If she were here now
I’d want to sit next to her
On this special day.
I have a little secret.
Sometimes when I have finished a book and haven’t started a new one, I read something else.
I read my blog posts.
I have favorites.
I’ve read some of them several times.
I find them totally entertaining.
That’s the way I am.
Fad Diets have existed since I can remember and I’m sure they have a much longer history than that. Why do we have fad diets?
One reason might be that new discoveries about how the body works were made and these led to new theories about diet. Or, someone claims to have found a better theory than the previous ones based on the results. In either case, we really need to know about the research and how it was conducted and who sponsored it.
Another reason for diet fads is that someone popularizes a theory so they can cash in on the false data that is circulated in order to take advantage of people’s desire to improve their health and physical condition. The key term is usually CASH IN.
Dietary approaches to real medical conditions can turn into diet fads
Diet theories are often about weight-loss, but they can also be about things like diabetes, Celiac Disease or other medical conditions that require a certain eating regimen. One example is gluten intolerance. I’m no expert, but I do know that one condition alone has created a Pandora’s box of theories, opinions and marketing ploys.
For example, there are people who truly have a gluten intolerance. They can’t digest gluten and get sick when they consume it. I know someone like that. A very small percent of people truly can’t consume gluten. Like my friend, if you have Celiac disease or allergies to wheat and other foods containing gluten, you really do have to be vigilant about avoiding gluten.
The Gluten-free Fad
But what about the rest of the gluten-free crowd? Why is “Gluten-Free” one of today’s biggest fads? You see a growing list of packaging marked gluten-free, restaurant menus with gluten-free choices, books and articles about the evils of gluten. For the small percent with real gluten intolerance, this is very helpful. But what about the rest of us? Gluten has gotten a very bad rap in modern society.
U.S. News & World Report reported a study in June 2015 that revealed,
“. . . 86 percent of individuals who believed they were gluten sensitive could tolerate it. Individuals with Celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune condition that affects about 3 million Americans, or roughly 1 percent of the population, must avoid gluten. Those with extremely rare wheat allergies must also remove gluten from their diet. In addition, those with gluten sensitivity, a condition that affects 6 percent of the population (18 million individuals), should also avoid gluten.”
According to this study thirty percent of shoppers are choosing gluten-free products and a whopping forty-one percent of U.S. adults believe “gluten-free” foods are good for them and for everyone else. They don’t really know if it is or isn’t good, but they believe it.
This makes no sense at all! Gluten-free foods are usually higher in sugar, sodium and fat. Most of these consumers are not claiming to have Celiac disease, but many decide they are sensitive to wheat and gluten. Where did this thinking come from?
In his March 2013 newsletter, diet and nutritional expert Dr. John McDougall explains:
“Because this condition is so non-specific, my guess is that most of these people are simply sick from their unhealthful diet of meat, dairy foods, vegetable oils, and other junk food. Blaming gluten or wheat is wrong, and as a result, their efforts on gluten-free eating are misplaced. Benefits seen while attempting any new more restrictive diet regimen are from simply removing foods recognized to be unhealthful, irrelevant to their containing gluten or not.”
There have been many popular publications, such as the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis that took off like a rocket and influenced people to blame wheat and/or gluten on their unhealthy physical conditions.
The truth is that eating a gluten-free diet can be a cause for weight-gain, obesity and reduced health caused by lack of essential whole foods because it steers people away from starches. Yet it is promoted as a healthy weight-loss regime.
Starches satisfy the appetite and lack of starches easily leads to overeating. If you’re not eating starches such as whole grains and starchy vegetables then you are likely going to choose diet fads that are based on eating “low-carb” i.e. Atkins, Paleo or Keto. Or, you have read about Atkins, Paleo and Keto, you decided to follow them, and your decision is boosted by the gluten-free fad.
It is circular reasoning and doesn’t lead to any stable, knowledgeable and correct conclusions. As many have said before me, people love to hear good news about their bad habits.
Know how the Human Body Works
The key to understanding what is true and what is not true about food and diets is to understand how the body works. Understand what the true history of the human species is regarding food. Were we hunters or gatherers? What is the evidence?
When you read one of these fad diet theories, did you understand the research and did you understand how it was done and who had a vested interest in making you believe the conclusions? Did the conclusions make sense according to how the human body really works?
