Posts tagged #Winter 2016 Food

Taking Care of Your Liver

The Consummate Multitasker

By Linda Diane Feldt

The liver is the consummate multitasker of the body. With over 500 functions, the liver is constantly at play to cleanse, store, purify, transform, and support. All we need to do is support the liver, and it will do its work. Somewhere along the line, holistic health care started promoting people actively “cleansing” or “purifying” the liver, as if we could do a better job directing these critical tasks.

In almost all cases, the liver is already doing what it needs to do, and it is doing it brilliantly and thoroughly. And, like all organs and systems of the body, nourishing support would do more to positively affect liver functioning rather than unproven and sometimes dangerous “cleanses.”

The liver needs to move blood through it — every minute or two a liter of blood flows through the liver, and 10–15 percent of your blood volume is in the liver at any given time. Lemons, artichoke, dark green leafy vegetables, celery, beets, and bitter foods are just a few examples of foods that can help blood flow. Garlic, onion, and other alums also have a special role in keeping things moving and healthy in the liver. For best results with garlic, you need to crush the cloves and then wait at least 10 minutes for the chemical reaction that forms. You can then cook with the garlic, or use it raw.

Avoiding processed foods, fried foods, trans fats, and added chemicals will also be beneficial. Poor quality or rancid oils are also problematic. Olive oil and coconut oil have positive effects for the liver. At a time when my liver was very stressed from a chronic health condition, I found that simple soups with lots of lentils or other beans, dark green leafy vegetables, other garden veggies, and simple vegetable stock (or adding miso after cooking) were very helpful and easy to digest.

It is common knowledge that overconsumption of alcohol is harmful for the liver. It is also important as much as is possible to avoid toxins in all forms — what we eat, drink, inhale, and apply topically.

Milk thistle seed (Silybum marianum) extract, or tincture, is considered a liver cleanser according to the popular literature. It actually protects the liver from damaging toxins, and may also help repair the liver — supporting the constant regeneration of the liver. The tincture made from the seeds can be added to water and used preventatively or for active liver concerns.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale) as a food and extract nourishes the liver and provides some of the best liver support for liver functioning. All parts of the dandelion can be used. Include dandelion leaves as a pot green, in salads, added to sauces, as a homemade herbal vinegar, even baked in filo dough as a substitute for spinach in Greek recipes. I’ve had some of the best dandelion greens in Greek restaurants, simply cooked with olive oil and garlic. The flowers can be made into wine, which has a lemony taste and can also help with digestion. In winter or if you find it easier, a tincture of dandelion leaves and roots can be used in water.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa) may be able to reverse some liver cirrhosis, as well as to prevent liver damage. It has many other substantial health benefits including being an excellent anti-inflammatory. The root is used in cooking, but for regular intake, a root extract can be taken daily with water.

There are hundreds of other herbs and foods that can benefit the liver. This is just enough to get you started in providing liver support and nourishment. The combination of avoiding what stresses the liver and taking care of your health with liver nourishing herbs will give you immediate benefit.

Liver disease is a serious and sometimes life threatening condition. If you believe there may be something seriously wrong with your liver, you should talk with a medical practitioner right away. A holistic approach can include herbs and food.

Linda Diane Feldt is a local holistic health practitioner “providing an integrated approach to holistic health care since 1980,” with a focus on hands-on bodywork including massage (1973), polarity therapy (1979) and craniosacral therapy (1982). She is also a writer, teacher, and herbalist. Visit

The Disease Prevention Organ: The Most Important Thing You Didn’t Learn  in Health Class

By Logynn Hailley

I remember once I had a biology teacher who was giddy about discussing the “millions of chemical processes” in the body. But when we learned about the roles of each organ, the liver was described as if it were a simple filter on a vacuum cleaner. It was there to “remove toxins from the blood.”

Where did those toxins go? We never covered that part.

I assumed they stayed in the liver and that it just turned into a rather gnarly “dirt sponge” as you got older. You could buy a mysterious thing called a “liver cleanse” at the health food store if you worried about it, which I never did … until recently.

I visited a neurologist turned chiropractor named Jen Hartley in Colorado. On my first visit, I learned more in 15 minutes with her than I had in the past 15 years of doctor appointments. The most surprising thing she said was that my hormone-related symptoms were a liver problem.

I had played treatment pinball with my glands and organs for years attempting to correct a mysterious imbalance. But I had never once considered the liver to be part of it. Isn’t the liver at the end of the chain of processes, like the drain everything passes through after its job (good or bad) has been done?

Apparently it is far more than that.

The liver processes Dr. Hartley described would have made my ninth grade biology teacher go into overload. It’s not a “filter” in the sense that we think of filters as an inert sponge for accumulating dirt. It’s more like a factory with an almost magical array of chemical processes. The liver plays an integral role at some point in almost every process in your body, to the point that you might say any disease is caused by the liver not working as well as it should. A healthy liver, fed right, should be able to remove the factors that cause disease.

