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Perfect Whole Foods Diet

As a Certified Nutritional Consultant, one of the things I do is coach people on how to choose foods to help heal their ailments and achieve a healthy state. I believe that most disease and maladies are borne from dietary deficiencies or excesses; cleaning up our eating habits and adopting a diet of whole foods can resolve or at least improve many health problems.

I follow this philosophy myself, and credit it for keeping my Multiple Sclerosis at bay. I haven’t had an exacerbation since 2001, which is a long time in the world of MS.

My friend Jan suffered from undiagnosable general malaise. She was fatigued, uncomfortable, and frail for most of a decade. Then she healed herself with a three-pronged approach; one leg of which calls for switching to a strict diet of whole foods. Nothing processed. Nothing artificial. Only real foods. It’s called the Perfect Whole Foods Diet, and together with the originator, Dr. Walt Stoll, she wrote a book to help others heal the way she did.

Check out her book Recapture Your Health. I loved it.

Today, Jan dances to disco music for 30-minutes each morning, sings in the church choir, and carries on a busy career as a massage therapist. She feels renewed and rejuvenated.

Just as an FYI: While I subscribe to a variation of the Perfect Whole Foods Diet, I personally am a little more relaxed about it, adapting to best feed myself given the situation and striving for as close to a whole food diet as possible in my own life.

Italian Zucchini Soup

Several zucchini the size of cricket bats greet me the morning after a week-long vacation this summer. Along with a number of full-sized yellow crookneck squash, smiling up innocently from beneath the leaves.

Clearly, something had to be done. And quickly!

I had a hankering for soup.

I wasn’t sure what kind, though. Perhaps Indian? Naw, I think I want to make an Indian dish later this week. What about Mexican? Possibility, but I don’t have any frozen corn, which blows it for me tonight.

I want to use zucchini, squash… and some of these frozen vegetables in my freezer. Not much fresh in the house, since we just got home and I haven’t been shopping yet. Oh wait: here is a can of diced tomatoes, and another of tomato paste…

Ah yes… I think it will be Italian soup. Italian vegetable soup.

I sauté garlic briefly in olive oil in the bottom of my largest soup pot, a handy 12-quart stock pot, and add the zucchini and squash, cut into bite-sized pieces. When softened, I add an undrained 28-oz can of diced tomatoes and a bag containing 11 cups of frozen turkey stock that I make from the Thanksgiving turkey carcass every year. I stir in a can of tomato paste in small amounts to dissolve well.

Back out to the garden for a handful of oregano and parsley, chopped and added to the pot. Season with sea salt and a teaspoon or so of red pepper flakes to give it that little “oomph” and make it interesting. 2 bags of frozen green beans that should really get used. Purified water to thin it out and make more broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer ‘til vegetables are tender and tomato flavor is more sweet than iron-y.

italian zucchini soup

I divvy up the finished soup into assorted 4-serving size storage containers, label and cool in the fridge before freezing. Later this winter, we’ll pull one out and defrost for a quick and easy dinner on a cold and tired evening.

Barbequed Quahogs

While visiting the east coast this summer, my husband gathered a bucket of quahogs from a bed near the shore. He brought them back and scrubbed and bearded them. Then he opened up the grill.

Quahogs are hard-shelled clams found along the coast of New England. They are pronounced “co-hogs”, with a thick Boston accent.

Years ago, on our first wedding anniversary, before we had kids when we actually had time and a little bit of money to spend, we landed in San Francisco and drove up to Sonoma in Northern California.

Drive along the Pacific Coast Highway here and you’ll parallel jagged cliffs dropping into the ocean, home to windswept towns vibrant with kites and wind-flags and little seaside seafood joints.

quahogs on the grill

Keep your eyes open for the local tradition of barbequed oysters, and became addicted in the way it happens when something familiar gets a mouth-watering and unexpected twist that sends your tastebuds into ecstasy. Ever since then, we’ve been grilling quahogs (another bivalve) on our annual summer trip to the coast.

In California, we watched them place the fresh, cleaned oysters on the grill until they opened. Then they would pull apart the shells and run a knife underneath the body to separate it (without losing any of the precious oyster juice in the shell) before drizzling with barbeque sauce and returning to the grill. It’s hot and tangy, tasting of sea and smoke and earthiness. Pure heaven. Don’t forget to slurp the juice!

quahogs on plate

On this night, we can’t wait for the sauce and dig into the barely-opened quahog shells, forgoing even the barbeque sauce in our haste to slurp up the grilled blobs of meat.

Mmmmm… salty, a bit chewy, but tender and intensely savory in that peculiar, bivalve way.

The next night, we do it again!

Zucchini Bread

Last summer my world was in disarray. We had recently moved into a new house, the kids were still very young and demanding, the cookbook had recently been released, and I told myself I just had too much going on to deal with a garden. It may have been a less-than-wise decision because I mourned my lost garden for the next cycle of seasons. So when spring came around this year, I was determined to find a little plot in my tiny yard where I could have a small garden.

We dug out a little 6’x4’ rectangle and I planted a few herbs, a cucumber vine, a yellow squash, and the monster of them all: a single zucchini plant.

I learned the year of my first garden in my first house that more than one zucchini plant will make you the scourge of the neighborhood as you stealthily ditch green batons on your neighbors’ porches in the dead of night. Just one healthy zucchini plant can land a family of four up to their ears in the green squash for a month or more, and send a dogged cook running to find creative ways to serve and preserve the bounty.

Another summer I was heavily pregnant with my first child. Maybe it was hormonal, I don’t know, but I completely surrendered to some heretofore hidden Martha Stewart gene and went a little out of control. Probably the lunacy began with the ambitious garden, which led to the bountiful harvest.

Let me see if I remember correctly… the numbers were along the lines of 75 loaves of zucchini bread baked, wrapped, and frozen; 25 jars of peach butter, prepared, canned and labeled; uncounted pounds of fresh tomatoes, parboiled, skinned, and frozen in ziptop baggies; 15 jars of fresh salsa, mixed, canned and labeled, 13 jars of fresh pesto, prepared, canned and labeled.

It was a pre-natal frenzy. The last of the tomatoes, picked green before an autumn freeze, ripened on the windowsills as the weather turned. I remember boiling water and dropping in tomatoes until their skin peeled while my mother sat in my kitchen holding my new baby.

I think that was the last time I actually bothered to skin a tomato, come to think of it.

Today I set my 2- and 4-year olds up on stools at the counter and they helped me face the beginning of the zucchini stampede with our first batch of zucchini bread for the season.

Here’s my mother’s zucchini bread recipe from the 1970s, adapted to make it a both little healthier and a little more decadent at the same time. I doubled the recipe and made 24 mini-muffins, 3 mini-loaves, and three 9×5 loaves.

zucchini bread

My Mother’s Zucchini Bread

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 organic eggs, well beaten
2 1/2 cup unbleached, unrefined organic sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. real vanilla (not artificially-flavored vanilla extract)
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup organic chocolate chips, nuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans or equivalents. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients of flours, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder.

In the bowl of a mixer, if you have one, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla, oil and blend well. Add dry ingredients. Add zucchini and blend well. Fold in chocolate chips, nuts, etc.

Bake at 350F for one hour or until it tests done with a toothpick.