What you don’t see . . .

What you don’t see on this blog are all the meals I make from day to day for myself and my husband.  So I thought I’d share a little of that with you.

I am no different from most of us in that from day to day, I do not always have time to make a full blown gourmet meal. Sometimes I am literally cooking on the run, throwing together whatever I’ve got and calling it done.

I always strive for deliciousness no matter what though, and sometimes I hit on something surprisingly tasty!

The other day, I was driving home from work—hadn’t done any food shopping—and came up with something based on what was in the pantry.

Can you say Mediterranean/Mexican?

This turned out to be a real taste sensation and we’re still savoring the last little bits.

MEDITERRANEAN LAYER CAKE PAINT

Maybe I could get away with calling this “Mediterranean Layer Cake.”  With Salsa.

Whole Wheat Couscous cooked in water and salt with diced carrots and organic corn kernels. Turn the couscous out onto a baking pan, flatten it out and let t cool. You’ll be able to serve it in neat squares.

Hummus can be store-bought or homemade. Mine was made in a hurry with a large can of organic cooked chickpeas, about 1/3 cup of tahini, juice of one large lemon and 3 cloves of garlic.

Here you see the couscouse layered with hummus and decorated with medium salsa. (So many many great salsa’s here in New Mexico!)

But in reality, this whole thing gets put into a bowl and gobbled up with a spoon or crammed into a food container and taken to work and then gobbled up with a spoon!

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Under the Banner of Veganism. Deprivation Diets, Eating Disorders and Orthorexia.

mycookinglifebypatty:

I reblogged this post by Somer at Vedged Out for us today. I so agree with her about deprivation diets. I did not know veganism was linked with eating disorders, did you? My immediate thought–that is a money-motivated effort by the vested interests in some food industries to sabotage healthy eating and creating less need for medical care. Even the term, “orthorexia” sounds just like some made up “disorder” created by psychiatrists in order to find yet one more reason to drug us. Beware — what better way to control a population than via their food.

Originally posted on Vedged Out:

Veganism is on the horizon of exploding with popularity. It seems like hopping on the vegan bandwagon is the chic’ thing to do with celebrities like Beyonce and Jay Z doing a 22 day vegan kick start last year, J-Lo recently confessing her love for the lifestyle and even Jessica Simpson going on a 2 week vegan cleanse prior to her wedding. I’m all for any publicity in the media to promote a vegan lifestyle but I think many people are confused about what being a vegan means.

garden-pizza-2

So the question is, what exactly is a vegan?

veg·an
ˈvēgən,ˈvejən/
noun
 1. a person who does not eat or use animal products.

That’s it. Plain and simple.

cookie bars

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Sweet and Savory Apricot Salad

apricots in basket

Apricot Harvest!

Our first apricot harvest was quite a surprise. We just walked out back one morning and there they were, ready to be picked! Literally two days before they were not ready.

They turned out to be very good eating so I didn’t want to cook them. I opted for a simple fruit salad but with a little twist.

The apricots were washed, pitted and cut into halves. I added some blueberries and dressed them with a drizzle of olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, lemon zest, chopped raw almonds and topped with coconut flakes. You could easily imagine an herb in there such as a touch of sage. A pinch of sea salt would enhance the sweetness, too.  I didn’t add salt this time because I didn’t want the salt to pull out more purple blueberry juice than I already had!

Fresh, light, sweet and slightly savory!

SWEET AND SAVORY APRICOT SALAD PAINT

Sweet and Savory Apricot Salad – not just for breakfast.

Shop Your Local Farmer’s Markets

mycookinglifebypatty:

It’s Throw Back Thursday! Let’s take a little toss back to May 2012 and honor our local farmer’s.

Originally posted on mycookinglifebypatty:

The growing season is upon us in the Northern Hemisphere and soon we will be able to get freshly picked, locally grown foods!

Copley Square Farmer's Market

Copley Square Farmer’s Market (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the best things you can do to improve the nutritional value and taste of your cooking is to venture over to your local farmer’s market or roadside stand and buy fresh, locally-grown produce.  Your local natural food store may even feature local food growers and producers.  Mine does and they usually have special weekend events where you can meet and talk with these local growers and ranchers.

