Archive for May, 2009

Salmon with Chili-Mango Salsa

May 27, 2009 2 comments

This delicious recipe takes about 20 minutes to throw together. One of my favorite ways to eat salmon, it makes a great company dinner, especially in the summer.  It’s appreciated by young and old.

This recipe gets an extra star for qualifying as a Caveman meal. The foods the earliest humans, who were hunter-gatherers, are supposed to have eaten (pre-cooking) are the most nourishing ones.  These foods include all vegetables (greens, roots, etc.), all fruits, nuts, meat, poultry, fish and eggs.  The first “processed” foods—those requiring cooking—included grains (wheat, rice, etc.), beans (pinto, garbanzo, black, etc., and peas, lentils), and potatoes, along with milk products. They are not nearly as good for us.

Nobody’s asking you to eat those critters and eggs raw, as the cavemen are said to have done. I know it’s already a lot to suggest not eating bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. But raw fruits and vegetables are as good as it gets, health-wise. The idea is to make them delicious, too. This recipe hits all the bases.

2 mangos, peeled, pitted, diced

½ C chopped fresh cilantro

½ C chopped red onion

2 T fresh lime juice

4 t minced seeded serrano chili

2 t grated lime peel

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

4 T olive oil

4 six-oz salmon filets


Combine first seven ingredients in a small bowl; mix in 3 T olive oil. Season salsa with salt and pepper. Brush salmon with remaining 1 T of olive oil. Grill or broil until just opaque in the center, about five minutes per side. Serve with salsa.  Serves four.

A green salad rounds out the meal. Some avocado with vinaigrette or mayo is a nice addition.  For a heavier, non-Caveman meal, add some whole grain rice.

From Bon Appétit magazine.

The Caveman Salad Solution: Fast Food for Little Gourmets

TV Caveman

REAL CAVEMEN eat salad with fruit, even though it may sound like a bit of a girly lunch.

“I am all about salads with fruit now,” I told my husband last week during our lunch at home while our kids were at school. I had fixed for the two of us Watermelon and Arugula Salad with Walnuts. It was dressed with orange juice, lime juice, raspberry vinegar, a drizzle of olive oil. It also included a little dry ricotta salata cheese.  It was offbeat, but tasty, I thought.

A week or two earlier, I had made Watermelon Gazpacho. Gazpacho is usually basically a raw vegetable salad (no fruit) in soup form.  This one included a pound each of watermelon and cucumber and three pounds of tomatoes.  It was also a bit weird, but good, in my opinion.

My husband agreed that yes, I was all about salads with fruit, but that this kind of thing was maybe, possibly, not his most absolute favorite kind of thing.

“You’ll get used to it,” I told him. He used to not like cilantro or pumpkin soup, either, I reminded him. Tastes change as we get older, as my mom used to tell me.

The very next evening, undeterred, I served baby spinach with jicama (a crisp, juicy Mexican root vegetable) and fresh pineapple with cilantro vinaigrette. My daughter, who had liked my Watermelon Gazpacho, remarked, in a very like-mother-like-daughter moment, “You’re all about salads with fruit now.”

I guess it is hard to miss. My current culinary obsession is the Caveman Diet*—in particular, the Caveman salad.

Raw greens and other raw vegetables and fruit are the staples of the Caveman Salad. Nuts, eggs or some cold fish or meat are perfect additions. Cooked vegetables or small amounts of cheese, while not strictly top rank, are tolerated for the sake of variety and flavor.

Other examples: baby greens with roasted asparagus, Golden Delicious apple and a little shaved Gruyere cheese, topped with an olive oil, rice vinegar, honey and garlic dressing. And an old favorite of ours:  spinach salad with mango and candied pecans, dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

So what’s so great about vegetable and fruit salads?

1. Raw vegetables, fruits and nuts are optimal foods. They are far more nutrient-dense than the bread, noodles, potatoes and rice that most of us eat so much of.

2. Less cooking required. It’s already too hot here in Texas much of the time to do much cooking.

3. Raw fruits and vegetables are especially refreshing in hot Texas weather.

4. Salads are some of the easiest dishes to prepare.

5. Also some of the quickest.

6. The recipes usually don’t require perfect execution.

7. The variations of ingredients, dressings and seasonings for salads are limitless. The horizons spread far beyond the classic American salad: iceberg lettuce with maybe some chopped tomatoes or peppers or grated carrots and some bottled salad dressing.

