December 31, 2009
I’ve been to 3 food-related events in California since Christmas: Hazon at Asilomar Conference Center in Monterey, the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, and “Food as Medicine” put on by the Center for Mind Body Medicine, also in San Francisco. I’ve learned so much that I want everyone to know, but I’ll stick to some of the highlights and give you some resources to learn more if you are so inclined.
We met a delightful woman at the Hazon conference (www.hazon.org)– a transplanted New Yorker living in Louisville, Kentucky. She told us a heartbreaking story about “food deserts” in this country—impoverished, urban areas where there are no grocery stores for the local residents, and really limited access to fresh, whole food. Many of the children go to school hungry (these are 4 year olds she was talking about) and are only offered pop tarts or other junk food for breakfast, if anything. So many of the children are unable to function in a school setting by the time they are 6 that they are already set on the path of being delinquents at that early age. How many of our adult criminals started on their paths undernourished and malnourished both in body and spirit? There is a great movement to connect local farms with these communities to get fresh food directly to the people. www.foodsecurity.org is a good place to start. Our minds can’t work if our bodies aren’t nourished properly. Some of my therapy clients used to wonder why I would ask them about their diets—“I’m here for therapy, why are you asking me what I’m eating?” No matter how much insight and love gets poured into you, if you are undermining your body with junk food or alcohol, your mental and emotional status cannot change and heal.
We attended The Fancy Food Show as guests this year instead of having a booth. Attendance was high which was a little surprising given the economy. This food show is put on by NASFT—the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade. There are 3 shows per year—one in Chicago, one in New York and one in SF. Thousands of companies set up booths to sell their wares—heirloom rices from around the world, wine, chocolate in every form, sugar in every imaginable form and then some, white flour in every form, jams, chutneys, teas, olives and spreads, cheese, meats, pate, mushrooms, cookies and cakes, pasta and seafood, and on and on. It’s overwhelming, a little fun and ultimately confusing and depressing when juxtaposed with what I mentioned above. Reminds me of Stuffed & Starved by Raj Patel—let me just quote his opening sentences: “Today, when we produce more food than ever before, more than one in ten people on Earth are hungry. The hunger of 800 million happens at the same time as another historical first: that they are outnumbered by the one billion people on this planet who are overweight.” (www.rajpatel.org). There’s a lot to learn about this seeming contradiction.
And then lastly, I attended the “Food as Medicine” conference (www.cmbm.org) also in San Francisco. I gorged myself on cutting edge information and research (much of it way over my head) that is very exciting. We truly have the knowledge to heal our bodies, our communities and our planet. People referred to the “Standard American Diet” as SAD, which says it all. I listened to Dean Ornish, MD (latest book The Spectrum—lots of websites), Mark Hyman, MD (www.ultrawellness.com) Jeffrey Bland, PhD (www.jeffreybland.com), Cynthia Geyer, MD (http://www.canyonranch.com/story/cynthia-geyer.aspx), Joseph Pizzorno, ND (www.drpizzorno.com) and many others. I will list some of the truths that I came away with.
· We are not stuck with our DNA—we can actually change our DNA by the lifestyle choices we make
· Most everyone tested is vitamin D deficient. Start with 1000-2000 mg. of vitamin D3
· B vitamin deficiencies (ESPECIALLY B 12) result in depression, memory problems, and impaired detoxification. B 12 deficiency is also related to neuronal atrophy—walnuts can heal that and blueberries!
· Eat a rainbow of colors—reds, blues,purples, oranges, yellows, greens.
· Memory foods: spinach, strawberries, cranberries, black currents, purple grape juice, plum juice
· Lifestyle can increase Telomerase—the substance that controls the aging of cells. Walking for 3 hours per week increases brain neurons, more blood flow to skin slows aging.
· Digestion is key to health. You are what you absorb.
· Restricted calorie diet increases life span—reduces DNA damage, lowers blood pressure, lowers inflammatory markers, improves heart function.
· Diets high in fried foods, salty snacks, eggs and meat increases risk of acute MI (heart attack) globally; diets rich in fruits and veggies lower risk.
· Flossing teeth lowers risk of heart disease—correlation between gum disease and heart disease.
· Small fish (like sardines) are better than larger fish because the larger the fish the more time to absorb mercury.
· Eat something from the brassica vegetables daily—broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, brussel sprouts.
· Lots of discussion of the importance of omega-3; how modern diets have reversed the ratio of omega-3/omega-6 which should be 2/1 and now it’s usually about 10/1 with omega-6 being on top.