Hormonal disorders might involve your glands or chemical estrogens from your environment, but it is the liver that controls how much of those hormones remain floating around in your body. The liver is supposed to recycle or remove the excess ones.

Cancer might come from a lack of antioxidants to clean up free radicals, but the liver creates, recycles, and mobilizes the most powerful antioxidants in the body.

Diabetes might involve insulin and sugar imbalance, but it’s the liver that stores, releases, and regulates the body’s sugar-based fuels. The stress hormone, cortisol, might cause stress-related disease but only if the liver doesn’t have the ingredients to deactivate it when it’s not needed.

If you find yourself juggling prescription drugs to regulate all these problems it is probably because your liver isn’t doing it for you. The liver ultimately controls every toxin, chemical, hormone, mineral, vitamin, amino acid, fat, sugar, and protein in your body. Even if its effect comes later when it should be removing the by-products of completed processes. Imagine what would happen if you cleaned your tub so you could take a bath, but the drain didn’t work? You’d have to bathe in dirt, scum, and toxic cleaners. And that is literally what happens inside when your liver can’t clear things out quickly enough.

I’ve often wished for a user’s manual for my body so I could “pop the hood” and figure out what has gone awry, but there is a reason that we don’t have one. It’s because if your liver is working right, it dispatches toxins and corrects imbalances without you ever even knowing it, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.

So, how can we help our magical liver factories get back on the job so upper management (the brain) doesn’t have to handle emergency waste clean-up and disaster relief operations?

For one thing, you might have heard from your yoga teacher that the liver “stores anger,” and it turns out there is a correlation. When your body stresses out, it makes cortisol, and the liver needs a lot of glutathione to get that hormone out of your body. Otherwise it floats around damaging your organs and causing the dreaded “belly fat” problem.

If you don’t get enough glutathione (and you probably don’t) then the first order of business is reducing the need for it by calming down. Practice yoga, walk your dog, smile, and so on. If you’re stressed out and angry all the time, your liver can become chronically backed up. This is how it’s possible to have illnesses with root causes dating all the way back to a traumatic event years and years ago.

The second important thing is to get a little bit of exercise every day. Even a little exercise, like five minutes of sprints, can purge some of your liver’s stored energy (glycogen) and get things moving. The liver was meant to constantly release and then re-stock energy stores. If there is no energy release, things get stale in there really fast. Stale, as in “fatty liver disease” stale.

Third, it turns out that one of your most important jobs as upper level management for your body is to fill all your liver’s orders for necessary ingredients. Make sure to get all the substances to keep each “toxin removing department” of the liver running smoothly. Unfortunately, some of those ingredients are a little hard to come by. That’s why it’s important to make a habit of including certain foods in your diet.

Here’s How It Works:

There are two major detoxification pathways inside liver cells, which are known as the Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways. In a nutshell, these phases break down (metabolize) toxins through various chemical reactions. The Phase I pathway is responsible for converting the toxic chemical into a less harmful chemical, and Phase II converts the resulting toxic sludge into a water-soluble substance so that it can be excreted from the body via bile or urine. If Phase II isn’t completed or working efficiently, this sludge just backs up and causes a hazardous waste spill in our bodies! Here are some recipes that contain many of the liver-healthy foods you need to assist in these complex processes. Enjoy these whenever you can to keep the polish on your shiny new liver!


(Purple produce contains anthrocenes, which assist in Phases I & II Glutathione Conjugation.)

In a large bowl, whisk together:

    3 tablespoons almond oil

    2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

    1 teaspoon lemon zest

    2 tablespoons dill weed, chopped

    Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Then add:

    8 cups baby spinach or replace some of the spinach with purple cabbage

    1 purple carrot, shredded

    2 handfuls of blackberries, black cherries, or red grapes

Some also like this salad with diced black olives and/or a diced hard-boiled egg


(Assists in Phase II Glucoronidation, which requires nutrients found in these foods: almonds, brazil nuts, cashews, chocolate, citrus zest, dill weed, dark leafy greens, mushrooms, oysters, peas, pumpkin or squash seeds, spirulina, spinach.)

Crust: Take 1/4 cup dried, unsweetened coconut and sprinkle it evenly over the bottom of your cake pan. Then mix the following in a food processor:

    1 1/2 cups walnuts and almonds

    1/2 cup dates

    1 pinch sea salt

Press this mixture evenly over the coconut.

Filling: In a high-speed blender —

    3 cups cashews

    3/4 cup fresh lemon juice

    3/4 cup honey

    3/4 cup coconut oil

    1 teaspoon key lime zest

    2 tablespoons key lime juice

    1 tablespoon vanilla extract

    1/4 cup of water, only if you need it to blend. Use as little as possible. Mix until “cheesy” and pour on top of crust. Then put it in the freezer for an hour to get the right consistency. Defrost it for a 30 minutes before serving. It’s super rich tasting and actually tastes like cheesecake.