8. They taste great.

Just a few other suggestions that I’ve used myself for salad ingredients:

Greens: watercress, endives, escarole, mache, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard

Cooked vegetables:  green or yellow beans, broccoli, carrots, beets, mushrooms, roasted peppers

Raw vegetables: jicama, kohlrabi, avocados, fennel, zucchini

Nuts: pecans, walnuts, pine nuts, hazelnuts, pistachios

Fruit: oranges, pears, peaches, olives

The onion family: red, yellow or white onions, scallions, shallots, garlic, chives

Herbs: parsley, tarragon, chervil, basil, mint

Critters: tuna, smoked salmon, shrimp, anchovies, chicken, roast beef, ham

A good recipe is the key to a tasty mix. A lot of my recipes come from my four miniature Bon Appétit cookbooks or my 2008 Food & Wine cookbook. Recipes mentioned here or my variations on them are available online or upon request.

*The Caveman Diet is composed of the food the earliest humans are theorized to have eaten, before cooking was introduced: vegetables (loads of greens and roots), fruits, nuts, eggs and the flesh of critters.  These optimally nourishing foods are what could be hunted or gathered fresh, without cooking, farming, raising animals, or long-term food storage or preservation. The list excludes milk products and all the other less-perfect foods that have to be cooked: bean and lentils, peanuts, potatoes and sweet potatoes, and grains like rice and wheat. It also excludes all processed junk foods and fast foods, of course.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 20 May 2009 / All rights reserved

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on June 18, 2010.

How to Use “Negative Reverse Selling” at the Dinner Table

May 19, 2009 1 comment


Your child has a problem: he needs to eat. You have the solution.

Unfortunately, just like a traditional salesperson, you may have some trouble convincing your potential “buyer” that your solution is just what he needs (even if it is free).

·  Do you feel like you need a motivational seminar to recapture your enthusiasm and get you back on those front lines of getting your child to eat?

·  Does your child sense your desperation and use it to take advantage of you?

·  Do you view meals as a win-lose proposition?

·  Are you working too hard to get your child to eat, with too little results?

·  Do you remind yourself of the stereotypical, loudmouth, grinning, aggressive, hand-pumping salesperson each time you sit down to the dinner table with your young prospect?

If your results are lackluster, if your techniques lack finesse, you may need some attitude adjustment with some tips on salesmanship from Sandler Sales Institute’s system for successful selling.

Selling is like fishing, according to Sandler. When you first feel a tug on the line, resist the impulse to reel in the line right then. That first nibble is just the moment when the fish needs a little extra slack on the line, to allow it the time to really grab hold of the hook. With knowledge and understanding, the patient fisherman or fisherwoman waits for the line to tighten again, and then gently, carefully, sets the hook.

The effective salesperson remains confident and relaxed. He doesn’t chase off the prospect with his enthusiasm. Unlike the fisherman, he knows he has something the prospect needs, a product that will really help the buyer. He doesn’t beg or plead or offer bribes. He avoids applying pressure. Instead, he maintains a reassuring, win-win attitude.

When the prospective buyer seems interested, the amateur, over-eager salesperson will whip out the contract. It’s at that point the prospect smells a rat and is likely to run the other way. The more pushy and aggressive the salesperson, the more resistant the prospect is likely to become. We adults know how that works. A salesman with a solid used car need not be so desperate about selling it.

The effective salesperson knows when to give the fish some extra line. He whips out what Sandler calls the “negative reverse” technique. He takes a step backward to draw the prospect forward.

“Are you sure you’ve given it enough thought?” he might ask.

Instead of piling the plate with food as a way to get a light eater to eat more, don’t give her any at all, or just a tiny bit. Wait for her to ask.

If the little prospect doesn’t want to eat something, back off completely. If a kid isn’t hungry at dinner time, he’s probably either not feeling well, full from untimely snacks, or turned off by the pushiness of the parent. More pressure at this moment is the most counterproductive mistake the salesperson can make, if she is hoping for long-term results.

Kids are not such a mystery. They’re a lot like us bigger humans. Like the rest of us, they need food to survive. They’re born with a natural affinity for what their bodies need. They want respect. They don’t like pressure and they like to be in charge of themselves in good ways as much as possible.