· Everyone likes more fiber, more whole grains, seeds and beans. (50 grams of fiber per day minimum, from whole food sources with 25-30 grams from soluble fiber sources.)
· The more protein a population consumes, the greater the risk of hip fractures. “An unnecessarily high intake of essential amino acids—either in the absolute sense or relative to total dietary protein—may prove to be as grave a risk factor for “Western” degenerative diseases as is excessive fat intake.”
· Calorie restriction, moderate exercise, positive attitude all protect genomic stability.
· No such thing as a disease that is a discreet entity—just a convenient way to describe and memorize.
Top 10 ways to return to a more primitive diet:
1. Eat large amounts of fresh, locally and organically grown produce
2. Eat at least one handful of unsalted nuts and seeds each day
3. Avoid cooking foods at temperatures greater than 350 degrees F.
4. Reduce and restrict animal protein sources to free range and wild
5. Get daily sunlight exposure (15 min. arms, face or more) or take vitamin D
6. Reduce dairy consumption (only eat organic)
7. Limit grains to only 100% whole grains and/or sprouted grains
8. Use raw honey as primary sweetener, if needed
9. Avoid all chemical additives (preservatives, sweeteners, flavorings, etc)
10. Search for wild edibles and heirloom varieties of all plants as often as possible
There is so much more—after I go through my notes again I’ll make other entries. Feast on all of this information, knowledge and wisdom.
Meanwhile, if you want to feast on some food using our crackers, see above!
November 18, 2009
We know the rumor’s been leaking out, but my hands are tied! All I can say at this point is that YES, we are getting ready for a very exciting product launch, now known as Project Double O, expected to hit stores in late-January! I’m not able to give any more details at this point, but I assure you, we are continuing our tradition of using high quality organic, gluten-free ingredients with a fabulous taste profile like our current Mary’s Gone Crackers snacks. You are going to love our newest delicious treats.
Because this is a completely new offering, we’d love your help as we unveil it to the world. I am looking for an exclusive group of 25 beta testers, some of our loyal and wonderful fans who have supported us over the years, to receive the first samples of the product before it hits stores or becomes available for purchase. I’m anxious to hear your feedback and have your support in taking our newest recipe to store shelves. I appreciate your support and thoughts, and would be so happy to work with some of our greatest fans just like you during this exciting time.
Because Project Double O is so confidential, we are only able to bring on an elite group of 25. We’ll send you a gift pack of Mary’s Gone Crackers including our newest product, and all we ask is that you agree not to share what the item is until we get the thumbs up. We welcome you to tease your community until the launch, and let them know you are one of our beta testers – we’ll also be putting your name on our blog as a part of our exclusive team.
If you are interested in joining us, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your contact information, a little information about yourself and a brief explanation as to why you’d like to join us as a Project Double O beta tester. Our spots are limited so don’t wait! I look forward to hearing from you!
November 12, 2009
A long time ago in a land faraway, when I had Thanksgiving dinners with my extended family, my mom made an “exotic” stuffing when it was her turn to host the dinner. Instead of using chunks of toasted bread (there was no such thing as bagged stuffing mix in those olden days) she used white rice mixed with onions, mushrooms, tiny pieces of dried apricots and herbs. I loved it.
Over the years in my kitchen, the white rice turned to brown, then got mixed with quinoa; the vegetables were extended to include anything green that I had in mind–chopped broccoli, kale, or chard–I used fresh herbs, added a little white wine, etc.
Now that Mary’s Gone Crackers is around, I can offer you an easy, more flavorful and fiberful version than both my mom’s and the bagged stuffing mix: use our crackers, our “Gone Crackers” crumbs (sold only on our website) or our “Sticks & Twigs” as a base for your stuffing this year. Whether you are actually filling a turkey or making a vegetarian side dish, this recipe is delicious. The amounts can be adjusted to suit your tastes–add more vegetables and have the “stuffing” part be more in the background if you prefer.
