Tag Archives: pasta

Mambo Italiano!

It’s been awhile since I’ve visited this blog.  Life just gets ridiculously busy at times. Anyway, before I let this moment get away, I’d like to discuss polenta.

Italian’s have porridge too.  That’s right–it’s not just the English, and some like it hot; some like it cold, and some like it in the pot, but NEVER, NEVER nine days old.  Heck, good polenta doesn’t last a day in my house!  Haha!

Here’s a little trivia for you.  Polenta is not a modern food item, in fact it’s been around since Roman times, however it was a little different, especially since corn wasn’t even existent.  It was made from grain mush called puls or pulmentum…the Latin words for gruel or porridge.  The porridge was made from either farro, chestnut flour, millet, spelt or chickpeas.  Truthfully… it was probably healthier.

I wish I didn’t love polenta so much.  When my allergist told me that I was allergic to corn, I literally sunk in my seat and almost cried.  He said, “are you okay?”  I said, “No!  Oh — my– God… Please don’t take my polenta away from me!”  I was quite serious, but he actually laughed.  In all his 50 years of medical practice he’d never once had a patient get sad over being told they shouldn’t eat corn.  He said, “You know, people are usually livid when I tell them chocolate must be eliminated from their diet, not corn.”  lol

I am happy to report that Polenta is indeed NATIVE to Italy!  It originated in Friuli, a region in northeastern Italy.  It’s so refreshing to know this. When I found out that pasta really wasn’t native to Italy, I nearly threw in the towel… the cooking towel that is (wink)!

…back to polenta…

During the 1700’s, polenta was very popular, and it was more commonly eaten among peasants, probably because it was plentiful and cheap to make.  It was literally a dietary stable during those times.

In it’s basic form, polenta is fairly healthy, however without the added cheese, butter and seasonings, polenta by itself is a little on the bland side.   It is cooked by simmering in a water-based liquid, but there are literally a score of variations, depending on the region.

According to Wikipedia, “Cooked polenta can be shaped into balls, patties, or sticks, and then fried in oil, baked, or grilled until golden brown; fried polenta is called crostini di polenta or polenta fritta. This type of polenta became particularly popular in southern Brazil following northern Italian immigration.”

It’s hard to believe that polenta is a low carbohydrate food, but it is rich in Vitamin C and A.  Research studies have shown that corn can support the growth of friendly bacteria in our large intestine and can also be transformed by these bacteria into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). These supply energy for our intestinal cells, which lowers the risk of colon cancer.  See more at: http://www.naturalhealth365.com/tag/polenta-health-benefits#sthash.njlaMvCr.dpuf

Basic polenta is as easy as making white rice.  You simmer it in water or broth until all the water is absorbed and the polenta is smooth. After the polenta is done, you can choose to add some butter, olive oil, various Italian cheeses, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh basil, etc.

Often times, I transfer the cooked polenta into a baking dish and add pasta sauce, parmesan and Romano cheese, oregano, fresh basil, marjoram, and salt and pepper to taste.  Place it into a 350 degree oven and bake for 30-40 minutes.  Sprinkle finely grated parmesan cheese over the top and serve.  It’s delightful!

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Thanks for stopping in.  Now, I’m racing to mambo…not to the pizzeria, but to my massage therapist!

Arrivederci!!!

Stuffed and puffy

“The wise man should consider that health is the greatest of human blessings. Let food be your medicine.” – Hippocrates

When I was around 36, I began to have a lot of hormone-related issues, in fact, I skipped my menstrual cycle for 6 months–the doctor thought it might be a false pregnancy. Instead of giving birth after 9 months, I had gained nearly 90 lbs, and suffered from serious edema.  My diet was not any different.  I was still having an “Italian” moment, eating predominately pastas, salads, and beef, lamb, chicken or fish.  Somehow, I had figured out that bread was probably not a good idea for me, so I didn’t eat much bread, but pasta was a popular mainstay.  Not only in my diet, but it was being pushed in the health/diet industry at that time.  All of the health-gurus seemed to be on a pasta agenda, which only furthered my idea that I was eating healthy.  I walked about 4 times a week, yet I continued to blow up like a balloon.  It wasn’t just weight gain either; I didn’t have the typical sagging, ripply cellulite fat, but I looked stuffed and puffy.  My traditional doctor offered a hard-hit of progesterone, which contributed largely to my weight gain.  At that time, I didn’t realize that it is basically a steroid. In addition, I was tired all the time, which didn’t work well since I had 2 children that had very active schedules.  I felt like I was slipping down a slippery slope quickly, and I knew something had to be done.

My mother came to visit and she hadn’t seen me in about 7 or 8 months.  When she saw how much weight I had gained, how puffy I looked, and got a glimpse of the skin rashes I was dealing with, she insisted that I find a specialist.  I found an alternative doctor who was truly genius, and his influence was pivotal in opening my eyes to the things we eat.  He began his medical journey as a research psychiatrist, and found himself more interested in body chemistry as related to weight gain and allergy issues, so he went back to medical school and became an allergist.  After completing his training, he worked in the field for a brief time, but returned to school to study nutrition and holistic health.  It’s no secret that medical school students are not required to take more than one class on nutrition.  He shared with me that he felt incompetent as an allergist with little to no “real” knowledge of nutrition and the foods we eat.” So, in short, this physician was extremely well-rounded.  He was qualified as an M.D., but also as a nutritionist and holistic doctor.

On my first visit with Dr. Philip Taylor, he sat me down, took out a notepad and literally interviewed me for an hour.  He asked me questions about my childhood, what we ate, about my cravings, my marriage (I thought, “How odd…”), my current symptoms, and just about anything you could imagine. After an hour, he put his pen down, looked up at me and said.  “You’re a mess, and you also have chronic food allergies.”  I remember sitting there thinking, “Who is this guy?  I mean he didn’t even examine me.” He then asked me to step into his exam room, where we would begin food allergy testing.  He said, “I don’t believe in doing scratch tests for food allergies. Those work wonders if you have environmental allergies, but since food is ingested, I like to inject a little of the food under your skin to see what happens.”  Oh great.  I heard the word, “Inject,” and knew this was not going to be fun.  I’m not a fan of needles. Nearly everything he tested me for I reacted to, and wheat and dairy were the worst.  I didn’t just have a skin reaction, my arm blew up and I developed a migraine within about 20 minutes.  NOT a good sign.

The entire process took about 3 months, but at the end I was told about all of the things I could no longer eat.  In some respects I was relieved, but also a bit pissed off.  I felt somewhat cursed.  Imagine being an Italian with the food heritage I’ve had, only to find out that 90% of what I ate growing up contributed to my health issues. I couldn’t just go on a diet, avoid them for a season and then go back to eating the same foods.  Dr. Taylor opened my eyes to the fact that I needed to accept a permanent lifestyle change or I would continue to have these kinds of issues if I didn’t, and they would only get worse.  Change was imminent.

…Yet still…the road has not been easy.

“What is food to one man may be fierce poison to others”
– Lucretius. 95-55 B. C.