoa, which does have a slightly different flavor from its white cousin). I've been having cravings lately for ice cream and tasti delight. I've been trying very hard to stay away, although the other day I did give into tasti - coconut mounds and butter finger, I swear they are using real candy bars to flavor that stuff. There's drugs in tasti delight, I am convinced. But I have noticed that white bean humus with garlic, olive oil and basil does fill my "creamy" craving. Trouble is, I ran out of it and either I have to make my own (always a possibility - but I have to go get some tahini) or go down to trader joes and get some more. I do have most of the ingredients in the house - so I should try to make it.

At union square green market on Friday I met with Duane from Trembaly Apiaries. I bought some bee pollen from him and buckwheat honey. Bee pollen is wonderful for staving off allergies (which I have been experiencing quite a deal of lately with some uncontrollable sneezing fits). I also learned about propolis tincture which is better than any antibiotic at fighting infections. The buckwheat honey is the color of Guinness and has a tremendous amount of nutritional value. I've run out of Greek yogurt or raw yogurt and I need to look into placing another order with Weston A. Price Foundation soon as I'm trying to avoid commercial dairy for a while. Truthfully, I'm trying so hard to avoid dairy in general, but it is extremely difficult. It is best for my system to do a dairy cleanse every so often (and yours too if you are experiencing any kinds of digestive problems!).

My dinner tonight was delicious:
leftover peach, apricot and cilantro salad
swiss chard, string bean (local) and turkey sausage saute with quinoa
spelt chocolate cookies for dessert
mmm mmm good

Tomorrow is not a market day and I'm going out for brunch...but looking forward to Monday and Wednesday. I might scout out some of the other markets in my neighborhood and see what else is available. I'm itching to try something with my short ribs, but not sure what in this weather...I've got some organic red wine I need to use up as my kitchen is about 90 degrees and that stuff isn't going to last too long.