1 bag of Sticks & Twigs, broken into small pieces or
1+ boxes of Mary’s Gone Crackers, crumbled or
1 bag of “Gone Crackers” crumbs
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
2 stalks of celery, finely chopped
several sprigs of parsley, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
1/2 to 3/4 lb. of mushrooms, sliced and chopped (I like shitake, but any will do)
6-8 dried apricot halves, finely chopped (you can use other dried fruits if you prefer, but I really like the added tang of apricots.)
several tablespoons olive oil or other cooking oil
1/2 cup white wine (optional)
1-2 cups stock–either turkey, chicken, or vegetable
1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled
1 tsp. dried sage, crumbled
(or fresh, if available)
In a large skillet, add several tablespoons of olive oil, saute onion on medium heat, stirring often, then cover to keep in the moisture, until soft. Add celery and continue to cook several more minutes. Add mushrooms and 1/2 cup wine (or a little broth). Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are nicely cooked. Add parsley, herbs and chopped apricots and cook a few more minutes to blend in the flavors. Turn off heat and keep covered. (NOTE: the easiest way to chop the apricots is to use a kitchen scissors. They don’t stick the way using a knife does. It’s my mom’s favorite tool!)
In a large bowl, crumble the Sticks & Twigs (or crackers or crumbs). Use your favorite flavor or a blend of flavors. (Try the Onion, Black Pepper and Herb crackers blended!)
Add vegetable/apricot mixture to the bowl and mix well. Pour in broth and mix thoroughly. You may need more liquid at this point. If you are stuffing a turkey, let it be more dry, as the juices from the turkey will moisten it sufficiently. If baking in a casserole, adjust liquid so it doesn’t dry out. Season with salt and pepper to taste, if desired.
Bake in covered casserole dish for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until heated through and browned. Add more broth if stuffing looks too dry. You want the sticks/crackers/crumbs to absorb the liquid and soften somewhat.
Please remember to use organic ingredients!
If you have a favorite stuffing recipe that includes meat or other ingredients, go ahead and try it this year using Mary’s Gone Crackers as your base. I think you’ll like it!
October 5, 2009
It’s definitely fall here now—seems like it came on rather suddenly, but I probably say that every year. I was freezing on Sunday, reading the paper with my robe, slippers and a blanket over me when I finally realized that it was only 60 degrees in the house and it was OK to turn the heat on!
Our community had its annual event called “Johnny Appleseed Days” this past weekend. In preparation for the festivities a group of women get together and make 1200 apple pies to sell at the fundraiser. We have a commercial apple orchard in town who donates the apples. Needless to say, none of the pies are gluten free. In self defense, our family went to another community event called a “Hoes Down.” It’s at a 300 acre organic farm and there was live music, farm tours, workshops, local vendors, and tons of activities for the kids. It was great fun and there was plenty of food for us to eat. California is truly a stunning place to live.
So with all the talk of apple pies swirling around, Dale wanted some apple pie! I bought the apples and then didn’t really feel like making a pie, so he got apple crisp instead—more nutritious, much easier to make and just as satisfying. I’ll save the pie making for later in the season—when we have more people around to share in the eating! The recipe below is very flexible and very forgiving. I made it in an 8X8 glass baking dish and baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes. Sorry for the vague measurements, but this is how I sometimes do things!
5 organic Granny Smith apples (use really crisp, tart apples so they hold their shape)—peel, core and slice; put in a large bowl and add:
~1/4 cup of your favorite organic sugar—cane, brown, sucanat, etc.—to sprinkle on the apples
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
Squeeze juice from ½ small lemon (works OK if you don’t have lemon.)
Mix well and then pour into baking dish (no need to grease it.) Shake the pan to distribute the apples well.
In a large bowl add
•a handful of quinoa flakes (if you eat gluten-free oatmeal, that can be substituted)
•a handful of well-chopped organic walnuts (can use almonds instead—make sure the pieces are small enough so they don’t burn when baking.)
•a handful of Original “Gone Crackers” crumbs
•a handful of favorite organic sugar
•good sprinkling of cinnamon
•enough fat to pull it all together—I used organic ghee this time, but you can melt ½+ stick of organic butter, or use organic coconut oil, or another light tasting organic oil. You want everything to be coated but still crumbly enough to sprinkle on top of the apples. The cracker crumbs absorb the fat, so you might need more than usual.
Evenly distribute the topping on the apples and pat down. Bake at 350 for about 45 minutes until apples are tender. You will see the apples bubbling and the topping keeps the heat and steam in so they get cooked well. If the topping looks like it’s browning too much, turn the heat down to 325.
Over the years I’ve used two recipes for crisp from which I have adapted my own—Alice Water’s Chez Panisse Dessert Cookbook and Molly Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook, if you want a more defined recipe.
