The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Description: F Train, Manhattan-bound, 17 May ...

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In most major newspapers, Wednesday’s edition includes a food section and recipes and coupons and how-to’s on cooking etc.This was a really bizarre day in “Food News” at the Albuquerque Journal.  I mean really . . .it was the good, the bad and the ugly.

I was glancing over the newspaper and the first piece of “food news” was really great:

“Elementary School Goes All-Vegetarian”

“NEW YORK – A New York City elementary school has adopted an all-vegetarian menu, serving kids tofu wraps and veggie chili.

“Public School 244 is the first public school in the city to go all-veggie. The animal-welfaregroup People for the Ethcal Treatment of Animals says it might be the first all-veggie public elementary school in the nation.”

That’s pretty cool! It said later in the article that the kids gravitated toward veggie offerings. Three cheers for PS 244!

Encouraged to keep reading, I saw another article called, “Acclaimed chef and dad Bill Telepan takes on lunch in New York City public schools” about a non-profit group started by Moms called, “Wellness in the Schools,” dedicated to bringing better food and fitness to public schools in NYC. A Manhattan chef was working with 47 of the schools to incorporate more organic and made-from-scratch menus.

Not vegetarian or vegan, but still that’s pretty good news. “Two stories about school lunches in one day!” I thought.

That was the good. But there was even more food news in today’s paper. There was the bad:

“USDA ready to OK horse slaughtering in Roswell” (that’s in New Mexico.) Subtitle: “Unless Congress intervenes, Valley Meat will get to open.” Remind me PLEASE if I ever decide to eat meat again not to buy anything from them!

And in the very same day’s paper, it went from bad to worse:

“Murder charge in juice poisoning.” Perhaps you heard about this one. A lady in San Jose, California who allegedly poisoned two bottles of orange juice and placed them at a Starbucks has been booked on suspicion of attempted murder. Poisoning by rubbing alcohol. Sheesh!

And then there was the very ugly which you probably don’t want to hear about—but . . . food related once again—“Meat-plant worker killed in blender.”

I am reminded why I like packing my own lunch so much!

Lunch boxes

Looking Back, Looking Forward

Beautifully restored 1950's kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona
Beautifully restored 1950’s kitchen in the L. Ron Hubbard house in Phoenix, Arizona

Most of the time, I am looking forward. I’m looking at what future I will create and how I will create it. I’m looking at what I will do to improve conditions in my own life and in the lives of others. I am looking at what is needed in order to make things better on this planet. I am helped and inspired by the man whose home I had the opportunity to visit in Phoenix, Arizona—L. Ron Hubbard, founder of the Scientology religion. Mr. Hubbard lived in Phoenix in the 50’s and his home is meticulously restored down to every last detail.

I didn’t visit there just to see the kitchen, but when I did see it, I wanted to take a picture of it! My husband teased, “I see a blog post coming!” Does he know me or what?  How often would I see perfectly restored fifties kitchen stove, refrigerator and kitchen cabinetry? Imagine a 64 year-old stove with not one scratch, stain or stubborn burned spot on it! (The entire house was fantastic and I recommend you see it.)

Looking at this picture I began thinking about the food/cooking/health scene in that period of time. It was post WWII, so farmers were already being sold on the idea that chemicals left over from making bombs could be put into the soil to produce bumper crops. We won’t go down this road in detail right now. Let’s just say this led to weakened soil, the necessity for more chemicals, problems with livestock which then required antibiotics and hormones, more weakened soil attacked by more pests, more chemicals . . . .and look where we’re at now. Genetically modified foods created so they won’t die when huge amounts of pesticides–more toxic than ever before–are applied to them.

In decades past, you could not buy foods from across the globe so readily because shipping was slower and much less efficient. It was easier to maintain a diet that followed the seasons of the year and it encouraged us to eat the foods that were indigenous to our own climate—at least somewhat. Why would we want to do that? It promotes natural balance and harmony with our environment.

For some time now, we’ve been able to get just about any food from anywhere. Many of the so-called “miracle foods” come from environments far outside of my own, such as coconut products that are so popular now.