I would much rather make the acquaintance of the people who are actually growing and raising my food than suffer a distant, from-my-wallet-to-your-cashier relationship with a huge mega-supermarket conglomerate food chain.  I am much more interested in supporting a local grower and seeing that my dollars go into his/her hands rather than having…

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What’s Hiding in My Pancakes?

Wait just a minute!

What is hiding in my pancakes this morning?!

They look pretty normal. In fact they look pretty darned good. They tasted really good too. They had something extra—a taste, a texture, an additional je ne sais quoi!

HIDING IN PANCAKES PAINT

What’s hiding in these pancakes? (Hints:  A full serving of veggies but you can’t see them even on the inside. Yellow and stringy but so tender there’s no telltale sign of it. Delicate in taste, but so subtle one might never know.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you guess?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I cup of cooked spaghetti squash mixed into organic, whole grain pancakes.

Inspiring and Refreshing Summer Cooking

It was love at first sight when I spied their cute little round white heads peaking out from a cluster of delicate verdant leaves.

All it really takes for me to get inspired is a single outstanding element and an entire meal results. And what better time than early summer to find that inspiration! These baby turnips ooze summer, light refreshment!

REFRESHING SUMMER LUNCHEON

Baby turnips and greens with summer squash dressed with fresh ginger and coconut white balsamic vinaigrette.  

 

Cooking method for turnip and greens salad starts with the tiny turnips cut in halves and dropped into salted boiling water until just bright and slightly tender then take them out. Next the sliced summer squash is dropped into the same water for just a few seconds and removed. Finally the greens, sliced, get dropped into the water and removed as soon as the color turns bright green—less than a minute!  Drain and let it cool.

The vinaigrette consists of freshly grated ginger, coconut white balsamic vinegar, olive oil and sea salt.

The rest of the meal soon followed: Easy BBQ tofu, leftover radish pickles and corn and quinoa medley.

BBQ TOFU

Barbecued Tofu made with quick-grab-what’s-available homemade BBQ Sauce.

Barbecue sauce has got to be tangy, slightly sweet, slightly (or more than slightly) hot and its got to be thick and finger-lickin’ good.  No measuring occurred here – just thrown together country barley miso, barley malt syrup, aged balsamic vinegar, chipotle pepper sauce, garlic and a little mirin. It came out real good! Tofu doesn’t have any flavor on its own so these firm tofu triangles were marinated in the sauce for half an hour and then the whole shebang got baked at 350 for 30 minutes.

QUINOA AND CORN

Quinoa, corn and scallion medley.

While my tofu was marinating I washed up a cup of quinoa. Quinoa has a coating of saponin on it and that stuff tastes very bitter. So wash the quinoa thoroughly before cooking. I use 1 1/2 cups of spring water for one cup of quinoa and once it’s brought to a boil, simmer until all the water is cooked away — 20-25 minutes.  I cooked mine with 2 crushed and sliced garlic cloves and a pinch or two of sea salt. At the end I added the corn which has got to be organic. The sliced scallions and some roasted chopped almonds were tossed in last along with a bit of olive oil.

And the radish pickles?  See this post. Only this time I didn’t include the radish greens.

A note on choosing your inspiring vegetable or fruit

The later we get into summer, of course, the less “baby” veggies we’re going to see because, well . . . those little sprouts sure do grow fast don’t they? You can go ahead and make this turnip salad with regular turnips and turnip greens no problem. It can be just as refreshing as long as you choose your veggies wisely and that’s what I want to talk to you about.

As you’re shopping or harvesting from your garden, know that bigger is not always better. Vegetables that are allowed to grow really big are less flavorful, have more seeds and can even be pithy. You might be impressed with that giant baseball bat of a zucchini, but the little skinny one is going to taste better and sweeter.

I don’t pick the biggest onion or the biggest of any veggie or fruit. I pick what is not overgrown and not harvested too late.  I can’t think of any example where it’s better not to do that.