September 21, 2009
I am inundated with food options—from this month’s “Gastronomica” magazine where there are articles about cheese, shrimp paste, and “la finanziera” (a dish made with cockscombs, veal, rooster wattles, rooster testicles, calf brain, etc., unique to the Piedmont region of Italy;) to the new VegNews where they display vegan versions of apple strudel, beer battered seitan tacos, pasta, tofu in a million forms (full of gluten and/or soy, both off limits to me.) I am regularly reading or hearing about numerous ways to identify as one who consumes food—vegetarian, vegan, raw/living foods, gluten-free, organic, local, Standard American Diet (SAD), Mediterranean, pescaterian (almost vegetarian but you eat fish), even breatharian! What is a person to do?
The polarity of options were acted out in two summer trips I made recently—one to Italy and one to Patagonia, Arizona to a “living food retreat center” called The Tree of Life (www.treeoflife.nu). Thankfully, I went to Italy first. It was a sudden decision for business, but we stayed for a few extra days just to enjoy Florence and Rome. I had traveled in Italy when I was in college over 35 years ago (!!) and I had worried about going back because of my gluten-free status. This was not at all a problem. It turns out, Italians are very aware of celiac disease and gluten intolerance—they test all of their school age children and I think they are at about 6% positive. The only Italian words I needed to know was “senza glutine”—without gluten—and wait staff either offered me a gluten-free menu (I’m not kidding!) or they went over the menu to show us what we could eat.
There is an association of gluten-free restaurants in Florence (our first stop) and our host gave me a list and took us to one of the restaurants on our first night there. I had gluten-free gnocchi with a fabulous sauce and my husband and our other American traveling companion (who are also gluten-free) ordered different kinds of gluten free pasta—again with incredible sauces. We were in heaven. They did not have gf bread to serve us but they did have gf biscotti to go with our espresso and it was so good I asked them twice to make sure it was gf. Our host asked to speak to the chef to see what he was using for flour and he brought out a bag of gluten-free flour blend that contained rice, corn (no GMO corn in Italy) and carob flours. Pretty interesting.
Another night we went to a pizza parlor—a huge restaurant full of locals, called Pizza Man. We had called ahead 24 hours to order gluten-free pizza for 3 and they were prepared when we arrived. Again, I had to ask our waiter twice to be sure that it was gluten-free. It was thin and crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside and just really the best pizza I’ve had in a long time. We each got to choose our own toppings and then we shared a gluten free tiramisu for dessert!
But here is the best food story about Italy that paints a clear picture. We had to take a 3 hour drive for a business appointment with our host. We were on the freeway, sometimes stuck in traffic, very familiar scene. For lunch we stopped at what looked like a large truck stop. I was disappointed that I was going to waste a meal in Italy at a truck stop, until I got inside. Along with the mandatory espresso bar and shelves of fairly typical junk food (only Italian style) was a cafeteria with hot food and a salad bar. On the salad bar were piles of fresh, peppery arugula, crisp Romaine lettuce, blood red sweet tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, other vegetables and lettuces—the quality of ingredients that would rival any high end restaurant in the US. Salad dressing means fresh bottles of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, even in a truck stop.
At the hot food bar there was an array of freshly prepared foods that looked delicious. When I said the magic words “senza glutine” the server pointed to a sign hanging above that announced that they had 3 entrees that were frozen and gluten free. I ordered the lasagna and it was delicious—again, the sauce was so flavorful and complex—I was very happy.
People take time to eat and enjoy their food in Italy. They have not allowed any genetically modified crops in their country. They do not use high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener. The corn syrup sweetener they use in Italy is syrup made from sprouted corn, which is a whole food sweetener. We found it in products in a health food store we visited.
And here’s another tidbit I learned about Italy: the government recognizes that it is better for children’s health if they eat organic food, since they are more vulnerable to pesticides and toxins. To support that premise, there is a program called Biostock where schools are encouraged to order organic products for their food service. Not all schools participate, but even having the government recognize the value of healthy, organic food is a huge step.
Not all meals we had were stellar, but every waiter made sure that what we ordered was gluten free and safe.
Now after a trip to Italy, why would I go to southern Arizona at the hottest time of year to eat raw food?
As you might have guessed, it has been a life-long struggle for me to figure out the right way to eat for my body. Discovering my gluten intolerance 15 years ago was a huge step in the right direction, and opened up a whole world of information regarding food sensitivities, gut health and absorption, diseases that are really food intolerances, mental health consequences of eating the wrong foods, etc. Since we started Mary’s Gone Crackers, my lifestyle has been very challenging—I’ve spent 30-50% of my time traveling, which may sound glamorous but it’s incredibly difficult to eat healthfully in airports and hotels. I’ve eaten way more food than I’ve needed, especially sugar, have put on 20 pounds, have gone through menopause which adds another layer of stress and confusion. As wonderful as this project has been, it’s taken a toll on my body.