(Enhances Phase II Acetylation, which requires nutrients found in these foods: almonds, asparagus, avocados, berries, broccoli, cheeses, citrus fruits, eggs, guava, kefir, kiwis, dark leafy greens, lemon, mushrooms, oysters, papayas, peas, pecans, peppers, spirulina, spinach, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes.)

Use a large, heavy bottomed sauté pan with a tight fitting lid. “Grease” it with coconut oil and add:

                1 large sweet potato, diced

                1 small red pepper, diced

Spread evenly over the bottom of the pan and cover. Turn the heat to medium-high and allow to cook until the pieces begin to brown. It’s okay to turn one or two over and check every couple of minutes. Discard any condensation on the lid, as you want some moisture but not too much. Once the potato is browned on one side, stir it well and spread evenly on the bottom of the pan again. Allow to cook until beginning to soften. Then spread all the sweet potato to the sides, making an open space in the middle, then add:

                2 – 4 eggs, cracked into the center

                Sea salt and pepper or rosemary to taste

Cover and cook until eggs are almost to desired done-ness. Turn off the burner and add two handfuls of shredded cheese, sprinkled evenly over the sweet potatoes. Cover again and allow to sit for two minutes, then serve. Makes enough for two large breakfasts.


(Assists in Phase II Methylation, which requires nutrients found in these foods: almonds, asparagus, avocados, bananas, beets, broccoli, raw dark chocolate, eggs, figs, kefir, dark leafy greens, molasses, oysters, parsley, peppers, potatoes, pumpkin and squash seeds, quinoa, shell fish, spirulina, spinach, tea, turnip greens.)

Combine in large breakfast bowl:

    ½ cup plain kefir (I like goat milk kefir for this)

    5 dried black mission figs, diced

    4 tablespoons of cottage cheese

    1 – 2 teaspoons molasses (to taste)

    1 large pinch of ground clove or garam masala

    1 small pinch of cayenne pepper (optional, if you like spice)

    1 small pinch of ground cumin (optional, but I find it makes it wonderfully aromatic)

Next, stir in:

    1 small diced apple

    1 cup of grapes, halved

This is my favorite way to get fruit as a meal, and not feel hungry soon after.

A note about the consumption of spirulina:
Spirulina is blue-green algae, which is a fresh water plant. Under stressful or crowded conditions, blue-green algae can become contaminated with microcystins. This cumulative toxin has negative effects, especially for he liver and brain, but also for male fertility. While the probability that any single batch of spirulina contains the contaminant is small, it is still possible. Seaweed, a salt water plant, delivers many of the same nutritional benefits, and more. When gathered by ethical harvesters, it can be considered safer and of equal or greater benefit without the risk of toxic accumulations. At the minimum, please investigate this danger with the individual brands before consuming spirulina.

Eve Aronoff's Frita Batidos — Continuing to Bring Cuban Culture to Ann Arbor Five Years After Opening

By Chelsea Hohn | Photos by Susan Ayer

A flurry of trays bursts through a tiny door into the dining area of Frita Batidos, the Cuban-inspired restaurant created by Eve Aronoff. Everything is white — the painted brick walls, the picnic tables, the floors — but the room is vibrant. It’s a Wednesday night, and every single picnic table is full of guests. Pops of color come from the food and drinks around the room and mesh bags filled with limes used as accents for each table. Music fills the rare holes in conversation, and a shuffle of college students, families, and tourists add to a line that is quickly approaching the back of the restaurant.

The staff at Frita Batidos moves full speed ahead to manage the flow, all while maintaining a steady hand and calm demeanor. This is what happens when a restaurant is managed with the precision and specification of chef and owner Eve Aronoff. She has carefully fostered this environment of “artful chaos” since opening the restaurant in 2010.

And things haven’t slowed down. The traffic has steadily grown since Frita Batidos opened its doors, and the staff (some of which who have been there since the first year) have adapted, never compromising the quality of the service or food. Not surprisingly, Frita Batidos has become an Ann Arbor staple.

The restaurant was largely inspired by Aronoff’s love of Cuban culture and passion for taking care of people — a philosophy that was instilled in her as a young child. It was also about creating something special and personal, and cultivating not just a sense of community, but a genuine community that starts with the restaurant staff and extends to the guests. Attentiveness to detail is equally important to Aronoff, whether it’s making sure her ingredients are top quality and locally sourced or maintaining Frita Batidos’ characteristic spirit and playful atmosphere by bringing in elements of Cuba.

Aronoff fell in love with Cuban culture after spending time in Miami and wandering through the many food markets there. Continuing to follow her curiosity, she read more and more about the country’s culture and history. She stumbled upon the “frita” and the “batido” separately, but the “frita,” which was described as a burger made with chorizo and shoestring fries, seemed like a most delicious fit with the “batido,” a blended shake-like beverage.  