Happy inspiration and Happy Cooking!

 

 

How to do the Hokey Pokey

Hokey Pokey

How do you have your body trained?  Is it trained to be overweight? To want lots of bread, pasta and sweets?  What about what most people call, “comfort food,” which is generally soft, sometimes gooey, and often sweet?  Like Mac n’ Cheese or Pot Pie?

There is a term I learned in fifth grade science — “homeostasis.”  Dictionary.com defines it as “the tendency toward a relatively stable equilibrium between interdependent elements, especially as maintained by physiological processes.”  That’s about right.

Did you ever go on some kind of diet, actually lose a lot of weight, and think you had it made only to find out that your body weight crept back up over time. My friend Kate reminded me of this just a few weeks ago.

It’s because of homeostasis.

Especially if you try to lose the weight fast and/or with dramatically different dietary choices.  Your body is trained to be a certain way and is not going to easily be persuaded to make and maintain a sudden big change.  So you get cravings and thoughts that you “need” to eat something you may have been trying to avoid.

It works the other way around, too, if you trained your body to do something good or healthy.  For instance when I was younger, I worked out in a gym very regularly for many years. I was used to weight training and did it most of my adult life.  Then along came a period of time (years)  when I didn’t belong to a gym and didn’t work out at all. One day I got myself a new gym membership and signed up for a personal trainer to refresh my weight-training skills.

Almost from the beginning—once I got over being “sore” — it was as if my muscles remembered how it used to be. I got back into the workout routine incredibly fast and got very fast results. I was back to homeostasis.

I believe understanding the body’s need to maintain homeostasis is the key to making healthy changes. I do not support “fast” weight loss plans. I already know they will fail because they violate the survival drive of the body to maintain the status quo.

There are some times when someone needs to make very drastic and complete changes to their diet for health reasons. Such as they are trying to save their life! This takes extraordinary, long-term determination.

It is possible to make drastic, complete changes and do well with them even if you aren’t trying to save your own life. I’ve done it. I made a complete, turn-around, change-everything, 180 on my dietary habits when I started macrobiotics in the late ’70′s. How did I make that kind of change so successfully?  I moved into a house owned by two extremely experienced macrobiotic teachers, one of whom was a highly trained macrobiotic cook. She not only knew superb macrobiotic cooking—how to balance the diet, how to make the most delicious food in the world—she knew how to take one look at any one of us living there and understand what one ingredient or dish we needed if we were starting to crave our old ways or getting off balance in any way.

I ate her food/cooking every day for about two years while I learned to do it myself.  By the time I was done and living in my own house, my body had achieved a new training in how to “be” and what foods now represented “homeostasis.”

There are places you can go to learn how to cook this way, meaning the cooking, the balance, the understanding at a glance what food would help at any given time. There are schools and individual cooking teachers around the world who teach this.

So what do the rest of us do who aren’t going to live in someone else’s house and be fed every day while studying how to completely makeover our lifestyle?

Do the Hokey Pokey and, (you know the words)!

  • Consider finding a teacher who’s right for what you want to do and take a few cooking classes!  I taught cooking for over 35 years and have gotten many people off to a great start in pursuing healthier cooking and eating. For some people, taking ANY kind of cooking class would be good because many people are way, way too dependent on the short order cook at the fast food restaurant, or the factory production manager at the frozen food plant, or the good folks at the pizza delivery outlet. Go on! pick up a knife and a carrot and see what you can accomplish!
  • Do read up. Books and blogs are full of all kinds of food and dietary advice. I know—this is difficult because there is so much out there. How do you know what’s right? (I’d love to say, “gut feelings.”  Is that a funny joke?) A lot of the advice out there is pure nonsense but one thing I do know is that whatever route you take, YOU have to be interested. YOU have to decide it sounds good.  YOU have to invest your time and attention in something that makes sense to you. If it doesn’t turn out to be so great, you can always change your direction!
  • There are some really basic things that should be present no matter what kind of dietary advice you decide to try.
  1. Quality of food is extremely important. It should be organic and not have any genetically modified ingredients in it. (Non-GMO)
  2. Do not try to eliminate a whole major food group such as “carbohydrates.” That’s ridiculous because just about everything has carbohydrates just like nearly all food has protein to a greater or lesser degree. Worried about so-called “carbs?” Educate yourself to know the difference between a whole grain and a doughnut. All “carbs” are not the same and not bad.
  3. Until you learn how to balance your meals for optimum benefit, think “Variety.” Variety of colors, cooking styles, veggies, fruits, whatever it is. Variety will actually take you a long way toward your goal to eat healthier.
  4. Chew. Whatever it is you’ve decided to eat, whether right or wrong, it has got to be chewed very, very well. More info on that in my previous post.