I have been intrigued by the raw food/living food lifestyle ever since we went to our first Harmony Festival at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds in 2005. There were several raw food vendors there, and our booth was next to the raw food guru, David Wolfe. (Check out what he and other have to say about our diet and our health on the fabulous DVD “Food Matters” at www.foodmatters.tv) I had not heard of him at the time, but he had just come out with a new book and people were flocking to his booth like he was a rock star. We tasted all kinds of “pizzas,” “lasagna,” “noodle dishes” and desserts sold at the fair, all of which looked great, most of which tasted OK but were not very satisfying. Just as the gluten free options have improved, so too have the raw food selections. We even had a raw food restaurant near us in Chico for a while that was fabulous.
So, when it was time to go on a retreat with my friend, I searched for a raw food place that sounded good. Tree of Life stayed on the top of my list as it seemed like it would suit my needs. It was established in 1993 by physician and rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD. He has written many books on nutrition and healing and even offers a program at his center that reverses diabetes (Type I diabetes, not just Type II!) They also have a “Whole Person Healing” option where you go through extensive tests and meet with a physician to help you figure out what your body needs. We signed up for the week long “Vegan Spirit Vacation,” which included all raw/living/organic food, yoga classes, food prep classes, and more. I also signed up to go through the Whole Person Healing which included several blood tests, urine analysis and a 2½ hour meeting with the staff physician.
I was a little worried that switching to a raw food diet would be hard on my digestion and that I’d get sick, but that was not the case at all. Because they are a healing center, the food they serve focuses on very low glycemic foods, so this was not typical raw food fare. They had raw food desserts only on Saturday and Sunday and didn’t even serve fruit any other days. I got a little bored with the food choices, but my stomach handled it fine and I didn’t really get hungry at all. I was so ready to have someone else “cook” for me and serve me healthy, organic options that I was generally happy with the food. Staying away from grains, dairy, eggs, sugar and animal protein for a whole week was transformative. Meeting with the doctor and getting to a deeper understanding of my body was even better.
Since I’ve been home, armed with supplements and various “super foods,” I feel much more prepared to feed myself properly both at home and when traveling. I have mostly stayed away from dairy, sugar, most grains and potatoes (quinoa seems to work well for me, and of course, I still eat my crackers and sticks!) and am eating much less animal protein. I have been growing and eating sprouts, make sure I eat some live foods every day, ask for broccoli for breakfast when I am traveling and overall feel much more empowered to eat the way that works best for my body. I’m trying not to be rigid and am taking the time to notice how I feel when I eat different foods. For example, I recently visited a gluten-free vegan bakery and ate one of their sweet rolls. It was very tasty, but I felt fuzzy headed for a while after eating it, and I noticed that I thought more about sweets afterwards than I had for several weeks. My energy levels have been much more balanced and I’ve lost 7 pounds so far!
I know this is another giant step on this path towards health and balance and I am excited to keep progressing. I’ll keep sharing as I learn more. Below is a quick and easy recipe that is becoming a regular in my kitchen.
In a food processor with the grating or thin-slicing blade, process some or all of the following:
Broccoli stems, raw, peeled
Use organic produce as much as possible. Once all the veggies are processed, mix together in a bowl. I use this as a salad base and eat it plain with oil and vinegar; mix it with avocado, cucumber, leftover steamed veggies; or mix it in with my green salad. You can add nuts and/or seeds and top with sprouts. Be creative with your veggies!
August 10, 2009
It’s been a busy few months for me—many plane rides and lots of gluten free cooking and eating. I’ll probably do this in two installments, since I’m so far behind!
June found us traveling first to the Organic Summit (www.theorganicsummit.com) at the Skamania Lodge in Stevenson, Washington, just across the river from Portland. (www.skamania.com). The Organic Summit is inspiring and supportive for farmers, retailers, consumers, researchers, filmmakers, manufacturers and others working hard to spread the gospel about organic food. There were chilling presentations about nano technology and how it’s entering the food and especially cosmetics industries with very little known about the impact that its use has on our bodies and on our environment. We are embracing another technology, like GMO (genetically modified organisms), before any regulations are established to protect us. Be especially careful of sunscreens that are now using it. These tiny molecules (nano size!) have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. Pretty scary. Another reason to stick with organic cosmetics as well as food.
