Making every bite count

27 January 2008

retro goodies for 50s birthday party

14 January 2008

Korean feast for the fam

My family had never tried Korean food, so I made them a few dishes on Sunday. My sister Kaitie wanted to try sushi, so I made (above, left) California rolls (more American than Korean or Japanese), which she then refused to try. The rest of us liked them. Korean food can be spicy, so I opted for bulgogi (above, right) and broiled tofu with bulgogi marinade.
1 pound beef, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 c sesame oil
2 T grated fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1/2 c soy sauce, reduced sodium
2 T sesame seeds
2 T sugar
4 green onions, chopped
3 carrots, cut into large sticks
Mix and soak beef and vegetables for an hour or so. Broil on high until beef is no longer pink. (About 10-15 minutes.) Serve with rice and steamed veggies.
The bulgogi was a hit. There were no leftovers.
Kimchi soup with seafood, tofu and poached eggs was another story. Plenty of leftovers, even though everyone at least tried it. Too spicy, too sour, too odd, too many vegetables. It wasn't a favorite of anyone but me.
I also made: cucumber salad, which was a hit. (2 cucumbers, seeded and chopped; 2 T sesame oil; 2 T soy sauce, 1 T sesame seeds. Mix and serve.)
Seafood pancake (1 green onion and 1 carrot, minced; 1 egg; 1 cup flour; handful mixed frozen seafood. I use Trader Joe's mixed squid-shrimp-scallops. Mix all ingredients together and pour in omelet pan, which has been coated with sesame oil. Cut into bite-size pieces and serve warm or at room temperature. I served the beef with lettuce, but no one liked it that way. The plate of lettuce went untouched.

Organic food... in McConnelsville?

Between ages 6 and 18, I lived in McConnelsville, a small town on the Muskingum River in southeastern Ohio. It's the kind of place where people who have lived there for years are still considered outsiders, where teenagers go cruising and "mudding," where 4-H and FFA members miss school for the entire week of the Morgan County Fair so they can show livestock. At least three factories shut down by the time I was in high school. Unemployment rates are high. My dad and stepmom left as soon as they could, but my mom and stepdad still live there, with my stepdad commuting 90 minutes each way to Columbus.

It's not a bad place, but for a progressive 16-year-old vegetarian, I didn't find much to like in a town where deer hunting was a legitimate reason for skipping class. In the last couple of years, the town has taken some steps toward modernity: there's a Chinese restaurant (my mother called me in Korea to tell me about it), a yoga studio (Sarah teaches there; it just opened) and a health-food store, Jo-Ad Natural Marketplace.

A couple of years ago, Central Market, one of the three grocers in town, closed down. Rumor had it that a Pick and Save was being brought to town, but that never happened. Run by the Allen family for three generations, it was the nicest grocery store of the three: An IGA was the biggest and boasted a large bakery (sheet cakes and the like. No baguettes or anything good), and Kroger was not much bigger than my apartment, and pretty run-down. Central Market was on the town square and hired the cool kids to work there.
After Central Market shut down, the Mennonites moved their natural food store from way out in the middle of nowhere to downtown McConnelsville. In all those years, I'd never visited Jo-Ad's.
All that changed this weekend, and wow, was I missing out. In 1997, silken tofu in an aseptic package was the only variety to be found in any of the grocery stores. Avocados were a rarity, and specialty foods like soy burgers -- yeah, right!
This weekend, I found soy products of every kind (way too late as I don't really eat those anymore), kombucha, organic grains and aisle after aisle of herbal supplements!
I filled up my Get Hip Go Green bag with organic goodies and spent... $20 and some change!! So cheap! Over two pounds of thick-cut oats were just $2.50! Two pounds of organic black beans were $3.40 or so. Wow! I told my mother that I might come home more often now that I know I can get decent food there!
I remember getting vegetarian cookbooks from the library and not being able to find half the ingredients needed. Oh, this place would have been a godsend 10 years ago. Better late than never, and being able to find firm tofu, sesame seeds, good rice, ginger and a few other ingredients meant that my family got a tasty, homemade Korean feast!