When you practice the program, is it highly workable in the short term and the long term? You’ve heard all about the benefits. What about negative effects if any. Again, if you know the basics of how your body works, you will be better able to make a wise decision.
I would love to hear your opinion about this. Let’s get the conversation started about fad diets!
I have started this post four or five times. Each time I tried to work out an approach to what I wanted to say and each time it got really complicated really fast and then I didn’t want to finish it.
New approach. Cut to the chase.
No matter what your dietary habits are, or what diet you are trying to follow, you aren’t eating enough vegetables.
I’m on a lot of social network pages, YouTube, and blogs about healthy food and healthy cooking. Everyone likes to post a special dessert, or a bread that doesn’t have this or that in it, or a hearty thick soup or stew. Anything rich and usually heavier in calorie density than veggies. That is “what sells.” That is what people are looking for.
Keto? My keto friends are all about the meat, the butter, the cheese, the fat, the protein. What is recommended? Lots and lots of vegetables. And there are some awesome vegetable and salad dishes in keto cookbooks!
I would never do keto because it is the opposite of healthy in my opinion. But what makes it REALLY bad is when keto is practiced without enough vegetables. I have one friend who told me her keto guru recommends seven servings of veggies a day. I would think you would have to eat at least that many veggies in order to survive keto at all!
Keto without enough vegetables is downright dangerous.
Even the whole food plant based, vegan and macrobiotic people are shy in the vegetable department. I see it all the time.
I am not saying “vegetables are more important than grains, fruits, legumes, etc.” I’m simply saying we aren’t eating enough vegetables!
If you are any kind of healthy food enthusiast at all, I’m sure you can name half a dozen qualities that vegetables bring to the table. Fiber. Phytonutrients. Minerals. Vitamins. Chlorophyll (if they’re green). Energy. Life. Crunch.
I’m guilty too. When I’m hungry and getting some leftovers out of my refrigerator, I’m not usually reaching for the steamed kale, the cucumber salad or the stir-fried veggies. I started thinking back over each day and looking at what vegetables I actually did eat. It is never enough. I will find myself going for the other stuff, getting too full and the vegetables come home in the container they were in that morning.
What about a vegetable smoothie? Better than no vegetables at all, but you are going to lose that crunch factor and you won’t get the same benefit from the fiber. Even with high powered blenders that pulverize whole veggies.
Who needs crunch? Everybody.
Why? because chewing is so important! Chewing is the start of digestion. It prepares the food for proper absorption. It signals the stomach for what’s coming down the hatch. It is a key element of great health. My sister and mother used to say, “Eat your liquids and drink your food.” They were right! But hardly anybody chews that well. You watch people and see.
Even the United States Government recommends eating five to thirteen servings of fruits and vegetables a day. A serving is a cup of raw or cooked vegetables or 2 cups of leafy vegetables. This is fantastic that they are saying this! Never thought I’d see the day! There is no one who wouldn’t benefit from eating even the minimum five servings every single day.
Challenge: For the next week, honestly take a count of how many servings of vegetables you are eating each day. I’ll do the same and we can compare notes.
HELLO . . .Hello . . hello.
That’s the echo I imagine if these words were being communicated out loud and you could hear them as if I’m across the canyon. Yes, across the canyon or maybe on the other side of the galaxy.
Is anybody out there?
I just checked and the last post I wrote was in November 2017. To say I’ve been distracted is sort of true but not what you might think. I could say, “I’ve been distracted by life!” [Back of hand gently lifted to forehead as if I might faint.] Too dully dramatic for my taste.
If I had to say why I’ve been gone, it would be that this blog has un-distracted me. What I mean by that is I got tired of the routine of creating a new dish, taking photos while cooking it and writing down the recipe for it, then trying to make the photos half-way decent despite not really having the right equipment and posting it.
And to some degree there is that distraction called “life” in which I have been very busy and my cooking has become very simple. Which I like very much in life but it doesn’t make for an exciting blog post, does it? How many times would I get away with showing you lightly boiled kale?
If you look at cooking blogs or YouTube cooking videos, the creator is usually showing you something special or something you might not make on your own or something for a holiday or a party. I actually love those YouTube videos and I admit that I have gotten into the habit of watching a few of them. Maybe I’ll blame them for why I didn’t write in my blog.
I am just not in the mood for creating a bunch of special dishes. That is all.