The food at the lodge was wonderful, but more importantly, every member of the wait staff knew exactly what gluten was and which dishes either were already gluten free or could be accommodated to be gluten free. We spoke with the chef to compliment him on this accomplishment and he said that he noticed an increase in gluten free requests a couple years ago and decided to educate his staff! How refreshing!
Next trip found us in Chicago for my mom’s 90th birthday party. I was responsible for the birthday cake and went to Rose’s Wheat Free Bakery &Café (www.rosesbakery.com) in Evanston (just north of Chicago.) They made a delicious chocolate cake with raspberry filling (what mom ordered) that was gluten, soy and nut free (taking care of everyone’s allergies.) No one guessed what was missing from the cake and everyone loved it. We went back there for pizza as well—delicious!
Then it was on to New York for the Fancy Food Show (this is still June!) New York is a great city made even greater by all of the gluten free food! Many restaurants participate in the “Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program “(GFRAP), which makes everything easier (www.glutenfreerestaurants.org). My first stop is usually Risotteria (www.risotteria.com) for their gluten free bread sticks and gluten free pizza, desserts, etc. Yum! This year we finally made it to Lilli and Loo (www.lilliandloo.com) which is a Pan-Asian restaurant with a separate gluten free menu, including gluten free tempura! Dale (my husband, partner and CEO of Mary’s Gone Crackers) ordered two servings of the tempura since it was so good. He’s been gluten free for over 2 years now. For more info about NYC, check out my friend David Marc Fischer’s blog http://glutenfreenyc.blogspot.com. You can get the link to all the restaurants from his site as well.
By far the best meal I had in NYC, or probably anywhere, was at Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan. Check out the information at www.bluehillfarm.com. They have two restaurants, one in the city and one on the grounds at Stone Barns. The food is grown or raised on the farm and it’s truly extraordinary. When I eat food like that—fresh, organic produce, cheese, humanely raised animals, all simply and creatively prepared—I think about how that’s really how we should all be eating and what a difference it would make in all of our lives to have access to food like that on a regular basis. It is possible.
So now we’re into early July and we left the city and went WAY up state to our friend’s land in Chateaugay, NY—close to Montreal. Cold spring water, rushing river, lots of rain (which I generally like since it’s so dry in California this time of year), green everywhere, TONS of wild flowers, relaxing and quiet. I think half of my photos were of wild flowers. I have a plan to make a quilt someday with appliqué squares of wild flowers. So I take close-up shots of tiny flowers so I can copy them into fabric—when I have time, sigh.
One night we made a bonfire, the first of the summer for them. And of course, we made S’mores—but we used Mary’s Gone Crackers Original instead of graham crackers, with organic chocolate and marshmallows. Another yum! The crackers were a perfect fit for the roasted marshmallow, making a neat and tidy sandwich—well, it was a little sticky. The sky was full of stars, the moon was almost full, the fire snapped, cracked and popped and we were happily watching it all.
May 18, 2009
When I am out and about in the world, it seems as though I often enter into conversations with people (sometimes strangers) about health, diet, celiac disease, being on a gluten-free diet and of course, Mary’s Gone Crackers. I consider myself pretty well educated about all those topics, so it was exciting to be exposed to some new information recently. We had a table at the annual Celiac Disease Foundation conference a couple weeks ago in Pasadena (www.celiac.org) and I managed to get away to listen to one of the physicians speaking that day, Joseph Murray, MD, from the Mayo Clinic. I jotted down a few notes: 30% of the population carry the gene for celiac disease but only 2% actually get CD. Many people present with subtle inflammation but it’s not enough to be identified as celiac, yet they were helped by being on a gluten-free diet. When mice are sensitized to gluten but have very little intestinal damage (therefore, no celiac disease), eating gluten still slowed down their digestive process, and they suffered other digestive ailments, again without celiac disease. People vary tremendously in how long it takes to heal from intestinal damage, once going gluten-free. I asked him later if he ever saw scarring when he did his examinations and he said he did; however, “the intestine’s ability to heal is quite profound.”