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13 January 2008

What I'm reading: "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle

Marion Nestle has a way of cutting through the fat of nutrition and food science claims. She directly and neutrally explains and analyzes the history, context and importance of health topics before giving her opinion. In "What to Eat," she takes an aisle by aisle look at the supermarket. I've read until chapter 13 and taken notes. Here's a summary of what seemed important to me:
  • Prewashed vegetables and fruits are clean when they are packaged. Public water in America is chlorinated, which kills most microbes that could contaminate the veggies. However, wash that lettuce: Have you ever taken a look at those misters? Algae, mold and other contaminants!
  • Fruit waxes and veggie waxes aren't worth stressing about. Buy unwaxed if you want to eat the peel. Otherwise just peel it. You'll be fine.
  • Nearly half of the typical family's food budget is spent on food made and consumed outside the home by people who have no interest in health or nutrition.
  • She frequently points out that farming is a business, which means that farmers in general aren't worried about your health. They're worried about making a profit!
  • Because organic farmers grow crops using manure, they have stricter rules about microbes and contamination. Conventional farmers don't face such rules.
  • If organic foods are grown in better soils, they are perhaps higher in minerals, but their vitamin and phytochemical content is pretty much the same as conventional. The differences result from genetic strains or treatment after harvest.
  • Eat organic because you want fewer pesticides in your body. Eat local because you want to reduce the energy expended to bring your food to your plate.
  • GM foods' PLU codes begin with an 8, but how often do you seen them? Growers don't have to label such foods! It's a big mystery!
  • It seems that those who eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day have half the cancer risk of those who eat just two (half-cup) servings of vegetables and fruit.
  • In the late 90s, the USDA calculated that it cost just 64 cents for five servings of fruits and vegetables (f/v from now on because I'm tired!). That's because there are plenty of half-cup servings in a pound. (Ex: 1 lb green beans minus the inedible parts = 9 servings!)
  • $36 billion in spent on food and beverage marketing a year. Just a few million is spent on produce marketing; tens or hundreds of millions can be spent on a single drink, cereal or candy bar.
  • 18 cents of food dollars go to the grower; the rest goes to store, truckers, packagers, promoters, etc.
  • There are two sets of issues regarding milk: the effects of its compounds on health; the effects of production on the cows.
  • Since 1970, dairy farms have decreased from 650,000 to 90,000. Cows have been reduced from 12 million to 9 million. However, each cow's yearly production has increased from 9,700 pounds to 19,000 pounds.
  • in 2003, 22 % of cows were injected with rbST (recombinant bovine somatotropin, a growth hormone)
  • Nestle says milk's health risks -- and benefits -- are small.
  • Yogurt: "Yogurt, it seems, has performed a marketing miracle; it is a fast-selling dairy dessert with the aura of a health food."
  • Ew: 55% of calories in Go-GURT and 67% of calories in Danimals Drinkable are from sugar!!!
  • Stonyfield Organic is 85 % owned by Groupe Danone.
  • Margarine is soybean oil and additives. It has few health benefits. She calls it "nutritionally confusing."
  • Margarine is dyed to look like butter.
  • Food claims are silly: Margarine has no cholesterol. Duh. Only animal products have cholesterol!
  • Liquid sweeteners are disgusting (my opinion here). Ever read the back of that CoffeeMate bottle? Yeah, corn syrup solids and chemicals. Yuck! My family is fond of those liquid creamers, and so is Fred. I dislike them. Nestle is honest about them: They're sweet, liquid margarines.
  • When such sweeteners are fat free, it's because some milk solids have been introduced. Low carb means the sugars have been replaced with artificial sweeteners.
  • Soy foods are usually pretty heavily processed, and soy manufacturers play both sides of the field: They lobby for higher subsidies and move production overseas.
I'm also currently reading Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food." However, I own that, and Nestle's book is from the library so I'm reading it first.
I'm eating cage-free organic eggs at my mom's for $1.50 a dozen -- half of what I spend at home. Her neighbor has a chicken. One of the (few) benefits of being at home.
I wasn't planning to blog about this tonight, but it's on my mind so I will. THIS HAS BEEN EDITED, per my mother's request.
My teenage sister refuses to eat much more than refined carbs, dairy and meat. The only borderline vegetables she'll eat are potatoes (really a carbohydrate) and corn (more of a grain). My sister -- despite good examples, healthful meals cooked for her (like the Korean feast I'll blog about later) and plenty of talks from her sisters -- refuses to eat anything new.
Pollan's advice, like that of so many other sage nutritionists and experts, is simple: Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.
And yet, so many people refuse to eat plants!
She practically lives on grilled cheese sandwiches and pasta with cheese. No matter what we do, she won't try even a bite of any vegetable. I'm frustrated and upset by it, but I'm not sure what to do, if anything. I know that no one can make someone take control of his or her life, and she is just 14.
My passion is life, my calling, is to enlighten people about eating better. I've tried with my sister, but I just get so angry. Watching her, I just feel so sad.
If she were my child, (there are so many "ifs" in this situation), I would make her eat vegetables. No vegetables? Fine, then no refined carbs or full-fat dairy, either.
I needed to vent. I feel quite powerless, and I hate seeing her so unhappy with her body. I love my sister, and I just wish I could make her realize how important good nutrition is. I realize that many Americans are trapped by poverty and believe they cannot afford to eat fresh produce. However, she is educated enough and from a family who is comfortable enough to afford fresh produce and healthful foods.
Am I being unreasonable by trying to get her to eat vegetables?

