Thursday, March 31, 2011

I Live Here!

Well hot diggity, I'm famous.

Today I'm featured on I Live Here: PDX, a neat website that draws a portrait of Portland by featuring different residents in their neighborhoods. Click that link and go check it out!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sick Day Hot Toddy

I haven't been sick enough to miss work since coming down with norovirus in 2006. Since easing myself onto a natural, organic diet some years ago, I've not been sick at all, and I have to admit I've taken a smug pride in the fact that I never get sick.

Pride goeth before the fall.

I write this near 7 pm on a Wednesday, after spending the entire day in bed - and a shame too, it looked like such a pretty day out. When I realized I was in no shape to go to work, due to this debilitating chest cold I picked up (after, mind you, eating processed foods at work again), I thought I'd get some writing done and maybe straighten up the house. HA. I haven't been able to stay vertical for more than five minutes at a time, and I've spent the vast majority of the day sleeping.

It's working though. I'm still not feeling great, but I feel a bit better than I did this morning. So I thought I'd share the best chest-cold remedy I know: the spiced brandy toddy. It'll help you get better in a hurry, and without a lot of scary drugs with all their side effects. Take one before you go to bed and you'll feel a little better, so you can go to sleep and let your body do the work of healing.


½ a fresh lemon
1 oz brandy, bourbon, or rum
1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1 Tbsp raw honey
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
Simmering water

Squeeze all the juice out of the lemon half into a large mug. Drop a chunk of the rind in, if you like. Add the liquor, ACV, honey, cinnamon, and pepper. Top off with simmering water and stir until honey is melted and contents are evenly blended. Sip immediately while it's still quite hot.

Here's why it works:

The hot water soothes your throat, and also helps to raise your body temperature so your immune system doesn't have to work as hard to kill the infection. (Remember that we get fevers because heat kills off certain infections.) It's also psychologically soothing.

Honey coats your throat a bit, easing the pain and raspy feeling. It's also a powerful antimicrobial - you can treat minor eye infections with raw honey - which also helps to fight the infection. And it sweetens the taste of the other flavors, which might not be so enjoyable together otherwise.

Lemon is loaded with vitamin C, which we all know is a powerful immune-booster. The acid in the lemon juice and ACV also works to break up phlegm and clear your throat.

You can skip the raw apple cider vinegar if you really want, but its health benefits are many and it really does work. If you don't want to drink it, you can put some on a cotton ball and rub it on your chest, under your nose, and on your forehead. It works a bit like Vick's, but in my opinion it smells better and it's better for you. It doesn't taste bad in the toddy, either - it blends right in with the lemon.

Cinnamon tastes nice too, and it also has antimicrobial properties. The cayenne can also be skipped, but its flavor is unobtrusive and it helps if you're having sinus problems; we all know how spice can clear your head. I also find that a bit of cayenne helps to numb a sore throat.

And that brandy/bourbon/rum? It's soothing and helps you go to sleep, so that your body can work harder on fighting off the infection. If you don't buy it, remember that alcohol is also a key ingredient in NyQuil - but a nice hot toddy tastes a lot better.

And now I'm going back to bed. Wish someone was here to bring me some chicken soup.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blackeyed Peas, Demystified

The back page of each issue of Organic Gardening magazine is given to an article by the magazine's editor, Maria Rodale. Her grandfather J. I. Rodale is widely considered to be the founder of the modern organic gardening movement; gardening and produce are still, after publishing, the family business. Presumably, Maria grew up around a wide variety of vegetables. So I was stunned to read this article, in which she described a vacation to a B&B near Nashville, where she was treated to "something they called peas." These weird little beans didn't resemble any peas she'd ever heard of, so she inquired and got an education on field peas - including the most famous of field peas, the symbol of the South, the blackeyed pea.

The article reminded me of a time two years ago when a friend from New York was visiting us and checked out the pantry as I made dinner. "What's this?" she asked, picking up a jar. "These funny little beans with the spot that looks like an A?"

Until then, I'd assumed that blackeyed peas were on a level with cornbread and ham. Sure, they're Southern, but everyone knows about them, right? Wrong, it turns out! I mentioned them on Twitter not too long ago when someone asked about a healthy standard weeknight supper, and I was asked repeatedly to explain blackeyed peas and how to cook them.

So here it is. Blackeyed peas are pretty hard to screw up, but with a rich, smoky molasses they can be so much more delicious than their humble nature implies. They're packed with protein, calcium, folate, and vitamin A, among other benefits. They're dirt-cheap and store for a very long time, so you can stock up and always have plenty on hand. They bring you luck when eaten on New Year's Day. They don't even need to be pre-soaked. And don't be fooled by Southern stereotypes - blackeyed peas do NOT need pork, or even any meat at all.

And the best part: They're at their best when left alone in a crockpot all day while you go to work. For an easy and nutritious weeknight supper, throw blackeyed peas in the crockpot before you leave in the morning, and then whip up a quick honey cornbread (here's my recipe) when you get home. Collard greens and copper pennies, as in the pic above, are nice but optional!


1 cup dried blackeye peas
4 cups chicken/vegetable broth, water, or a combo
2 cloves minced garlic
¼ cup molasses
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar or cider vinegar
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil (see note)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp hot sauce
½ tsp crushed red pepper
½ tsp dried savory or parsley (optional)
¼ tsp ground black pepper

Chopped green onion, to taste

Note: You can use olive oil, but if you have toasted sesame oil, definitely use it here.

Rinse off the blackeyed peas in a strainer. If you see any shriveled-looking or darkened peas (or little pebbles, sometimes it happens), toss them.

Combine everything but the green onion in the crockpot and switch it on. The measurements don't need to be exact. Forget about it for 8-10 hours. Come home and give it a stir, and when the cornbread is ready, dish up those peas and sprinkle green onion on top.

If you're not making any other dishes and this is just a simple blackeyed-peas-and-cornbread dinner, try a pickle and/or some sliced radishes on the side. Raw veggies really sing with this, or sometimes I go the other way and have a few cubes of cheese. Just keep it simple!