“Those two together sounded amazing to me,” said Aronoff, “and I thought, Frita Batido…. Frita Batidos!” she laughed, pointing out that it isn’t even grammatically correct. The name stuck, though, and her mind had already been made up — before she had even tried either dish.

It wasn’t until a month before Frita Batidos was set to open in 2010 that Aronoff tried fritas for the first time when she traveled to Miami to conduct taste testing. “I went with my mom and we ate eight fritas that day,” she said. But they were much different from what she was expecting. Traditionally, the frita is served on a grocery store hamburger bun (a far cry from the homemade brioche that she serves at her restaurant), and is topped with potato sticks and American cheese. The whole burger was much saltier than she imagined it would be. “I thought, I’m really glad I didn’t try this years ago because I probably wouldn’t have pursued this,” she said with a laugh.

But Frita Batidos isn’t a traditional Cuban restaurant, and it isn’t shy about that. The menu is really more about Aronoff’s impression of the culture and how it has influenced her personal style of cooking in imaginative ways.

The spirit of Cuban culture made the biggest impression on Aronoff, and she’s brought that into the space of Frita Batidos through small and playful details. The communal tables, for example, encourage conversation between guests and often spark conversations among strangers. Guests can also play a game of dominoes, the national game of Cuba and an activity commonly played across parks in Miami.

The ordering window at Frita Batidos is also an attribute that was inspired by Cuban culture, where guests customarily order through an open window at restaurants. For Aronoff, this was a must-have feature for Frita Batidos. She admitted that in Michigan the window doesn’t get as much use as she would like it to, but it’s these type of details that have become the defining elements of Frita Batidos’ charm. 

When creating the restaurant, Aronoff also thought back to one of her first jobs — working as a hotdog vendor at Fenway Park in Boston. The convivial nature of that job was quite different from what she experienced while receiving formal training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris. She finally realized with Frita Batidos that she could bring all of these things together. “The spirit of the hotdog car, the attention to detail, the passion I have about food and taking care of people, the way I was brought up — bringing those together to create their own thing — that’s Frita Batidos.”

Another practice she took to the restaurant’s kitchen was something she learned in childhood. Aronoff grew up with a mother who loved to cook, and in a way that often resulted in Aronoff trying more food than she ended up eating. At Frita Batidos, any dish being made has to be tasted by at least two other people than the person who’s making it — again, creating an inclusive environment even in the back of the house. She also caught on to her mother’s caring spirit, after seeing the joy she would get from taking care of her children. Aronoff recalled that if she and her siblings all wanted four different dinners, her mother would make four different dinners. If all of them finished and were still hungry, another dinner would be on the way. If she was sick, her mother would call and ask what she wanted — “Richie Rich comic books and tomato soup,” she laughed. Her mother’s care ended up being the biggest culinary influence for Aronoff.

Running a successful restaurant is difficult enough, but for one that values customer service, food quality, culture, and sustainability in the way that Frita Batidos does, challenges must be met with a certain amount of creativity.

“We know what our values are. We see how close we can come to that without [ignoring] the practical concerns we have as a restaurant, and just keep trying to work to get closer and closer to meeting those values,” Aronoff explained. Their values are hardly compromised, which only adds to the number of struggles that come with having high standards. In addition to sourcing locally for ingredients, all of their utensils are from Green Safe Products in Detroit, added the kitchen manager, PJ Johnson.

Sourcing locally means supporting local agriculture, but small farmers have to sell produce at a higher price point, resulting in a higher price for menu items. “You have to find a way for guests to appreciate that and understand why this might be a little more expensive but still be a great value for all the different kinds of taste,” said Aronoff.

Even space can be a challenge; the Frita Batidos kitchen is tiny, and there is only one door. “Everything comes in the front door and out the front door,” Aronoff laughed. They have added onto the kitchen since opening, and the workflow has become much smoother, and they continue to fine tune the processes as they go along. This is part of what Aronoff thinks makes a good chef and what’s necessary to run a successful restaurant. Being open to critiques and using them to create positive change is part of the daily life at Frita Batidos, from listening to customer feedback to having weekly staff meetings that build community within the restaurant.

“Is there any way we can make it a little bit brighter in here?” a woman sitting at one of the many tables inside of Frita Batidos asks one of the servers. He politely says yes, and within a few minutes the lights slightly brighten. The woman goes back to the group she’s with and continues to eat.

Cultivating a community in a small space takes more than just sandwiches and the right décor — it takes dedication to creating that atmosphere and making it the foundation around which everything else is built. Aronoff and her team make a point to build a staff that shares similar values — people who are passionate and view paying attention to details as rewarding rather than burdensome, and people who generally enjoy taking care of others. Frita Batidos successfully bridges the gap between high quality food and an informal setting, while managing to support local agriculture and uphold an environment where guests feel comfortable asking one another to pass the salt. It is no wonder the line frequently extends towards the back of the restaurant.

