Reptile Challah and “Healthy Living”

I think its time for another round of “stuff bloggers dont write about”.

Although this week, I must admit I have seen some bloggers address this issue.

That issue is, “health”, or more specifically, our definition of “healthy”.

“Healthy” is subjective, like “beautiful” or “tasty”. Some people think Angelina Jolie is beautiful, and I think she looks like a fish. Some people think green monsters are tasty and I gag at the thought of it. Same goes for “health”. Whats healthy for you may not be healthy for me.

Exhibit A: Lets call our imaginary person Gail. Gail is very overweight. She has a sedentary job and not time to make dinner so she might go a few hours without eating only to gorge on a whole delivery pizza and whatever random stuff she finds in her fridge. Gail has high blood pressure, high cholestorol, and she was told be her doctor to exercise at least five days a week for over 45 min. Given that Gail has all these issues, it might indeed be “healthy” for her to follow her doctor’s advice and exercise that much.

Exhibit B: Lets call our second imaginary person Rita. Rita is rather slim. She’s not emaciated, but she hasn’t gotten her period in over a year. She eats lots of fruits and vegetables, and on rare occasions allows herself a very tiny treat (maybe a square of super dark chocolate). And she feels guilty when she eats that chocolate that she’s overdone it. Rite likes to run and does it for about an hour every single day (hmmmm maybe thats why she doesnt get her period???). Rita goes to her doctor (lets just say its the same as Gail’s) and he tells her she should cut down on her activity. Maybe just a few walks a day for no more than 30 minuets.

My Point: So as you can see, what is “healthy” for Gail is somewhat dangerous for Rita. “Healthy” is all relative. Who is the king or queen of health that deems “X” healthy and “X” not healthy? Some people think a nuts are healthy, while other will try to avoid them because they are calorically dense or whatever. Some people think baked potatoes are healthy, while other may refer to them as “carb-mines”. But seriously, who are we to judge what is healthy or not?

So am I healthy??? Here are my points about me

I dont judge food. Well, I at least try not to. I try to not label food as “healthy” or “not healthy”. Doing so kind of feeds that whole eating disorder mentality of “safe food”. Food in general for me is healthy. Even if its something chemically artifical and laden with trans-fat and high fructose corn syrup. Why? Because in the back of my mind I terrified of it and I shouldn’t be. Exposure is the best cure for fear, so I sometimes need a few doses of artificial hydrogenated what not to remind myself I’m human.

I get a little help: I think I often don’t know what is “healthy” for me. And I slowly but surly learning. But what helps me get a good idea is looking to other wise people. I ask my dietitian if my weight is healthy. I don’t have an opinion on my weight. Well…. I’ve decided that having an opinion on my weight is unhealthy for me. It might be perfectly fine for some people, but with a track record like mine, I like to have my trusty dietitian be the judge.

I move, but I know how to rest: Some people don’t formally “exercise” but yet they are still emaciated and lacking a period. But if you notice, they also can’t stop moving. If they are sitting, they fidget constantly, they have very physical jobs, or they walk, A LOT. And although they aren’t “over-exercising”, they actually ARE, its just not in a gym! I do exercise. If its in a gym its for a certain amount of time and no more for the rest of the day. Having a pretty physical job as a private chef and I dont feel the need to be extra physical. I have an active job and I have no shame in just sitting and stewing and NOT fidgeting. I park as closest as I can to where I need to go, I take the escalator/elevator over the stairs, and when I do go to a yoga class or the gym, I drive (even though its a fifteen minuet walk away). Is it “healthy” for me? I think so, and maybe its even too much…I’m still working on it though. Slow and steady…..literally!

So, what is my opinion about blogs trying to be “healthy”???

I often dont know what they mean when they say, “I’m trying to get healthy!”. Are they trying to like run a marathon or eat egg whites on rice cakes or what???? I think if I told most people what is healthy for me, they would strongly disagree. Especially if they heard how actually NOT moving and eating gelato is what I think is healthy for me. Someone asked me at the Foodbuzz Festival if I’m a “healthy living” blogger and my dear friend Sophia laughed at them. I’m not an “anything” blogger. I’m just a living one.

So what is “healthy” for you? Do you know even what is healthy? Do you think anybody does?

Speaking of taking it easy (thats my brilliant transition to today’s recipe that has absolutely nothing to do with my post’s topic)…I made some challah shaped into all sorts of “slow” animals like turtles, porcupines and snails! O my!