What were some of the new health and diet developments in the fifties?

  • The four food groups including dairy food were promoted in the early fifties (an idea forwarded by, you guessed it, the dairy industry!)
  • TV dinners and a myriad of other frozen foods were touted as convenient
  • White Castle and A&W fast food had already existed for decades, but in the fifties “Insta-Burger King” later to be renamed as Burger King showed up.
  • Nutritionist and author Adelle Davis was becoming popular. She was known as much for her anti-processing stand on foods and her criticizm of the food industry as much as she was for her ideas on vitamins and diet.
  • Jack LaLanne became America’s first fitness and exercise guru.
  • Microwave ovens—one of the worst, health-destroying inventions in my opinion—came out.

I grew up in the fifties and I well remember many of these things. I watched Jack La Lanne on television doing his isometrics. We ate TV dinners and just about any other new thing that came out. My mother was facinated by all the new food products. I learned the four food groups in school and I remember the first Burger King that opened in our town.

My own history regarding food is likely only interesting to just me so we can skip the details and list out: heavy meat and dairy as a child, learning about the problems being confronted by the United Farm Workers Union and joining the organization as a kid, getting totally hooked on “working out” at the gym coupled with a LOT of protein supplementation, taking a complete 180 and going all vegetarian. Staying vegetarian for thirty plus years and then temporarily going back to animal foods while still eating all the grains and veggies. Gaining a LOT of weight. Losing the weight with a very individualized diet. Realizing I paid a price health-wise while “dieting,” and now, coming to my own conclusions about what I need to eat and what I don’t want to consume any more which pretty much brought me back full circle to a whole foods, plant-based diet.

And cooking, cooking, cooking all the while!

I’ve learned so very much over the years!

  • You don’t need to eat meat, eggs and dairy food in order to have protein.
  • Children can thrive wonderfully well on a vegetarian diet as long as it is balanced.
  • You cannot leave out an entire category of foods, such as “carbohydrates,” for very long and stay healthy.
  • You gain weight by indulging in too many refined foods, whether they are vegetarian or not, and eating more food than you can easily use.
  • The body requires daily exercise.
  • You do not need to focus on individual vitamins or nutrients if you are eating organic, mineral-rich food.
  • By the same token, even the best organic-quality food today is weakened and you can assist yourself without “losing balance” with something like wild-harvested whole  micoalgae such as Super Blue Green Algae.

And here’s the most important point, which is difficult to totally define but vital for each of us to strive to understand:

  • The way I have learned what “balanced diet” means, is by studying the effects of various foods, observing these effects, and getting into and maintaining a dietary balance for a long period of time. I used the eastern viewpoint of balance (yin and yang) to understand this. Now, no matter how far and wide I’ve gone food-wise, I definitely know when I’ve lost my balance and I know how to regain it quickly. Further, we can be very much at cause over our environment food-wise by how we choose to eat. Cooking is a beautiful example of that because there is a myriad of food preparations and techniques with which we can change our foods into what we want and need. 

Where does this all lead? It leads to my own phraseology, “Free Eating.” It means that when one has a basic understanding of foods and their effects, of how to prepare foods in order to change them and create the effects you want, you have less rules, not more. Less intense focus on diet and food, not more. Less living to eat and much much more eating to live!

My own approach is that I want to eat real food, not fake, chemicalized food. Naturally occuring food is what I want. Whole food is what I want. And I want my food to be colorful, beautiful and the most delicious in the world.

Where have you been and what have you learned? Where are you headed and what do you want?

Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables

Our Sunday Supper today is going to be with some friends at their home. We are sharing the job of making the food, so I volunteered to bring veggies and dessert.

Since I have a full day scheduled I had to plan ahead and of course, I wanted to choose something that perhaps everyone hasn’t tried but that would very likely taste good to them. I chose to take advantage of sweet-tasting root vegetables that could be roasted (making them even sweeter) combined with some lovely quinoa.

Quinoa is one of my favorite grains for a number of reasons. Number one, it has a germ that, when it is cooked, forms a ring around the grain. Like Saturn! Number two, quinoa is a very high protein grain and is therefore very sustaining. And three, quinoa is quick and easy to prepare.