At home for the weekend

I left my camera cord at home, so no photos until tomorrow.
My sister Rachael and I didn't make it home for Christmas (among the joys of retail reporting are day-after-Christmas shopping stories) so we celebrated Friday night. My mom and stepdad were quite generous: a stand mixer, a Cuisinart food processor and a Cuisinart immersion blender, plus some other goodies. Pair that with my dad and stepmom's fancy new knife sets and you've got one happy cook. I also have two new aprons -- I'm wearing the one my mom made me right now -- and some kitchen rugs, along with some green dish rags.
It has been a weekend full of board games, yoga classes at the new studio where Sarah teaches and, but of course, food. I'm making a Korean feast for my family, who somehow has never tasted Korean food. I opened the jar of kimchi Friday night, and the smell was less than appreciated. I think that bulgogi (for them), mapo tofu (for me and others), sesame cucumber salad, veggie pancake and kimchi soup will be appreciated a bit more. Raw kimchi is a bit hard to stomach for many people. I certainly took a few weeks to get used to eating it daily.
We've just finished pancakes -- my mother's are perfectly fluffy on the inside and crispy on the outside, always glossy and perfectly golden brown. While others had syrup, I stuck with my resolution: no HFCS-based breakfast "maple" product. Instead, I used leftover cranberry-orange relish on my pancakes.
My mother has never and probably will never own a dishwasher. What for? my stepdad says. We can do the dishes just fine. However, it becomes a tedious chore that's divvied up among the children all weekend. I fell asleep while we watched a movie last night and forgot to do my load. I did them this morning, which annoyed my stepdad, whose a bit anal about a clean house. (Ha! My sister just started doing them! I'm free.)
Yesterday we went to a fabulous health foods store, which I'll post about tomorrow. Photos are necesaary. I was AMAZED at Jo-Ad Natural Food Store.
A demain...

06 January 2008

just my luck

My camera is at Fred's; we're staying at my place tonight. So no picture of the spicy and flavorful -- and unbelievably simple -- Tunisian Tomato Soup with Chickpeas and Lentils (modified from Mollie Katzen's Vegetable Heaven.)
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 cup lentils, rinsed (I soaked them with the spices this morning because I realized I didn't have tomatoes and couldn't cook the soup!)
1 28-ounce can tomatoes (crushed or diced)
1 green onion, chopped (recipe calls for 4 cups minced onion. Again, I was out of this! My pantry is empty until Tuesday!)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste, plus a few healthy shakes of red pepper flakes
handful cilantro, chopped
1 teaspoon olive oil
Heat oil over medium heat and add garlic and onion. Cook two minutes, then add the lentils (which have had been soaking with the spices). Add water to cover, then add tomatoes and chickpeas. Simmer 10 minutes, then season with salt and pepper. Serve with cilantro.
My recipes are mostly for my memory, but feel free to point out whether I've missed a step or overlooked something.
Tonight we also had some oat bran-whole wheat biscuits with feta cheese and raisins. Not too bad. Fred liked them -- I rarely make any carb except cooked whole grains, so he was very impressed with the biscuits. They weren't bad, and I added flaxseed to bump up the fiber even more!