Realize that unless you have an emergency health condition requiring immediate, drastic and extraordinary change, the healthy changes you decide to make amount to re-training your body so it becomes accustomed to a new state of homeostasis that can be maintained.

 

Food Recalls (Or, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”)

Food recalls can be really scary sometimes, especially if you think you may have the item in your kitchen or pantry or even worse, you may have eaten the suspect product! I haven’t written a lot about food recalls myself, but today I am going to do it if only so you can benefit from my experience.

A recent recall I read about was about 4,000 pounds of beef recalled due to “incomplete processing.”  That just leaves so much repulsion to the imagination that I can’t begin to express it. Downright lurid, that is.

Unfortunately I recall eating a lot of beef in my younger years. For instance my Dad grilled steak every Saturday night for dinner. The accompanying family fun and observing how proud Dad was to provide his family with prime grade-A beef made this seem like a good thing. All that delicious grilled fat with slightly crispy edges! The way the marbling made it taste!

Well, for the first few chews anyway. After that there is really no taste to speak of and I would swallow the rest. Talk about “incomplete processing!” I’ve observed that’s what most people do when eating beef or meat. The first few chews pull out the fat and added flavoring (BBQ sauce, chemical-laden tenderizer, marinade, spice rub, A-1, etc.) and the rest is tasteless and chewy and why bother to continue chewing?

Eventually I found out what happens to un-chewed foods such as meat and beef when you swallow it! Your stomach doesn’t have teeth  ya know!  Yes protein can be broken down but how big a chunk of un-chewed beef do you think your stomach is going to handle and how long does it take?

Not sure of the size limit, but I’m sure the food has to be pretty small to really get digested. As for the time it takes, beef and meat take L O N G and typically putrify before digestion has a chance to be completed.

Luckily our bodies are very survival-oriented and can stow that undigested food out of the way. Well, not exactly out of the way. Ever wonder what that overhanging gut is packing? Not just “fat.” It’s undigested food. And if the undigested food stays there long enough, it gets about as hard and solid and black as the macadam they pave your road with. Not exaggerating. Get out the jackhammer.

How’s that for lurid food recall?  “I recall eating too much meat and ending up with a parking lot paved gut!:”

To add insult to injury, there is the matter of meats such as beef creating an unhealthy acidic condition in your body. There is also the fact that eating a lot of meat easily creates an imbalance that often leads to craving sugar and sweets. No wonder the best part of my childhood Saturday night grilled sirloin dinner was roasting marshmallows over the still-hot grill after we ate!

You know when most people grill steak and other meats outside? In the summertime when the weather is hot and we don’t want to cook inside the house. You know what food can make your body produce heat like there’s no tomorrow? Meat and especially beef.

I mentioned this to someone just yesterday and he responded that he has noticed when he eats meat he sweats more.

Now we all know that everyone has not decided to give up meat. Beef is still “What’s for dinner” for a lot of people. What to do? It is not easy maintaining balance and health while eating beef and other meats but it is easy to start controlling and counteracting the negative effects.