  • 2 teaspoons (6 grams/0.2 ounce) instant yeast
  • About 3 1/2 cups (475 grams/16.8 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup (60 grams/2 ounces) warm water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp table salt
  • 3 tbs butter (softened)
  • 1/4 cup  honey
  • dried cranberries or raisins for eyes
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the yeast, honey and warm water until smooth. Let the yeast slurry stand uncovered for 10 to 20 minutes, or until it begins to ferment and puff up slightly. Whisk the 3 eggs, salt. With your hands or a wooden spoon, stir in the flour. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface and knead it until smooth, no more than 5 minutes. This dough is very firm and should feel almost like modeling clay. If the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it; if it seems too wet, add a few tablespoons flour. Place the dough in the warm cleaned bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Let the dough ferment until it has at least doubled in bulk, about 2 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen. Divide the dough into seven oval shaped pieces. For the turtle, I did a smaller piece of dough for the head, four half-circles for legs and a small pointed piece for a tail.  I kind of scored a tic-tac-toe grid onto the back of the turtle with a pairing knife.I used scissors to make a porcupine and I pretty much just rolled out a long piece of dough and swirled it to make a snail. Anyhow, once you’ve shaped your rolls, cover them with a damp towel and let them rise for an additional hour (patience, my friends!). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Before I put them in the oven, I pressed dried cranberries and raisin for eyes but press deep because they tend to pop out when they bake! Glaze with some egg wash (just some beaten egg with a little water) and bake for 15 min. 




    31 thoughts on “Reptile Challah and “Healthy Living”

    1. It’s perfect timing, because just today I had a conversation (almost a fight) about food with a friend who is not eating grains and is mainly raw. So, she was trying to convince me that not eating grains is more healthy. And I was trying to convince her that no matter what your diet you can be healthy or unhealthy depending on your choices. At the end of the day her argument was “look, I’ve been doing this for a long time and I am healthy thus, this entire idea is healthy”. Now, if you know me at all, this is the only argument you should never ever make (second only to I was drunk, I didn’t know what I was doing) because a. ok you are healthy. But are you more healthy than me? and how do you define healthy? and b. if it works for you, it does not mean that it works for everybody else!

      So, my personal opinion is that healthy is a case-by-case definition. What works for me might not work for you. I would like to believe that I am healthy (at least my medical exams seem to indicate so) but I could never project the same definition of health on other people.

      • You are dead on, and I wish your friend would give grains a chance. People in Japan have been eating them for centuries and living until at least 100! They must be doing something right!

    2. Healthy living is when I feel healthy and good about myself–regardless of what I’m eating. And those breads are soooo cute. I’m a sucker for CUTE foods. I used to be in love with little pastry piggies with red bean filling when I was younger.

    3. This does it. I’m calling the genius blogger label on you. I thought you nailed it with the “Anger at Thinness” post, but I am just blown away. You’re one of the few bloggers who actually admits to the controversy behind ‘healthy living’ blogs, and I feel released already just reading your posts. Thank you for shedding some light onto the reality of the ‘health’ blog realm. Somewhere between all the politeness and swallowed opinions we can actually find sincerity.

    4. Ha, interesting topic, because I just came back from a talk by Michael Pollan and Eric Schlosser on the evil food corporations.

      And you know, I agreed with them. The food industry in America is, frankly, atrocious. But I liked what Eric said: “It it impossible to eat 100% pure in this society, so I eat with the preconceived acknowledgement that my eating will always be flawed.”

      Well, something to that effect. So true.

      Many people tend to freak out over a minor detail and fly with it, forming obsessive rules and regulations for themselves. Personally, my pet peeve is extreme veganism, and carb-phobia.

      As you said, healthy means different things for different people. But one thing is the same for all of us: there is no possible way any one of us can attain “perfect health.” So good lord, lighten up a little and let’s just eat, laugh, and live well.

    5. As always, I totally agree with you. Our society has a pretty skewed persception of health. That being said, right now I’m working hard to find the best overall health (mental and physical) balance for me as someone who is only home a couple of days a week. So what might be healthy for me NOW (deciding if I should get an extra hour of sleep or go for a run before working/driving for 12 hours), was totally different than it was 6 months ago. But my current situation makes me SO much happier that I think it’s worth it for the mental standpoint. The crazy thing? Even though I’m working out WAY less than I was, my body looks and feels better than it has in awhile in terms of muscle tone.

    6. “I’m not an “anything” blogger. I’m just a living one.” << that made me laugh but it's also really profound! For me, being "healthy" simply means living my life intuitively and doing what's right FOR ME. I try not to do anything (or eat anything) that I don't feel I want to do (or eat). Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this 🙂

    7. And AGAIN I have to shelf another one of my posts for awhile because I just drafted something almost exactly like this (but with a bit more snark) but no one will believe me if I say I’m not just copying you 😉 Damn you, woman.

      Of course I agree with you and don’t have anything else to add. Well, I guess I do, but I already wrote it in a post I’ll never publish now. I kid…”healthy” is just as subjective as “happy” and is different for everyone. I think a lot of people who consider themselves healthy are in fact quite the opposite, not necessarily physically, but mentally.

      Health isn’t purely physical, and obsession and maladaptive behaviors are often justified under the “healthy” label. That irks me, needless to say, and I’m constantly having to go against what others consider “healthy” because it’s right for me.

      But your animal challah does not irk me, and in fact, delights me. So cute!

      • I just need to stop posting! How does this happen!?

        I too find what is “healthy” for most people is not for me, but to be honest, sometimes I’m not even sure its that healthy for them. I think society had instilled “health” stereotypes and I’m not even sure how valid they are.

    8. I think everyone who is trying to be “healthy” needs to preface their situation. For me, it would be to rest more, get GOOD calories, and stress less. Like you said, Gail would not be healthy that way. Its all about how you balance your life, right? Healthy is such a loose term.
      Dang those challahs are cute!