Fred rose early for a trip to Springfield with Jon, so I headed home via Pike Street, and Pike Street Press. A soy cappuccino to go, with one of Jean-Francois Flechet's fabulous Li├Ęge waffles. Healthful? Not one bit. But worth every bite.
Today's dinner, I think, is going to be a Tunisian chickpea and lentil soup from a vegetarian cookbook that I got from Mary a few months ago. It's the perfect recipe for those Dark Days of Winter, but I just realized that my pantry is almost pitch black: I have no canned tomatoes! How can this be?! I'm going to walk to the Kroger on Madison later today and pick up a couple of cans. They do carry organic canned goods, even if the organic produce selection ends with baby carrots and baby spinach.
It's time for a trip to Trader Joe's to restock the pantry.
Back to the recipe. I'll post again after I actually make it. The recipe calls for turmeric, cinnamon and cumin -- a perfectly warm and spicy combo for a gray afternoon.
I've also made up a batch of roasted red pepper hummus, which I've been using in place of cheese on quesadillas and sandwiches and as a fabulous dipper for air-popped popcorn. I also love it in omelets, with carrots and in place of dips at parties. Plain hummus is divine, but the red peppers add endless flavor and nutrition. Peppers have more Vitamin C than citrus fruit by weight, along with Vitamin A (with carotenoids lycopene and beta-carotene).
Here's a recipe for quick and easy roasted red pepper hummus:
1/2 cup roasted red peppers, plus their juices (40 calories; 3 g fiber)
1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed (286 calories; 3 grams fat; 10.6 g fiber)
2 cloves garlic, peeled (10 calories)
3 T olive oil (360 calories; 41 g fat)
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
(696 calories/87 calories per serving; 1.7 g fiber; 5.5 g fat)
Place all ingredients in a food processor and mix until well-blended. Season to taste. I love to eat this with air-popped popcorn.
Red peppers -- during summer -- are on my top 10 list. I didn't plan ahead as well as I should have last year. Next year, I'll freeze peppers and can tomatoes. I've got one container of sauce made with green zebras in the freezer. With whole-wheat pasta and a handful of spinach it will make a fast and delicious meal on a cold night.

05 January 2008

two postings, one day

I like Kelly's post about In Defense of Food. I'm reading the same book, but her blog posting says it all. She also suggested that I set a fitness goal. I've been thinking about that for a while, and I think that was the motivation I needed to set one. I've had another fitness goal for a few weeks: to do an unassisted headstand in yoga. I did one three weeks ago with the help of the teacher against the wall. It was such fun!
My second goal is to run a 5K for the Greater Cincinnati Nutrition Council on March 1.
10 foods I can't live without in 2008
1. pomegranates
2. avocados
3. oatmeal
4. almonds
5. broccoli rabe
6. spinach
7. tofu
8. umeboshi plums
9. organic kefir
10. beans (all of them!)

New year, fresh start

A nutrition primer to start the year, from the San Francisco Chronicle.
I feel pretty good about my eating lately. I must confess that I ate a chocolate chip cookie from Starbucks yesterday, and I seriously thought I was going to be ill about an hour later. My body was unhappy with the refined sugar overload. 450 calories and 22 grams of fat. And you know that I ate the entire thing!
During the holidays I was much crankier and stressed, and I think it was because of my diet. A slice of cheesecake here, two truffles there, a second serving of cake.
Fred and I have set weight-loss goals: He wants to lose 20 pounds, and I want to lsoe 10 by April 12, our anniversary. (I honestly think I need to lose about 15. I think my scale is off; it says 155 now, but I think it's closer to 160. The goal is 145.)
I'm playing broomball on Mondays (likely will just be sitting the bench and falling down -- not counting on any weight loss there), so I've had to rearrange my yoga schedule. I'm taking $110 of my Christmas money to buy a 10-class yoga card. I go once a week, ideally.
I'm going to put myself on a schedule so it's easier for me to stick to my fitness plan. I'm also putting myself on a budget, so that should prevent us from going out to eat. We're trying to cut back on the spontaneous lunches out and lazy dinners in. We've significantly cut back on the amount of alcohol we drink. We try not to drink just because we can, though this week I had two glasses of white wine at One World Wednesday and two glasses of red at Via Vite.
We're not drinking wine with dinner "just because" and not drinking as much when we go out. I've also set three food goals for the year:
  1. reduce and ultimately eliminate all nonorganic dairy from my diet. It's challenging because the Kroger near my house is horrible. There is no organic dairy (aside from perhaps some HFCS-sweetened yogurt and milk, neither of which I consume.)
  2. eliminate all high fructose corn syrup from my diet. No exceptions. If in doubt, I won't eat it. With a name like "high fructose corn syrup," how can it possibly be good for you?
  3. avoid overly processed soy. Often, vegetarians replace one junk food with another. Ex: hamburgers for veggie burgers*, chicken nuggets for the chik'n variety, bacon (I do miss the flavor of bacon from time to time, I'll admit) for soy bacon. I'd rather eat real, whole foods. Soy dairy is easier on my tummy than real dairy, but soy cheese is not very good. I drink soy and other types of milk, but I'm considering switching to unsweetened rice or hemp milk. (*Read the ingredients on the back of your veggie burger. Some of them are chock full of chemicals and nasty additives. Others are full of real vegetables, legumes, etc. I'll still eat the latter.)

