Making every bite count

03 April 2007

Twinkie musings and the F word!

I'm slowly reading the Twinkie book, in between pleasure reading, book club poetry selections, travel guides and newspapers. It's quite interesting, but I'm treating it more like a textbook than a pleasure reading book.
I'm learning about HFCS, or high fructose corn syrup. Here's what I know so far: A chemist in 1811 discovered acid hydrolysis could be used to make syrup from heating potato starch with sulfuric acid. "Legend has it he was chasing Napoleon's 100.000 franc prize... to anyone who could locate a native sugar source," (Ettlinger) because France was blockaded. European sugar beets are still highly subsidized.
Apparently, producing corn syrup is similar to how we process a carb: breaking it down and absorbing the glucose.
Other tidbits:
Maltodextrin is used to replace fat in things such as reduced fat peanut butter.
Corn syrup is only a third as sweet as sugar and is usually paired with other sweeteners.

People are quick to judge corn syrup and blame it for obesity problems in America, as it's the primary sweetener in sodas here. (Overseas, soda is sweetened with real sugar!) The corn industry rightly blames larger portions and the increase of processed foods for the obesity problem. So while HFCS is not a part of a healthful diet, it is not solely to blame for our poor eating habits. American are consuming gigantic jugs of high-calorie soda and processed, low-fiber foods, which perpetuate the obesity epidemic.
Fiber is a word that many people tend to avoid when talking nutrition because it -- ahem -- keeps us, um, regular. (Blush!) You see those silly commercials about fiber additives. That stuff is usually just psyllium husk or methylcellulose -- neither of which is digestible. It pretty much just makes you... yeah. Not feel great. If you eat a well-rounded diet, you shouldn't need these. (Let's hear it for whole grains.)
Fiber is a good thing, people! It's important for us. It keeps our digestive system healthy -- thus reducing the risk of colorectal cancers -- and helps lower cholesterol -- thus helping our hearts. According to the American Heart Association, the average American eats 15 grams of dietary fiber a day; that's about half the recommended amount. There are two types of fiber: soluble or digestible and insoluble or indigestible fiber. The latter is important for our digestive system. Consider it like an exfoliator for our innards. The former is key for lowering cholesterol.
So how can you get fiber? Here are some foods that are high in fiber*:
Soluble fiber:
oats (the highest of any grain; make sure you get whole oats or steel cut oats, not the quick-cooking ones!)
beans, soybeans, peas
apples, berries, bananas
broccoli, carrots
Insoluble fiber:
whole grains (whole wheat breads, brans, etc.)
nuts and seeds
green beans, beets, zucchini
Take care of your insides. Eat fiber.
Top Five fiber-rich foods (according to the know-it-alls at the Oregon State University Micronutrient Center)
5. Quinoa (9g/cup)
4. Asian pear (10 g)
3. prunes (yes, granny!... 12 g)
2. wheat bran (17 g)
and the winners are....
1. legumes (15-19 g)

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02 April 2007

Monday night: tempeh tacos

I tend to hoard groceries. For a single woman, I eat and buy WAY too much. I might eat a somewhat limited diet, according to some people, but I eat A LOT! Way too much, I think. I get so excited about cooking when I go to the grocery that I purchase a surplus. I'm pretty good about eating the fresh veggies that I buy, but I stock up on surplus items. (Don't even ask me how many boxes of Silk Unsweetened Soymilk, bags of assorted grains or cans of chickpeas I have in my pantry!)
Tempeh is not a protein that I have much experience with yet; I'm still experimenting. As a result, a block will tend to sit in my fridge for weeks until I use it. I admit; I'm still a bit cautious when using it.
I was feeling experimental Monday night, so I decided to try tempeh tacos. They were a success! Ok, so tempeh "tacos" is a misnomer; Mexican-style tempeh would be more accurate.