If the “bait” smells good, looks good, tastes good, though, that is sales job enough for the well- qualified prospect: a hungry child. Present the food and then back off. Give him some space. Allow him to develop interest. Allow them to come to the right conclusion on their own.

Some examples of the “negative reverse” technique for the dinner table:

·  “You must not be hungry.”

·  “Are you sure you’re hungry?”

·  “I’m not sure I made enough for everybody to have some.”

·  “Would you like any?” (Instead of “Eat it”)

·  “It’s kind of an adult taste.”

·  “You don’t want any, do you?”

·  “Good. Leaves more for the rest of us.”

Related post:

Neutralize a kid’s food resistance

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 19 May 2009 / All rights reserved

The Unsteady Diet: The Perfect Formula for Maximizing Benefits While Minimizing Risks


Are you overwhelmed and confused by the endless stream of information on health in the media? New scientific evidence is continually unearthed about what we should and shouldn’t eat.

Perhaps one of the only facts about diet we can know for sure is that the experts always disagree, as has often been said. One expert condemns a certain food even as another praises its virtues.

We want answers, but the answers we get are clouded with the fact that researchers need to get funding. They need to make news.  Methods and conclusions can be colored by researchers’ own personal biases. Then there’s the inherent impossibility of getting much accurate data on what people eat and how it truly affects them. Contradictions, errors, oversimplifications, over- and understatements, half-truths and fallacies abound in diet research, according to Barry Glassner in The Gospel of Food: Why We Should Stop Worrying and Enjoy What We Eat.

So we end up going to extremes.  People hear about the current demon, whether it’s fat, salt, cholesterol, eggs, red meat, or carbs, and grab hold of eliminating it, as if to a lifeboat, as the hope for health. Others might hear that a certain fruit or fish is safe and beneficial, so they start eating it all the time.  We grasp at tidbits, looking for that miracle food or diet or cure, The Answer to What Ails Us, from flax seeds to goji berries. Others end up disregarding all recommendations, even the sound ones.

So all this information isn’t helping.  Whatever it is we know or don’t know, we seem to keep getting fatter and sicker.

What we need is a clear, unifying principle to be our guiding our star in navigating the fluctuations of “expert opinion” and the inconstancy of “facts.”

That guiding principle exists.  It is Strictly Everything under the sun. Instead of worrying about particular foods to eat or avoid, we need as many different whole foods (fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, grains) as possible.  Most experts seem to be able to agree on the point that whole foods are probably generally better for us than processed foods.

Variety is a great answer for everything we don’t know. As varied a diet as possible is “good insurance” in our position of “extraordinary ignorance” about diet, states medical writer Marcia Angell. Putting your eggs in as many different baskets as you can is the best way to dodge the risks and maximize gains, she explains.

Variety is an equally safe answer to problems we really are sure about. The evidence is good enough for me, for example, that many of our food sources are contaminated with some amount of toxins, carcinogens, pathogens, bacteria, coatings, colorings, flavorings, GMOs, chemicals and allergens.

I believe that hormones and antibiotics infect our meat, not to mention extreme cruelty and filth in industrial production. Fish is affected by polluted waters or harmful farming practices. Pesticides and herbicides contaminate vegetables and fruits. Cow’s milk may not be beneficial for most humans.  There is plenty worth worrying about and avoiding if we are so inclined. I’ve even heard that even the best of celery has its own natural poisons.  Even water can kill you if you drink too much at a time.

Thank goodness, even a child’s body can process a certain amount of toxins, and buying at least some organic produce may help.

Happily also, different foods come with different types of toxins. Shaking things up nonstop allows you to get as many different nutrients as possible while diluting the poisons.

It’s the steady diet of anything that present a great danger. Making variety the ultimate goal in meal planning throws up a solid roadblock against overdosing on any particular evil.

On the flip side, our need for a wide variety of nutrients gives us another reason to diversify.  While a steady diet of anything is bad, that doesn’t mean going without that thing is good. Suspect foods, at least among whole foods, are a mixed bag, also offering some good stuff. You may swallow some hormones and antibiotics, but you also get some protein and vitamins with it. Pesticides may be part of the package, but you get some fiber and minerals in the same bite. Pleasure is also worth something, as it helps us get the most good out of a meal.