  1. (Obvious if you read this post) Chew your food until it is liquid. This is an old, traditional maxim that people used to know. Know now that it still holds true. Chewing is your first digestive action and is extremely important even if the flavor of your steak has waned.
  2. Cooked food does not have live enzymes to help digest it. So follow this advice too: “Don’t dine without enzymes!”
  3. Portion your meat serving so you are eating twice as many leafy greens plus other vegetables as meat. And the smaller the portion of meat, the better. Do you really need a 12-oz New York strip or would a few slices of very high-quality beef strips in a large veggie salad give you the flavor and satisfy the craving?
  4. Quality counts. It is well-known that animals raised for food production such as beef cattle are fed with GMO feed, antibiotics and hormones. At least buy organic. If organic seems expensive, wait until you find out how expensive those medical bills will be when your heavy and unbalanced, undigested meat eating habits catch up with you!

For more information on making the transition to a healthier diet, contact me directly. (See sidebar)

Sweeten It Up Without Sugar

mycookinglifebypatty:

IT’S TOSS BACK THURSDAY! Since I’ve only been blogging for just over two years, “Throw Back Thursday” didn’t see quite appropriate. We’ll just take a little toss back to 2012.

I was just commenting back and forth with Kathy at Lake Superior Spirit about ice cream and sugar and how they are sometimes so so hard to resist. It made me think of this not-too-oldie but goodie!!

Originally posted on mycookinglifebypatty:

It is possible to make and eat desserts and other sweet treats without using sugar.  When I say “sugar,” I include honey, agave syrup, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, glucose . . . ALL the “ose’s,” molasses, brown sugar, raw sugar, turbinado sugar.  That’s right! Even if you see them in your health food store, that does not mean they aren’t sugar or at least they act like sugar in your body and wreak all kinds of havoc with your hormones, your blood sugar, your arteries, your digestion.  (You can read about this in my article “What Is Sugar?” on the Street Articles website.)

Some brands will do anything to make you think they are healthier for you including putting their product in a brown package or labeling it with an enticing buzz word.  Would you believe that when I went to my health food store today I saw…

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Marketing Word Games

Have you seen this?  so delicious PAINT sugar free cocunut milk

 

It’s just a little tricky thing some of the alternative milk companies are doing.

The label on the front says “No Sugar Added.” You might think you’re getting something without sweetener.

No. You’re not. You’re getting something that doesn’t have sugar but does have some kind of other sweetener added that you may or may not want.

They used to just say “unsweetened” and that was that. But now there is “unsweetened” and this other, “No sugar” label.  They are definitely not the same.

To be fair, there is nothing on this label that tries overtly to make you think there is no sweetener at all in this product. But I know food shoppers and I know that many of us don’t actually read every label and if we do, we might not get all the ingredients that we aren’t familiar with defined for us before we buy and consume them.

I just bought a box of So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut Milk. That was after first picking up and reading the one that said “Sugar Free.” The sweeteners were “Reb A,” which is a stevia extract and “Monk fruit” which is a small, exotic Asian fruit that one writer called the “latest darling of the alternative sweetener world.”

Monk fruit sweetener, however is usually mixed with other things such as erythritol, a sweet substance extracted from certain lichens and algae, along with molasses and sugar. Another monk fruit sweetener recently marketed also contains corn-derived dextrose.

Right off the bat when I see one of those words ending in “ose” I know that it is a simple sugar that can wreak havoc with our bodies just like any refined sugar does. I personally stay away from foods with any “-ose” ingredients and that has been a very workable way to avoid unhealthy sweeteners.

Then there’s the matter of “corn-derived,” which should raise another red flag if you’re interested in avoiding genetically modified foods. Corn, unless it specifically says “organic,” is most likely GMO. The exception is when you buy corn at a farmers market, can talk to the farmer himself and he says he doesn’t grow GMO crops and you trust his integrity. But then you aren’t buying a corn-derived extract from him, so he can’t help you with the monk fruit sweetener problem.

I don’t know which type of monk fruit sweetener the folks at Turtle Mountain (who manufacture the So Delicious line) used. But I know that I’ll avoid it altogether and stick with the “So Delicious Unsweetened” which I like very much.

The moral of the story is 1) Read your labels thoroughly, and 2) Understand what the ingredients actually are before trusting you should consume them.