Mexican-style tempeh
1/2 package tempeh (I used three-grain), minced/crumbled
1/4 c onion, chopped
1/2 bell pepper, any color, chopped
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1/2 c Trader Joe's mole sauce (or to taste... a shortcut, I know! sorry!)
drizzle olive oil
3 tablespoons water
The tempeh cooking:
In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat and add the tempeh. Stir frequently and allow it to brown and crisp a bit, maybe two minutes. Then add the peppers, pepper flakes and onions and cook until vegetables are a bit brown. Add the mole sauce and stir well. Add 3 tablespoons water and cook until bubbly.
I served this with 1/2 cup of a whole-grain blend that I cooked with handful of cilantro (add at the end), garlic (1 clove minced during cooking) and 2 tablespoons lemon juice (at the end).
I added a slice of cheddar soy "cheese," which is a bit processed in its flavor for my liking. I served a salad on the side and added Trader Joe's cilantro-lime salsa and fat-free Greek yogurt to all.
Yum! I ran out of fresh tomatoes or I would have added some. Oh, and this would have been fabulous with some avocado or guacamole.

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01 April 2007

emptying out the crisper

My new favorite food blog. The pictures are like food porn. Yum!

I must admit that I'm a little worried about getting sick while I'm overseas. I LOVE French food, and I'm excited to try Moroccan cuisine, but I worry that my body will not be happy about the change in diet. Oh well, Nutella crepes on the street, freshly baked croissants avec un cafe in the morning, rich dishes every evening. Even a nutritionista deserves to indulge every once in a while! As long as there are vegetables involved.

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pasta with a history and a reunion

PJ just returned from a three-week trip to Europe. We hadn't seen each other since the wine tasting in February and hadn't talked, except for a text message from him when he was in Paris. (He'd eaten at Un Zebre a Montmartre, where we had a perfect meal the year before.) We have a long history that involved many delicious meals on three continents. There was a sushi debacle in Korea: A couple of weeks after I arrived, PJ invited me to go to Incheon, a city on the West (Yellow) Sea, with him and his friends. We decided we'd go for a nice sushi dinner. Instead of letting the woman who could read and understand Korean read the menu and select -- and I had a guidebook with a menu reader in it! -- they decided to pick and choose.
And that's the story of how we ate skate sushi, along with other exotic sea creatures, such as sea cucumber. It was the only time I'd ever wished for plain old California rolls.
We reunited over buckwheat crepes in Bourgogne, then ate a mediocre, cliche French meal my last night in Paris.
I slaved over three kinds of cookies when I met his family, then served pistachio-crusted salmon and haricots-verts for his birthday.
I'm rambling...
For a year after college, I dated a guy named Andrew. He was a bit of a food snob, which helped me hone my cooking skills. With my erratic schedule, we often ate at home, and I created multi-course feasts for special occasions. That was before I cared so much about nutrition, back when I ate meat.
The one time he made me dinner, he served me this pasta. I was a bit skeptical at first. Canned tuna? (Martha Stewart ran a story this week on canned tuna, which reminded me of this recipe.) He was so proud of his creation, and for good reason. It was delicious!

Mediterranean pasta

1/2 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1T olive oil
1 anchovy filet
1/2 t red pepper flakes
1 28-ounce can tomatoes, preferably plum tomatoes with no salt added
1 can Tonno tuna packed in olive oil
1 handful kalamata olives
1 t capers, drained
salt and pepper
handful chopped flat-leaf parsley
Parmesan cheese
fettucini, 1/2 package
Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil, using a large pan over medium-low heat. Add the anchovy filet (optional) and stir, breaking it up. Add the red pepper flakes, then the tomatoes. Carefully break up the tomatoes. Cook for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the olives. Cook 10 minutes more. Just before serving, add the tuna and the capers. Toss the al dente pasta, mix well and sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
I served it with a salad and a Dijon vinaigrette:
2 t Dijon mustard
2T red wine vinegar
6T olive oil
pinch dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
Whisk together vinegar, mustard and thyme. While still whisking, slowly drizzle in the olive oil. The mustard acts as an emulsifier and helps keep the dressing from breaking.

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