HOWEVER, I am never out of ideas of what I want to write about! I have lots of ideas and they get put on the back burner as soon as I consider how I would illustrate the post or add a photo or two. I consider that you won’t want to read the post if it doesn’t have pictures. I’m hoping I’m wrong about that. If you bear with me on this, I think I will come up with illustration ideas eventually.
Then there’s the whole dilemma of my blog title – “mycookinglife.” If it’s my cooking life, shouldn’t it have cooking in it? Not necessarily! It is my cooking life and I do have a cooking life because I love to cook and have paid attention to cooking for sixty plus years and I still pay a lot of attention to cooking but now we can talk about it on broader terms because I also have a life that is still “cooking.”
It would be a lot of trouble to change the name of the blog and I really don’t want to anyway. I mean really! What would I say? My Endless Life? My Unretired Life? (Not bad) Six Decades of Growing Up? (I’ll have to remember that one.) If I did something like that I would be trying to sneak cooking into it anyway. You know I would.
(By the way, did you notice in the beginning I said something was too dramatic “for my taste?” Does talking about taste count as being broadly about my cooking life?)
No? Okay what about this – what about if the word “cooking” is modifying life as in my life is still “cooking” in a non-literal sense? Like if you asked, “What’s cooking good looking?” and I told you about my latest adventure creating a costume for a party or about my upcoming dental surgery.
You’re hoping I will never tell you about dental surgery. I’ll try not to. But if I did, I would also tell you how to make stunningly delicious and satisfying soft foods and liquids to consume right after the surgery. That’s right! When you are me in my cooking life, anything can be about cooking literally or otherwise.
To my surprise, while I was off doing other things and not writing posts, other people were still visiting this blog. I was very surprised when I looked at my statistics. This month alone – almost a year a half since my last post – there have been 75 visitors to mycookinglife,com. Go figure!
It is encouraging to say the least. And just for your information, many of them visited to see how to cook lotus root. In case you want to see that too, here it is.
It turns out I have a lot more to say and with your encouragement, you 75 wonderful, kind, brilliant, intuitive and totally hip people, I’m going to say it. I’ll probably throw in some recipes and photos sometimes, too. You know I will.
So that’s what I’ve been up to on my side of the
canyon galaxy, how about you?
While every other food blogger was posting their Thanksgiving masterpieces earlier this month, I was busy refreshing my repertoire by digging into my older cookbooks and looking online. I came across an old favorite called, “Whole World Cookbook.” It features international macrobiotic cuisine and the book comes from the editors of the now defunct East West Journal.”
Every Thanksgiving I make the cranberry relish from that book. In my humble opinion, it is perfect.
There is a plethora of recipes out there! One might think there is nothing new that can be created. That is not so. When you make the recipe it is yours. Not talking about copyrights–obviously you can’t copy a recipe and say it is yours now. But originality is closely linked with imagination. When you imagine how you will make a dish, it is your original dish. It is your personal touch, your presentation, your seasoning, your judgment that makes the dish yours.
For me cooking is an art. It is my outlet for creativity. Even if the recipe came from someone else’s repertoire.
The simplest thing, created by you, can be amazing!
For a Thanksgiving event, I signed up for Maple Glazed Carrots. At the time, I did not know exactly what Maple Glazed Carrots would be. It just sounded good. As it turned out, they were ridiculously simple and came out so so delicious. This was my original.
How will you make it yours?
Maple Glazed Carrots
6 large organic carrots, washed and scrubbed
3 inch piece of kombu seaweed
pinch of sea salt
1/4 cup of water
1/4 cup of maple syrup
2 Tsps arrowroot mixed in a little cold water
1/4 cup rough chopped Italian parsely
Cut the carrots by slicing the carrot on a diagonal to make a chunk about 1 inch long. Rotate the carrot 1/4 around and slice diagonally again. Rotate 1/4 and slice. Keep going. This method allows you to adjust for variations in the size of the root vegetable so all your pieces are about the same size and will cook in the same amount of time.
Brush off a 3-inch piece of kombu seaweed and put it in the bottom of 3 quart pan and add the water. Let the kombu rehydrate and then add the carrots and sprinkle with sea salt. Use a lid on the pan. Heat up over medium heat until the carrots start to steam and then turn the heat down to low and continue cooking until the carrots are tender but not falling apart. Keep an eye on the water and add more if needed.
When the carrots are tender remove them from the pan. Set aside the kombu to use in another dish.