“This is where I take people when they come in from out of town,” one man says as he devours a plate of fries. Meanwhile, another guest walks in.

Frita Batidos is located at 117 W. Washington Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104. You can view the menu on their website at

Posted on December 31, 2015 .

Great Tastes in Local Food: Back2Roots, Salads Up, Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe

By Crysta Coburn

Back2Roots Bistro

When I am in downtown Ann Arbor, out-of-towners often ask me for recommendations on where they should eat. Ann Arbor’s Main Street area offers up a lot of choices when it comes to dining. In fact, if you are looking for an all vegan restaurant, it offers one of the best choices in town — Back2Roots Bistro. Neighboring Vinology and Crazy Wisdom, Back2Roots opened in August 2015 (in the former location of Jazzy Veggie). The space underwent quite a transformation with the opening of Back2Roots. The decorations are simple, the walls painted neutral with pops of color coming from the beautiful paintings, and the furniture is comfortable. The menu at Back2Roots bears a slight resemblance to its sister restaurant, Hut-K Chaats (on Packard), but Hut-K specializes in more Indian flavors. Both restaurants are owned by Dr. Swaroop Bhojani, who came to the world of restaurant ownership from a background in medicine and cancer research. [An article about Dr. Bhojani and his unique journey with food and health was published in issue 55 of CW Journal, available at]

The completely vegan, GMO-free menu of Back2Roots reflects Dr. Bhojani’s continuing mission to provide healthy, nutritious food to the community. Many of the ingredients are also served raw, and the added texture is a delight, from crunchy bok choy to soft soba noodles. I eagerly dug into the delicious Asian Dragon Bowl, composed of sautéed vegetables and topped with a lovely array of greens and a sweet Asian marinade, while my fiancé opted for the more conventional Southwestern Black Bean Burger with a side of chili. As promised by the menu, both dishes were packed with bold flavors that blended together magically.

During the meal, a smiling server stopped by our table with a sample of one of their signature beverages — the Power of 7, a fresh blended juice of baby spinach, baby kale, baby chard, rice milk, pineapple, dates, and limes. I also sampled the mango smoothie. I liked them both so much that I was a little sorry I hadn’t been bolder when we were seated and ordered one of them. Instead, I had opted for a hot cup of Assam tea, though I was tempted by the Darjeeling. (Confession: I love tea! And I especially love when I am offered choices beyond the simple black or sweetened you find at most restaurants.) Back2Roots also offers a short list of “rotating elixirs,” like thyme and raspberry, dandelion and lime, coconut and tulsi, and chrysanthemum (ask your server which are available during your visit).

Back2Roots delivered an all-around enjoyable dining experience, and is a must-try (even for non-vegans)! Simply put, you will feel good eating the food. The body knows what’s good for it and will respond to what’s put into it accordingly, but sometimes the taste buds take charge and lead us astray. Thankfully, at Back2Roots, this is not an issue. Among a menu of options crafted with your nourishment and health in mind, your taste buds can only serve you well. (And they will be happy, too!)

Back2Roots is located at 108 South Main Street in Ann Arbor. Their hours are Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. You can peruse their menu online at

Salads Up

It is a boon and a compliment to a city when its graduates choose to stay after graduation. So much more so when they open a business and add to the flavor of the community. Salads Up, located next to the Michigan Theater on Liberty Street in Ann Arbor, is just such a blessing. Owners Robert Mayer and Max Steir graduated from the University of Michigan in 2013 and opened their restaurant’s doors in December of 2014.

Picture a Coldstone Creamery, only instead of ice cream, it’s salad. (Bear with me.) You can choose one of their pre-designed recipes, like the Heapin’ Harvest, which consists of romaine lettuce, roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, organic barley, red onion, and green apple — or you can build your own. Whatever you choose, the person behind the counter will make the salad fresh — first combining all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl, then moving to the next station to chop and mix all the ingredients together. (Now do you see the Coldstone connection?) Once mixed, the ingredients are then added back to the bowl and tossed with the dressing of your choice. If you order it to go, the salad is scooped into a plastic to-go bowl with a lid that will keep your salad fresh in your fridge for days (I’m not exaggerating). If you’re eating in-house, the salad is put into a re-usable bowl so you can take the rest home for later. We’re not talking side-salad size — this is a meal! (Or three.)

There are a few beverage options, such as the house made cold-pressed juices, which are divided into four types: Up1 (watermelon, apple, mint); Up2 (kale, pineapple, cucumber, celery); Up3 (carrot, orange, ginger); and Up4 (beet, pear, lime). For dessert, Salads Up offers Greek frozen yogurt.