At that same conference my friend Anna (www.glutenevolution.com) gave me a book by Dr. Stephen Wangen called “Healthier Without Wheat: A new understanding of wheat allergies, celiac disease, and non-celiac gluten intolerance.” He also wrote a book about IBS and has an IBS Treatment Center in Seattle. I’m almost finished with the book and he describes celiac disease as a subset of a much larger category of gluten intolerance. He says the definition of celiac disease is villous atrophy (flattening of the villi in the small intestine) so unless that is your symptom, you do not have celiac disease. However, you can be just as ill and do much damage to your body by having “non-celiac gluten intolerance.” Celiac disease is not always the worst form of gluten intolerance–the list of symptoms and the stories he tells are quite compelling. His discussion parallels Dr. Murray’s observations and will change the way you think about celiac/gluten intolerance. So many times, my intuition tells me that one of my friends is suffering from gluten intolerance and yet, when they get tested for celiac disease it comes up negative. Now I understand more about both the ineffectiveness of some of the tests, as well as the much larger (and easier to test!) category of gluten intolerance that my friends probably fall into. Now, they think it’s OK for them to eat gluten because they don’t have celiac disease! READ THIS BOOK and pass it on to your friends. It makes a lot of sense.
One more comment about the conference. I’ve been off of gluten for 15 years now and don’t really think much about my “alternative” lifestyle–like when I go to restaurants and other social gatherings. However, there I was in a room with 500 people who have the same afflication as I do and my emotions came to the surface. Being at an event where all the food that was served all day was food I could eat, brought tears to my eyes. (Even though much of the food was full of sugar and refined grains and other junk which I don’t normally eat!) People were thrilled to hear from representatives of Betty Crocker who is coming out with several new gluten free mixes this summer–for me it isn’t because I’ll buy her mixes (I’m sure I won’t). But the excitement is in the recognition from mainstream society that WE ARE OUT THERE! I love what the CDF is doing to educate and advocate. Get their brochures and pass them out–”Are You the One?” Take them to your doctor’s and dentist’s office! Donate to their organization. They do good work.
March 28, 2009
Luckily I was in the office at the right time, when the call from Mary in North Dakota came in. She had a story to tell me that would take about 5 minutes, did I have time to listen? I like hearing stories (I think most of us do) so I said yes.
Well, it seems that this Mary has been telling this story to lots of people for the last 2 years and she was encouraged to call us so we could hear it too. Two years ago, her father was on his death-bed in the hospital and Mary found herself being the responsible, go-to sibling (of 11!) which kept her very busy, very stressed, and going “a little cuckoo.” She left the hospital to hurry to get to the post office to mail a check to her son for his upcoming wedding. There was a line at the service counter, which happens to be in the grocery store of the small town. She was continuing to multi-task and was on her cell phone while she waited. The call got involved so she went to find the quietest spot in the grocery store (meanwhile, the line kept growing and she was anxious about getting back to the hospital and thinking about 20 other things that needed to be done.)
So, back to the quietest spot in the grocery store, which happened to be the organic section. Here we took a little diversion because Mary said she really didn’t understand what organic was and why it was better for you. I love having the opportunity to explain the benefits of organic farming, for our bodies, our earth, air, water, and all the creatures. Mary listened. So there she was in the organic section of the store continuing to “go cuckoo” and feeling more and more stressed as the minutes ticked by. She looked up and there on the shelf was a box of “Mary’s Gone Crackers.” It made her laugh out loud to see that name and even though she’s “not a religious person” she felt the message was clear–time to let go, Mary, before you go crackers. She bought a box and took it back to the hospital with her where everyone in her family got a good laugh.
Mary’s dad passed away the next day and she has kept that box of crackers sitting in her hair salon where she gets to tell the story often. I asked her if she had ever tasted the crackers, worrying that we were only a great name to her and that she had missed out on our great taste. She had never opened that first box of crackers, but she has been eating the crackers ever since, and recommending them to lots of people as well. Meanwhile she is about to become a grandmother and wants to learn about eating better, and what better place to start than with Mary’s Gone Crackers!
This is one of the fun parts of having started this company–connecting with the people who are enjoying our products (and our name!) We were sampling our products at a little event in San Francisco last weekend and a young woman came up to our table and said “are you Mary?” When I told her I was she said, “I love you.” Wow! Now that’s pretty cool to have a total stranger tell me she loves me! She really loves our products and since she has celiac disease, they have made her life a lot easier and more enjoyable. Yea! I love hearing that! All this work is worth it when I remember how many people are enjoying our labor of love.