In the pan, there should still be some liquid left. If there isn’t, put about 4 tablespoons of water in it. Add maple syrup. Add arrowroot that was mixed with cold water and heat it up stirring constantly until everything thickens to a nice glaze consistency. You can adjust the amounts of liquid and arrowroot as needed. Turn off the heat and add a splash of umeboshi vinegar into it. A little bit of this brings out all the flavors and cuts the sweetness just a little.
Mix the glaze into the carrots and garnish with parsely.
That is probably what you’ll say to me.
Three days back from being out of town. Almost nothing in the refrigerator! Have you ever been in that predicament? No time to shop yet. Hungry. Stomach says, “Empty! Need food!”
The game plan was make something from nothing. I found a box of angel hair pasta made with Jerusalem artichoke, half a small can of tomato paste, a container of mushrooms, a mostly used bulb of garlic, some parsley and a single leek that looked like it should have been tossed two weeks ago. I also had a box of organic vegetable broth that I keep in my pantry for emergencies.
The Play by Play
Here we go:
- I boiled the pasta until it is just about tender (al dente).
- Stripped the rotten leek until I found the inner layers that still looked fresh and green. I washed this thoroughly, sliced it and tossed it into a cast iron frying pan with about a quarter cup of veggie broth. I skipped the oil–don’t want it. The veggie broth is organic and has NO SUGAR. Be careful if you use prepared broth. Most has sugar. One that doesn’t is Imagine Foods but it is very strong in squash flavor which you may want or not. I used Field Day Organic Vegetable Broth made with water, carrot, onion, celery, sea salt and celeriac juice plus onion powder and garlic powder. I like these flavors and it is close to what I make myself when I make homemade broth.
- Added crushed sliced garlic cloves (3 small) to the sautee and a pinch of sea salt.
- Added ten sliced mushrooms.
- Added 4 oz of tomato paste and more broth, some pepper, oregano and some onion powder. I simmered this until it was a rich and thick sauce. Add a bit more sea salt if you need it.
- I turned off the heat and added some rough chopped parsley.
This was sooo delicious! I cooked in the morning and ate it for breakfast! It is so good, I will likely make this again. There are endless variations but the thing that made the sauce really nice was a load of mushrooms and the tomato paste. Otherwise, anything you can find in your refrigerator goes!
Happy September everyone!
It’s still plenty hot here in New Mexico and even farther north in Denver, Colorado where we were last weekend. But there is something in the air that says autumn is almost here.
There’s something about the shade of green on the trees. They’ve lost that fresh green look and the green is slightly darker, the leaves slightly shrinking from the long hot and very dry summer. Change is in the air!
My Ever Evolving Food Philosophy and a Stunning Statistic
And I’ve changed up my cooking the past several weeks actually. I have been experimenting with a totally vegan menu bypassing all seafood which I had still been enjoying before on occasion. I have been reading up on the status of our ocean fish and the ocean itself and decided I cannot support the fishing industry any more.
What really got to me was learning that only about 10% of our big ocean fish are left. If true, that means 90% gone! That is a stunning statistic! (Ref: Worm B. Barbier ED, Beaumont N, et al. Impacts of biodiversity loss on ocean ecosystem services. Science. 2006 Nov 3;314 (5800): 787-90.) Hat off to Dr. John MacDougall for pointing this out to me in his book, The Starch Solution.
I started paying attention to how much fish is on menus, how much fish people are eating as an alternative to other animal meat. I saw one cooking show on PBS where a single New York restaurant was purchasing 5 million pounds of fish a year. WOW!
I also have read–and I’m sure you’ve heard about this too–that radiation from Japan has made its effect on the Pacific all the way to our United States west coast. Tests show a level of radiation in fish and shellfish that was not previously there. That makes me very sad indeed.
In the Gulf, the 2010 oil spill was called the worst spill in U.S. history. After initial clean up efforts, the effect of that spill on Gulf sea life and people working and living on the Gulf Coast has been disastrous and long-lasting. I have avoided seafood from the Gulf Coast ever since.
I also question the quality of fish and seafood from the Far East, the Mediterranean, Scandinavia and from fish farms. According to World Wide Fund for Nature, more than 80% of marine pollution is caused by land-based activities that cause oil spills, fertilizers and toxic chemical runoff and the discharge of untreated sewage.
Too Many Fish in the Sea?