Despite being a salad place, Salads Up is not all vegetarian or vegan. The Heapin’ Harvest includes roasted chicken and the Beef’d Up has steak. You can also choose shrimp or strips of turkey bacon. I don’t think I have ever had steak on a salad before, but I enjoyed the Heapin’ Harvest so much that I feel pretty confident these people know what they’re doing, and I am willing to give it a try.

Salads Up is a unique and healthful addition to the Ann Arbor foodscape. Service is quick and seating is ample. You may also order ahead of time for pick-up if you are low on time. If you don’t want to make the salad the entire meal, or are headed to a pot luck, I would suggest getting a salad to-go. There is more than enough to share with a small group, and any Salads Up option is bound to be more nutritious than potato salad.

Find Salads Up at 611 E. Liberty Street in Ann Arbor and online at They are open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe

One of my favorite friend gatherings is “Fancy Grilled Cheese Night.” Every now and again, a few friends and I get together to create grilled cheese sandwiches that go beyond simply buttered bread and cheese. Fancy grilled cheese sandwiches are pretty easy to make at home, but gathering special ingredients like fontina cheese, braised beef or oven-roasted Dearborn ham, caramelized onions, tomatoes, and parsley pesto takes planning and maybe a special trip to the grocery store.

The Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe to the rescue! The cheese is fresh off the block (how many of us bother with block cheese when we grill sandwiches at home?), the chicken is free range, and as many ingredients as possible are sourced locally. The pickles are McClure’s (Detroit), the potato chips are Great Lakes (Traverse City), and next to the cans of Coke you will find Vernors and bottles of Faygo. (I only wish they called it pop rather than soda.)

Any style of grilled cheese sandwich can be found on the menu. For the mushroom lover, there’s the Shroom, stuffed with Muenster and goat cheeses, roasted wild mushrooms, and parsley pesto on whole wheat bread. (For a dollar more, you can substitute with gluten-free bread, which is really quite tasty! It crisps up perfectly, and I didn’t notice much difference from conventional wheat bread.) The first sandwich I ever tried at Grillcheezerie was one I built myself: Muenster, chicken, caramelized onions, and mushrooms. Building your own sandwich is probably the most fun, even with signature items like the Honey Apple, the Mighty Beef Melt, and S’Mac and Cheese. Yes, it’s a grilled cheese sandwich with macaroni and cheese on it.

If you like mac and cheese, you don’t have to get it between two slices of bread. The Grillcheezerie also makes its own fancy mac and cheese as well as some delicious soups. Their roasted garlic tomato is some of the finest around. For dessert, I recommend the s’more bread pudding because after a meal of classic American grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and tomato soup, it doesn’t get much more comfort foodie than s’mores or bread pudding.

There is enough seating inside the Grillcheezerie to accommodate a few small groups, and parking spaces can be found out front on Packard and State streets or for free in the adjacent neighborhoods. I personally love that they deliver. Many times now I have been rescued by a hot grilled cheese sandwich and soup while stuck alone at work. Order through the website or over the phone.

Grillcheezerie Sandwich Shoppe is located at 709 Packard Street in Ann Arbor, near the corner of State and Packard. Find them online at or give them a call at (734) 368-9229. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

Posted on December 31, 2015 .

The Hidden Cost of MSG Derivatives: A Q&A with Jenna Wunder, Registered Dietitian

By Julianne Linderman

For many of us, the verdict on MSG is still not clear. We hear that some of it is naturally occurring and therefore not dangerous; that only those with a sensitivity are susceptible to reactions; that avoiding products labeled as containing MSG is enough to steer clear of it, and so on. Please help us navigate some of this information by giving us a quick rundown on what MSG is and what’s dangerous about it.

The conversation about MSG is confusing, even for trained nutritionists. Let’s start with a short discussion about amino acids and proteins.

Glutamic acid is a non-essential amino acid, meaning that our bodies produce it naturally. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins. They are necessary for building muscle, organ, and all body tissue, and they also aid in digestion. Glutamic acid is produced in the brain and is vital in the transmission of nerve impulses. Virtually every food contains glutamic acid. It’s a primary component of protein-rich foods like meat, eggs, poultry, milk, cheese, and fish. Glutamic acid is also found in plant foods.

In whole, natural foods, amino acids are almost always “bound” in long chains, forming proteins. “Unbound,” or “free glutamic acid,” is artificially and chemically produced outside of the body. This is what is known as monosodium glutamate (MSG), or processed free glutamic acid.

In chemical plants where MSG is manufactured, bound glutamic acid is broken down into a fast-acting, high-hitting powder resembling other refined white powders, like salt and sugar. Serious inflammatory reactions can occur as the free glutamic acid is absorbed rapidly.

The reason MSG tastes good as a flavor “enhancer” is what makes it toxic. It tricks your taste buds, and as it excites neuron receptors, it becomes toxic and inflammatory, causing a range of health effects. MSG is not a food, and neither are its derivatives; they are “excitotoxins.”