For optimal nutrition, children need to eat 20 different foods per day, according to French Women Don’t Get Fat author Mireille Guiliano.  Eating the greatest possible variety of good foods is the best way to avoid nutritional deficiencies and not miss junk food too much, she adds.

In spite of all the disagreement on what we should or shouldn’t eat, we can bank on not only the principle of variety, but yet another big, broad answer to the question. I don’t think any researcher has ever come out and said, “After all, don’t eat vegetables and fruits, because we just found out they’re bad for you.”  So old news or not, fruits and vegetables, especially organic, may still be our safest bet, at least until further notice.

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon / 15 May 2009 / All rights reserved

Celery Root Salad a la Viennoise

Celery root This salad is new and different, I'll bet – a good first step to eating as varied a diet as possible. I'd never heard of celery root before I lived in France, and I never come across recipes for it now, but it is available in some grocery stores. I wonder who else is buying it and what they do with it. I have a soup recipe or two that include it, but this is a really tasty, easy way to discover its flavor.

Variety in food is the number one rule to follow in feeding children. I try to continually bring into my family's diet as many different foods as possible. It keeps things interesting, guarantees a variety of nutrients, expands our horizons, eliminates fussiness. Eating a wide variety of foods also prevents getting much of anything harmful. Kids can get used to trying everything and enjoying adventures in food, if you just keep at it.

2 large celery roots

1 lemon

1 T Dijon mustard

1 t horseradish, finely grated fresh or prepared in a jar

2 small dill pickles, finely minced

1 T white vinegar

1 C mayonnaise

2 T minced parsley

1 T finely minced chives

1 pinch of white pepper

Optional: ½ C finely cubed ham

Bring to boil a fairly large pan of water. Meanwhile peel the celery roots. Cook them until fairly tender when pierced a fork, about 30 minutes. Drain them, and when cooled enough to handle, cut them into small cubes, place them in a serving bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice.

In a small mixing bowl, combine the mustard, horseradish, pickles and vinegar, and blend well.

Add the mayonnaise, mustard-vinegar mixture and white pepper, parsley and chives to the celery root cubes. Toss the salad carefully with two forks and chill for an hour or two before serving.

From Perla Meyers' excellent old classic, The Seasonal Kitchen: a return to fresh foods.

Is Your Child Neophobic? Give Her More New, Not Less

May 5, 2009 4 comments

YOUNG CHILDREN TEND TO BE FEARFUL of new foods, especially when the foods are arranged into the shape of a clown.

Young children tend to be naturally neophobic—afraid of newness—about food, experts now tell us. 

But is this neophobia inborn in normal children? Au contraire: children are born naturally wanting to discover and explore.  Infants are ready to put anything and everything in their mouths.

Yet I  have observed that the majority of kids who have come to my house over the years— though not my own kids—have indeed been afraid of not just new foods, but of food in general, including chicken, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce—you name it—except maybe desserts and trusted processed foods that come in packages.

The “solution” these experts offer to this fear of new foods is to deaden it with monotony: offer the fearful child the same food 15 or 20 times until she isn’t afraid of it any more. Not that she won’t still be afraid of new foods in general, but her fear of that one food should diminish.  Two or three weeks straight of carrots, then of peas, followed by spinach. By that time, familiarity will probably have bred contempt, but at least the fear will be gone.

Hardly a miracle cure. The cure may be worse than the disease.
What if, instead of addressing the fear of a given food, we could eliminate the fear of new foods in general?  It’s like the idea of giving a man a fish and feeding him for that day versus truly transforming his life by teaching him to fish so that he can eat every day on his own.

I think of the advice I used to hear that we shouldn’t avoid making noise during baby’s naps because it’s better that he get used to sleeping through natural daytime noise than getting hooked on artificial silence.  At first, the noise may interrupt a nap, but a habit will be built for better long-term results.

We can see a similar principle at work in schools as we respond to kids becoming less and less interested in learning.  We try to solve the problem by making studies less challenging, less demanding, less thought-provoking, more dumbed-down and pre-digested. And if they still don’t get it? Review the same information over and over. Are we seeing more interest in learning as a result, or less?

Avoiding newness because they’re afraid of it will only make the problem worse. Pussy-footing around children only encourages their fussiness and balkiness instead of confronting it for the nonsense it is. How can they be afraid of new foods if they get nothing but a steady stream of new foods? Newness in general will become old hat. Just think of the possibilities for a child who gets comfortable with such continual risk!