I used to consider that the oceans are so very vast (true). I was taught the earth is 75% covered with water (true). I thought, there are (like the song says) TOO MANY FISH IN THE SEA. I thought that yes, some may not be safe to eat but surely there are others that are. After all, doesn’t my Whole Foods store watch out for quality for me? Don’t they rate the quality of their seafood for me? Doesn’t the fish sold in my local Co-Op look quite clean and fresh?
When I read about our beautiful oceans and the losses we have sustained there I cannot pretend it has nothing to do with me and that me and my family are not really putting much of a dent in the fish population. And me and my family will probably not get sick from eating the fish. And it’s not me that eats the beef and chicken and pigs who come from huge agribusiness that pollutes the environment and causes more greenhouse gases than automobiles. Not me. That’s good, but it’s not enough. Maybe there are still some spots where the fish are not polluted. That would be good news, but what about those fishing industries driven by all the demanding consumers who want to eat those fish up too?
Expanding My Viewpoint
I have a deep love of the ocean. Always have. Always will. I made my decision and I’m confessing it to you. I’m not the sappy “save the ____” type. (It’s totally fine with me if you are.) But I am a citizen of Earth just like you and I cannot justify to myself supporting this status quo. (And yes, I do feel emotional about the ocean.)
This change is not just some dietary adjustment. This change is an expansion of my own care about the living things on earth and in the ocean and my own care about our planet. I am liking this about myself.
Share Some Good News, Please
I’m sticking to my decision but I invite you to share some good news, if you have it, about our oceans and the life they sustain.
We have had a lovely, hot summer here in New Mexico. The temperatures have soared beyond “toasty” with the bluest skies and the sweetest smelling air.
I have been seeking the quick and easy menu with minimal cooking and preparation.
One of my favorite veggies is baby bok choy because it is sweet and light and looks beautiful. But the stems are so much thicker than the delicate leaves. If you want them to cook evenly you would have to separate them and cook them for different times, right?
No, I have found a way to bypass all that work and come up with a super easy and fast way to prepare baby bok choy and present it in a pleasing way that showcases their natural beauty.
First wash the baby bok choy whole. You will need to let the water run down into the base of the plant to allow all the small particles of dirt wash away.
Next, stand them up on end and loosely tie them so they stay put. You may have to trim the stem at the base so they stand up.
Steam the baby bok choy whole in an upright position. This takes a fairly tall steamer pot. The concentration of heat will go to the base and the leaves will steam with less intense heat. Perfect!
I like to cut the baby bok choy vertically in half to show off their beautiful composition and add some drama to the serving plate! We love to eat these and often just pick them up with our fingers and eat them. You will find they are super sweet cooked this way and don’t need a single thing added like salt or oil. However my husband found that a thin slice of watermelon eaten with the bok choy really sets off the flavors!
Maybe spending eight years in New Mexico has caught up with me. Or maybe the influence of the 100+ degree weather days has overridden my usual sense of taste.
Suddenly, I’m craving cilantro!
Not that there’s anything wrong with cilantro. I wouldn’t say I dislike it. I just don’t choose it for my menus. Ever.
Until now! I have been creating dish after dish with cilantro and absolutely loving the fresh, bright, green refreshing spark it adds as a garnish to pinto beans, in couscous salad, in pico de gallo and again today in tabbouleh salad.
The result? Lovely tabbouleh salad with plenty of veggies, chlorophyll from the greens, and a delightful sweet and sour dressing. And no cooking needed on this toasty hot New Mexican day.
Tabbouleh Salad (serves eight)
1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat and boiling water
Put the bulgur in a bowl and pour enough boiling water over it to cover 1/2 inch above the bulger. Let it sit until all the water is absorbed, about 20 minutes. Let the bulgur cool and fluff it with a fork.
Add diced veggies to the bulgur. Typically recipes have onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley with a lemon and oil dressing. But don’t feel restricted! Choose whatever you want to use.
On this particular day I needed to use up what was in my refrigerator. I diced one large cucumber, half a red onion, one yellow squash, one bunch of parsely and yes, one bunch of cilantro.
Tip: Wash the parsley and cilantro and spin them in the salad spinner to get them dry. Remove the thicker stems and don’t worry about the small tender stems then gently chop them up.
Dress with a citrus dressing. Instead of the standard lemon and oil, I used tahini, white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of tart cherry concentrate, juice of an orange, salt and one clove of crushed garlic.