What are some of the common reactions it causes?

In those who are sensitive (up to 25 percent of the population, according to current estimates), the health effects can be wide ranging: cardiac, circulatory, neurological, gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin, and urological.

In my clinical practice as a registered dietitian, I always say that every body responds differently. I might respond with heart racing, insomnia, and headaches, while someone else may respond with digestive concerns like diarrhea and/or constipation, rashes, mental fog, anxiety, chronic congestion, or even weight gain. The list goes on. The effects are cumulative, so sometimes people who are otherwise healthy don’t realize that part of their distressing health symptoms are related to free processed glutamic acid floating around the body.

For you, the reactions were still occurring even after you thought you had eliminated MSG from your diet. What was happening?

In 2013, I was in the middle of a health crisis. Suffering with a racing heart, migraines, and severe chronic insomnia night after night, I knew I had to get to the bottom of what was causing my issues. I knew I was sensitive to MSG, having previously discovered it contributed to migraines and insomnia, but I thought I had already cut it from my diet.

Desperate to help myself, I Googled “other names for MSG” and found a document called “Hidden Sources of MSG” (which can be found here: This article enlightened me to the fact that MSG, or processed free glutamic acid, is also in at least 40 other ingredients. As a society, we are unaware of this incredibly pertinent information!

Why is simply buying organic or avoiding products labeled as containing MSG not enough?

Organic labeling or where you buy these foods doesn’t matter. I have many patients tell me “but I only shop at Whole Foods” or “but it’s organic.” Unfortunately, “natural flavor” (which can be one of the names of free processed glutamic acid) remains “natural flavor” even if it is from a carton of organic chicken broth.

Tropicana orange juice is another example. Why can it contain oranges from anywhere, from any time of year, and always have the same taste? Because of a test tube of Tropicana “natural orange flavor” that was made in a laboratory. These kinds of chemical additives, “natural” or not, standardize tastes and are designed to keep you coming back for more!

What are some common ingredient names that people should watch out for?

I keep this document in my purse:

I can be found teaching fellow shoppers about this topic at grocery stores on the fly. The most important action is to read labels. Anything that you can’t pronounce is a potential hazard.

Anything “hydrolyzed” or “autolyzed”

Anything containing “enzymes”

Whey protein — watch out for protein powders and protein bars


Anything that contains “natural flavors”

Carton broths and bouillon

Reduced-fat milk products (skim, part-skim, ½ percent, 1 percent, or 2 percent)

Anything “fermented,” especially commercially fermented

Vinegar (for highly sensitive people)

Most soy sauce

Yeast extract


The list goes on.

How has your diet changed?

My diet has changed exponentially. Now I eat a strict whole foods diet that, for the most part, I cook myself. I buy high-quality animal products, ones where cows have been 100 percent grass-fed and chickens have been pastured and fed organic feed. I buy full-fat, raw milk dairy products from the Family Cooperative Farms here in Ann Arbor. I buy high-quality animal products from Arbor Farms on Stadium. I eat out in only a few select restaurants in town (Zingerman’s, Grange, EAT, Frita Batidos, and El Harissa have many safe and delicious options), and I make sure that my food is free of gluten and preservatives.

My health crisis was two years ago. I have become my own research study on how to avoid free processed glutamic acid in totality. In the meantime, I am healing my gut using a homemade, whole foods diet that includes meat broths, plenty of high-quality animal-based saturated fat, fruits and vegetables, and small amounts of grains.

What are some more examples of foods that don’t contain free processed glutamic acid?

Whole, unprocessed foods: high-quality, unprocessed meat; fruits and vegetables; whole, gluten-free grains; raw and organic nuts and nut butter; raw dairy and dairy products from exclusively grass-fed cows. Whole Foods sells sliced turkey breast and unprocessed ham at their deli counter. There are cheese manufacturers who don’t add enzymes to their dairy products. Homemade meat broths that have been cooked for shorter amounts of time (4 to 6 hours) are also a wonderful choice. (Cooking broths for longer times increases the glutamate content, which may cause sensitive people to have a reaction.) I am forever grateful for the companies who don’t add MSG derivatives to their products. They are heroes in my life.

MSG derivatives can be one of the pieces in your health and wellness puzzle. After going through my own health crisis, I am determined to help others experience the wellness that is available through conscious dietary choices and sustainable changes.

Let food be thy medicine.

Jenna Wunder is a registered dietitian and Certified GAPS practitioner at Natural Balance Wellness Medical Center in Ann Arbor. To contact her, call (734) 929-2696 or visit the clinic website: For more information on MSG derivatives, visit

Posted on December 31, 2015 .