    9. I think healthy means different things for everyone. We all have different situations. For me, healthy means eating healthy most of the time and exercising. – but it also means not obsessing over food, exercise, homework, etc. And those challahs are ADORABLE.

    10. I had a lot a wanted to say about being “healthy” but your turtle challah is just so darn wonderful that I can’t even remember any more.

      I think it had something to do with me being completely guilty of working out too much, but hopefully moderating that with eating a balance of “good” and “bad” (although who is to say what that means really?)

    11. How cute are those?!! I wish I could sign up to be in one of your kiddy classes! I’d take all of those 10 year olds down!! Hahaa 🙂

      You know I don’t think I’ve come across any “healthy living” blog that has actually been beneficial to my health. Kinda ironic…

      The blogs I get the most out of, offer real thoughts/feelings/advice on everyday things that everyone can relate to whether you’re a complete couch potato or a triathlete! And a little humor is always nice 🙂

      I just don’t find someone striving everyday to be the “healthiest” very interesting anymore.

    12. love this post. and totally needed it…considering that my lunch was jsut made up of a slice of pizza and a chocolate chip pancake for desert and i was feeling a little iffy about it. but thats what i wanted! so that has to be whats healthy for me. what i want.
      thanks 🙂 also, thats definitely the cutest hallah ever made.

    13. I want challah, slathered in butter now. It doesn’t even have to be in the form of cute animals–But I would love to have one of those because I would crack up watching my son eat one.

      Given that I’m a borderline Gail at the moment (although my blood pressure & cholesterol are actually good–It’s my weight, stress & diet that are on the less-than-perfect side), what would be healthy for me would be to drop a few pounds, and increase my activity. I don’t think I’m going to be doing 45-minute interval training on my elliptical any time soon, but my goal for the time being is to gradually cut back on my portions & increase my activity. I’m also working on incorporating more vegetables in my diet, although I abhor a lot of them (I could eat fruit till the cows come home, though, but I find most veggies to be a little on the nasty side). It’s hard, but I would never claim to be a healthy living or lifestyle blogger. In fact, a lot of those so-called healthy blogs have a similar triggering effect on me that the ever-controversial Marie Claire article mentioned, but in a different way–I don’t measure up to the “ideal” a lot of them tout, which (if I’m having a crappy day or am in the throes of womanly hormones) then makes me feel crappy about myself, which then makes me crave carbs or comfort food, and then heaven help any chips or cookies that get in my way! I know it’s emotional eating, and some days I have the willpower to stop it, other days, I don’t. The easiest way is for me to avoid those blogs, and avoid having chips in my house (cookies are another matter, since I like to bake). I’m very glad you blogged about it–You’re completely right that health is subjective, and it’s not the same for every person.

    14. Your various reptiles are adorable. I’d feel terrible eating them because they’re almost as cute as real animals. I am strange…I can’t stand eating animal-shaped Easter chocolate either.

      Loved hearing your take on what’s ‘healthy’. It’s great that more people are addressing this subject and it’s not such a hushed issue any more.


    15. The reptiles- adorable.

      Your post was really insightful. I think what one person defines as healthy is definitely different than what other people think. I have been listening to some health advice from a holistic health professional and it’s vastly different from western medicine. Although I’ll be ‘done’ with my health experiment at the end of the month, I do know what works for me and it has a lot to do with common sense and how I feel, not just how well my pants fit.

    16. I have no idea what healthy is anymore because it is SO different for everyone. I use to think that I knew what it was but certain situations in my life are showing me that I’m just as clueless as the rest of them. Instead of focusing on what is healthy for others, I need to focus on what is healthy for me even if I don’t like it at first.

    17. 100% agree agree agree. I couldn’t have written it better myself. Healthy does not have a fixed definition. It changes with time, with age, from person to person. I always try to emphasize on my blog that the way I role is what works for me and that should not mean anything to anyone else! Some people may call it healthy, some may not, but they are comparing it to their standards. And health is not just about what you eat or how you move you body.

      But I also think health is not “innate”. We constantly need to try new things and be OPEN to figure out our own definitions of healthy.

    18. agreed and amen! thats why i never answer readers when they ask how many of what i eat a day or personal questions like that. i never want my habits to be that of others because i know what’s right for me and i don’t want other people to base what they think or want to do on what i do. love these posts 🙂 have a fab weekend girllllllllll

    19. That challah is adorable!

      I don’t consider myself a healthy living blogger really. And our blog is definitely not a cooking/recipe blog. I’m not that talented. Especially because what is healthy for me is not always healthy for everyone else. I struggle with writing about certain things because you never know who’s out there reading and taking your “Advice”

    20. Those are so cute!!!!

      The only ways that I “try” to be healthy are to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and try to get more water in. I think these are healthy for everyone, and I don’t intake nearly enough a lot of the time. They make me feel good, and that is healthy.

      I also think enjoying chocolate, cheese, bread, etc. is healthy. So is eating with friends, and enjoying life.

      I don’t deny myself anything.

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