I've made some real strides with my diet in the last year. It hasn't been about weight loss, but about kindness for creatures, the environment and my body. I feel better, I haven't been sick as much as I was before, and my skin looks great. Here are som explanations about my diet, because I'm often asked what I eat and don't eat and why.

  • I struggled with bulimia for about a decade. It was quite serious in high school, and I recovered for a while in college. But recovery in college meant shoving in junk food without thinking about the consequences. I never exercised because when I was anorexic and bulimic, people worried I would overexercise to lose more weight. I've always been a bookworm and never played sports. I realized last night that, aside from more hangovers than were necessary, I haven't vomited in more than six months. That is the longest stretch of recovery since I was 18.
  • I don't eat meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc.) in any form, even in broth form, and I haven't since April. This summer, when hungover and making breakfast for Fred and me, I ate a bite of breakfast sausage. My body went into shock and an hour later, I was shaking, sweating profusely and vomiting. Bad idea. Vegetarians lose the ability to digest meat, though it will return after eating meat regularly. Needless to say, returning to eating meat is not fun for vegetarians.
  • I don't eat much dairy. I eat organic low-fat yogurt (never fat-free dairy. Contrary to what you've heard, fat-free dairy is not good for you. Read the ingredients. Or -- better yet -- taste that junk! Fat-free cream cheese has a dry taste that's like eating paste. Fat-free mozzarella doesn't melt and is useless. When I eat dairy, it's to satisfy a craving. Fat-free just won't do. I eat goat cheese, but I try to avoid cow's milk cheese. Again, it's easier on my tummy. I can't really eat ice cream or drink milk, because it kills my stomach.
  • I don't eat any plain pasta or bread. I am a big fan of Ezekiel sprouted grain bread. Sprouted grains have been soaked, and their outer shell cracked so it's easier to digest. Last night, at the awful run-down Kroger in Covington, I noticed that whole wheat and enriched pasta now take up as much space as the regular pasta. Sales of products containing whole grains are on the rise. And the number of products containing whole grains are rising, too.
  • I eat fish, but I'm picky about which fish I eat. I won't eat swordfish, sea bass (the Patagonian toothfish, as it was known pre-PR campaign), tuna (OK, I sometimes eat tuna) and others. I check this list quite often, and think before I buy. Because I don't eat fish very often, I can afford to buy better fish when I do. I love mackerel, both fresh and canned, along with sardines and anchovies. They're salty and rich and add a lot of flavor. They're quite good for you. Some day, I'd love to be able to become vegan, but I'm not at that point in my life yet. I'm not sure I ever will be, and that's OK.
  • My taste buds have changed. I used to crave junk food as much as the next person, but I can't stomach overly processed foods these days. I eat a pretty high fiber diet, and processed food is really hard on your body. It just sticks to your intestines and stays there. It's gross, I know, but you should really pay attention to fiber intake.

I'm very fortunate to be in a financial situation that allows me to choose organic produce, bread that doesn't contain HFCS and whole grains. I mentor a preteen whose family is on public assistance. To her, and so many other Americans, eating right is just too expensive. The good news is that WIC now offers vouchers for healthier foods and has reduced the allocations for full-fat dairy and fruit juice. There is also, I have just learned, a farmers market program for WIC recipients.
When my brother and sister were young, even when my mom was married, she didn't make much money. Certainly not enough to raise four children -- two preteens and two infants. She was on public assistance when I was in junior high and high school, to supplement the income she earned as a secretary, then briefly as a police officer, then as a waitress and bartender. We ate a fairly healthy diet, but it was quite heavy on dairy, mostly because of the vouchers for cheese. I'm grateful for my family that we had that assistance, though I lived with my father during most of that time and was quite ashamed of the help my mother needed.
So many people just don't see the need for vegetables and fruits. I'm guessing these are the same people you encounter during the day who are cranky and irritable. You are what you eat.
(Is anyone still reading? This is quite a tome!)
My goal is to enroll in nutrition classes by next year and become a registered dietitian. Ideally, I'd earn a master's in nutrition, but that will take years because of the prerequisites that I need to complete. But this is my life's passion. I see myself as a missionary for health and nutrition. Even turning one person on to one new healthy food is a small success.