Intentional Leftovers — Always Cook for More than One Meal

By Liza Baker

Winter is prime time for getting our kitchens in order and cooking from scratch — colder weather tends to keep most of us indoors, and if we really listen to our bodies, we often find ourselves craving heavier dishes — perhaps soups and stews made of red meat in place of grilled fish or chicken, denser root vegetables in place of fresh salads. Energetically speaking, we are balancing out the buoyant, outward facing yang energy of summer, redirecting it to the more subdued, inward facing yin energy of winter. 

The part of my health coaching work that I call “kitchen coaching” supports my clients in reclaiming their kitchens and “flipping” them so that they can make 21 meals a week from scratch, even if — like me — they work more than full-time and manage a family “on the side” (the Mom/Dad shift is in and of itself way more than full-time).

Cooking from scratch at home can be the first step to changing our health — done right, it can also save lots of money and chip away at the vast amount of food (reportedly 40 percent!) that gets thrown away in America, cluttering our landfills, creating greenhouse gas, and wasting the precious natural resources that went to grow it in the first place. Reclaiming our kitchens helps us keep an eye on the triple bottom line: the health of our bodies, our environment, and our economy — the local one as well as our own time and money budgets.

To flip a kitchen, it’s important to start with the basics — from knowing what to stock in the pantry to buying and caring for a good quality knife, from choosing seasonal ingredients to storing them, from batch cooking “building blocks” to getting three meals out of a single chicken. 

One exercise I love to do with my clients is deconstruct recipes — really pick them apart into a few core ingredients, steps, and techniques. Ironically, this ultimately frees them from recipes because they learn to substitute what’s in-season locally. And if they have a properly stocked kitchen, they can do it without wasting precious time and fuel running to the store. Perhaps even more importantly, clients begin to realize that what they thought were leftovers — cooked meats, beans, grains, and vegetables — needn’t spoil in the fridge: they are ingredients for a quick meal on a busy weeknight!

This can happen in one of several ways: we can cook a large number of finished dishes that we then refrigerate or freeze to reheat and eat later (think chili and lasagna), or we can batch cook what I call “building blocks” — stocks and sauces, beans and grains — that can become part of a meal later in the week. But these options assume that we can take two to three hours on the weekend or — even less likely — on a weekday to accomplish this. 

The first option also assumes that you (and your family) like leftovers. There are many people who do, but as a rule we tend to think we do … and two days of chili later, it suddenly doesn’t look like what we had in mind for the rest of the week! Add to that two kids who will turn their noses up at anything served reheated, and I needed a new system.

My favorite trick is what I call “creating intentional leftovers” — preparing more of the ingredients you’re already cooking on any given day. If you’re roasting a chicken, why not roast two? If you’re making a pot of rice, why not double or triple it? If you’re steaming broccoli, why not steam extra? Then we explore ways that these “intentional leftovers” can be combined into quicker meals later in the week.

This isn’t rocket science — it’s not even food science unless I have to explain that we have been terrorized into believing that any food left in the fridge for more than 24 hours is bad (that’s a whole different article!) — but it can be eye-opening, so I’d like to offer two examples: one idea for grains and one for chicken. 

Brown Rice:
Serve steamed brown rice as part of dinner on Saturday — make lots!
On Monday, mix some rice with a beaten egg and a bit of flour until the mixture holds together and can be formed into patties. Cook in a little bit of fat and serve over greens with a poached or fried egg on top. If you’re ready for the graduate level version, add cooked beans and/or minced cooked leftover vegetables to your patties.
On Wednesday morning, mix some rice with twice as much liquid (water? milk? milk alternative?), cook into a porridge, and serve hot with maple syrup, chopped apples and walnuts, a dash of sweet spice (cinnamon? cardamom? both?) and a bit of sea salt.
On Friday (yes, I promise the rice is still good if you’ve kept it properly stored in the fridge), mix the remaining rice with some marinara sauce (leftover, of course) and stuff it into hollowed-out peppers and bake them.
On Saturday night, make a roast chicken (or two or three — the oven’s on anyway!) and after dinner, pull all the leftover meat off the bones. Save all the bones — yes, even the ones you gnawed on — in the fridge or freezer.
On Sunday, make chicken stock from the bones, and make chicken soup with some of the meat plus noodles or rice (or whatever leftover grain you have).
On Tuesday, mix some of the meat with vinaigrette and serve it over salad greens.
On Thursday, make chicken salad with any remaining meat and have a wrap or sandwich.

Oh look! It’s been a week, and you just finished the rice and chicken without simply serving it reheated a single time. Even the teenagers will never know.
The recipes for the dishes included in this article can be found at Liza Baker is an integrative nutrition health coach, kitchen coach, and household manager of a family of four. She brings her passion, knowledge, and experience to the table to help clients reach their goals and achieve optimal health. You can find her upcoming events in the Crazy Wisdom Calendar (found at the back of every issue) and on her website, She can be contacted at

Posted on December 31, 2015 .