So quit breathing down their necks and working so hard at it. Fussy, fearful parents make for fussy, fearful kids.

But don’t back down:  keep feeding them the biggest variety of the tastiest Real Foods you can manage. That’s the best insurance for optimal nutrition. Try new recipes relentlessly. Make something new as often as possible, at least once a week, taking confidence from knowing you’re on the right track. Make meal time as surprising and exciting as possible. Do not fear their fear.
Make an enticing new home-cooked meal with an attractive balance of flavors and colors and textures. Put it before hungry little humans. Your job as the parent is then over at that point; that’s where their appetites take over.

Provide nothing but the foods you want them to eat, but do not require them to eat anything.

They’ll be unsettled at first. They may get hungry, but that may be the best cure for fear of food, after all.

Allow them to serve themselves and enjoy themselves in peace, without feeling controlled, pressured, or scrutinized. Could that pressure be what they’re really afraid of, in fact?

They’ll soon realize they have nothing to fear but neophobia itself.


Related post:

“How to get kids to eat at the table? The push and pull principle”

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 4 May 2009 / All rights reserved

The Myth of ‘Kid Food’: Wanton Gods in a Hostile Universe

May 1, 2009 2 comments

Humanseasy prey

The design of the universe must be shoddy, or perhaps the universe and its gods are outright hostile to humans. One of the most ironic examples of the gods’ cruel mockery of us is that we humans are born with no desire for the healthy foods our bodies need. Instead, we’re born craving junk food.

Or so the thinking goes.

I’ve observed that at gatherings of both adults and children there often will be Real Food for the adults and “kid food”—usually pizza, maybe hotdogs, but generally highly processed—for the children. Because that’s what they like, don’t they? That’s What They Will Eat.

Some parents make two separate meals at home: one for the adults and another for their kids, because they know their kids won’t want what the adults eat.

“It’s unbelievable when a kid asks you to have shrimp or fish,” I heard one parent say.

Kids’ parties seem to always revolve around those foods we assume kids like. When it’s time to really celebrate, it’s time to let them gorge on loads of pizza, snacks, soda, candy, cake. That’s what makes them really happy, right?

We think dogs like bones, too. Actually, dogs like bones because that’s what they get, but they’d really rather have steak, whether they know it or not.

My cat, likewise, has developed a taste for manufactured cat food, which is engineered to taste good to him. That doesn’t mean it’s good for him. It’s full of grains, fillers and other stuff cats neither like nor were created to eat. He’d probably be less obese and would no doubt enjoy freshly hunted mouse way more than cat food, if he could get it.

Humans are born craving optimally nourishing foods—breast milk for example—not junk food, unless we are witnessing an ironically self-destructive evolutionary adaptation of modern humans to their environment. Yet another malicious trick of the wanton gods, who kill us for sport?

No, I suspect the answer is less fraught with destiny than that. The taste for junk food is easily acquired when that’s what a child is allowed to eat. The less junk a child gets and the more tasty healthy foods he’s given, the more he continues to enjoy what his body actually needs.

Our beliefs about what kids like will either limit them and entrench them in narrowness, or foster their fledgling appreciation of all good things.

If we act on the common assumption that children won’t like most vegetables, especially green ones, or whole grains, beans, fish, nuts, and even some fruits, that prophecy will be fulfilled. If we give children junk when they refuse to eat those foods that we know they won’t like, they quickly learn how to run the show. They also learn to worship at the altar of those tasty manmade false idols instead of pledging their appetites to Real Food.

But happily, wanton gods or no, we still have the choice of what foods to provide for our kids.

It’s been my experience that children are perfectly capable of liking healthy foods, the same foods adults eat. They are human, and just like adult humans, they can appreciate well-prepared, nourishing, varied, flavorful Real Food. Mine always have. I didn’t give them junk food; I offered them only healthy foods choices. They were hungry and that’s all there was to eat. No battles were needed. They just got used to eating healthy food, most of which also actually tasted pretty good, in order not to starve to death. It’s amazing how well that system can work.

Final score: victory for me and my children, defeat for the wanton gods.


Related post: “Eating Mindfully”

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 28 April 2009 / All rights reserved

This post joined Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Oct. 23, 2009