March 14, 2009
We shopped at our local farmer’s market this morning where there is an array of growers and ranchers from all over our county. I asked one of the chicken farmers about his eggs and heard all about the chicken’s feed, their environment, saw pictures of them, all before I purchased his eggs. Made me think about our ingredients and how we have established relationships with the people and communities that grow our grains and seeds. You all are removed from that layer of information when you go to a store to buy our products, but I thought it might be interesting for you to hear a little about our growers.
Our main ingredient—organic , short grain brown rice—is grown in our county and one county over and is processed in a plant about 45 minutes from our facility. Polit Farms has grown rice for over 25 years and now some of their kids are growing rice as well. We have used their rice exclusively for the 5 years we’ve been in business and are approaching 1 million pounds per year! Mike and Sherry Polit are wonderful partners to have in this venture (www.politfarms.net).
Our next main ingredient is grown much farther away—organic quinoa (both red and white varieties)—grown almost exclusively in the high altitudes of Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru. We have used primarily two sources of quinoa, an heirloom variety from Ecuador (www.incaorganics.com) and Royal Quinoa from Bolivia (www.andeannaturals.com). Last year we were actually privileged to be able to visit some of the quinoa fields in Ecuador. As quinoa becomes more popular in the U.S., and as I’ve met more suppliers, we are finding other sources for this delicious and nutritious whole grain.
Our organic, whole brown flax seeds are grown in North Dakota and parts of Canada. We buy them from a few farmer cooperatives that sell their seeds. Since we buy in much larger quantities than we used to, we can buy directly from the growers in this way, rather than through ingredient brokers.
Our organic unhulled or natural sesame seeds are a little harder to pin down to one location. We have gotten them from organic growers in India, Mexico and South America. I prefer staying in our own hemisphere, since it’s closer to home, but last year the market was so volatile (prices doubled) that we were buying from several sources. The pricing is coming down slowly and we have found some growers in Peru that we will be purchasing from again.
Our organic millet is grown and processed in Colorado and we buy directly from the farmer (www.cleandirtfarm.com). By the way, since he grows and processes wheat as well as millet, we have the millet tested for gluten regularly. It has always been undetectable.
We use much smaller quantities of the organic amaranth and chia seeds, so at this point we are buying them through ingredient brokers. Amaranth is grown in the same environments as quinoa. Chia is grown in Mexico and Latin America.
As I develop new products and bring in new ingredients to my test kitchen, I am learning about other environments and their histories. I feel privileged to meet the growers and producers of all of my whole food ingredients and look forward to passing on their stories to you.
January 31, 2009
I think hummus is one of the best spreads/dips to accompany our crackers and sticks. Emerald Valley Kitchen makes a variety of tasty organic hummus and dips. Trader Joe’s also carries a good organic hummus. Or if you want to make your own, here’s an easy and delicious recipe:
2 C cooked organic garbanzo beans (chickpeas) or use 2 cans of organic garbanzo beans, drained
1 garlic clove (or more to taste) minced
1/3 C tahini (sesame paste)
1/4 C fresh squeezed lemon juice (I prefer Meyer lemons)
1/4 C olive oil
1 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1 TBS. chopped parsley or cilantro (optional)
Extra olive oil
Put the first 7 ingredients into a food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. You might need a little water to get it to the best consistency. Add more lemon juice, olive oil, salt or cumin to taste. (Don’t add too much garlic or that’s all you will taste!) When serving, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with optional chopped parsley or cilantro. Serve with Mary’s Gone Crackers and Sticks & Twigs—in your favorite flavor!
Breaded Chicken Breasts or Fish Filets
I have the luxury of collecting all of our wonderful cracker crumbs directly from our manufacturing facility. I keep a big bag of “savory” crumbs in my cupboard—which include crumbs from our Onion, Herb and Black Pepper crackers—and a big bag of Original crumbs as well. You can purchase these crumbs from our website (www.marysgonecrackers.com) or make some of your own by grinding up or use a rolling pin to crush some Mary’s Gone Crackers to use as “breading.”
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts (organic, free range) OR
2 fresh fish filets (snapper, sole, tilapia, etc.)
1 beaten organic whole egg (or you can just use the egg white, or olive oil)
Enough crumbs to cover
Coat chicken or fish thoroughly with crumbs first, then coat with egg or oil, then coat again with crumbs and place in lightly oiled baking dish. Sprinkle with more herbs if you like.
Bake in 350 degree oven until done. (Bake time depends on the size of the pieces—usually 25-30 minutes).
You could also fry the chicken or fish in oil for a very crisp version.
I imagine that this coating would work well with slices of firm tofu as well, although I’ve not tried it.