I roasted the veggies ahead of time so that late in the afternoon I could finish up the quinoa dish, finish another simple dish of kale, yellow squash and carrot salad with roasted crushed pumpkin seeds on top, and make one of my dark chocolate mousses. For the mousse I’m returning to the “March Madness Mousse” for its richness and because I’ve got all the ingredients.

(Some who follow me may be wondering, “What about your April chocolate mousse installment?” But never fear, April is not over yet and there will be a new mousse recipe before the month runs out.)

The real challenge is, ‘Can I make this quinoa dish so delicious that even someone who mainly consumes standard American fare will enjoy it?’

Roasted Vegetable and Quinoa Salad (Serves 6)

  • 2 organic medium carrots
  • 2 organic small parsnips (big ones get too woody)
  • 1/2 organic rutabaga
  • 1 bulb organic garlic
  • 1/2 organic yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 cups organic quinoa
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt
  • pepper
  • cumin
  • cardamom

Wash the veggies and dice the carrots, parsnips, rutabaga and onions into 1/2-inch dice. Peel each clove in the garlic bulb and cut into similar diced size. Coat the diced veggies in olive oil and season them with salt, pepper, cumin and cardamom to taste. (I used about 2 teaspoons of cumin and about 1/2 teaspoon of cardomom.) Spread the seasoned veggies out onto a baking pan so they are in a single layer and put them into a 350 degree oven. Periodically mix them, turning the veggies so all sides get roasted. It takes about a half hour for these to be done at this temperature.

READY TO ROAST

Wash the quinoa in cold water. If you wish, you can quickly roast the quinoa in some olive oil or just dry roast them. I opted for dry roasting because the veggies had plenty of oil already. I used a cast iron frying pan to lightly roast the washed qunioa.  About 5 minutes.

Cook the roasted quinoa with 2X water (give or take) and a two-finger pinch of sea salt. I ended up using 2 2/3 cups because I didn’t want the quinoa to be too wet since I was mixing it with the veggies as a salad. Bring the quinoa to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes.

All of this can be done ahead of time. I don’t like to serve veggies that were refrigerated if I don’t have to. So I just left the roasted veggies out for the day until I got home.  Then I combined the quinoa and roasted vegetables. I blanched some frozen peas and threw them in for color. I also slivered up some preserved lemon rinds. Find out what these are and how to make them here. If you don’t have them, try some fresh lemon zest!

Dress the salad as desired. I simply used a little extra drizzle of olive oil and some freshly squeezed lemon juice.

The result? Here’s what the quinoa and veggies looked like:

FINISHED DISH 2

And what about the other diners? They all served themselves a generous portion and most had seconds!

Savory Bean Squares

Aduki bean squares would be nice served as a side with udon noodles and veggies, or a fresh salad.

Aduki bean squares would be nice served as a side with udon noodles and veggies, or a fresh salad.

Now that I’ve bestowed upon you the facts of a bean-eating life in my post, The Birds and the Beans, it’s time for me to figure out what to do with all those soaked beans! I decided to share an oldie but goodie—this is something that my friends and I used to make occasionally with aduki beans.

I suppose three decades ago we convinced ourselves that this dish could be a vegan substitute for a popular dessert. I’m not going to say what that dessert is because I think it’s obvious from the photo and the ingredients. Besides, I am not presenting it here as any such substitute and not even as a dessert.

I would suggest this for a very nutrient-dense snack or it could be added to a meal as a little side-dish treat. I haven’t thought of any really clever name for this recipe so for now I’ll simply call it:

Savory Bean Squares

  • 1 1/2 cups dried aduki beans
  • 5-6 inch piece of kombu
  • 3-4 tablespoons miso paste (Today I used 1/2 red miso and 1/2 sweet white miso.)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 cup dried currants
  • 1/2 cup toasted walnut pieces
  • 1/2 cup barley malt

1. Soak the beans in the kombu and cook them as described in The Birds and the Beans post.

2. Roast the walnut pieces by laying them out on a baking sheet–single layer–and baking them at 350 until they start to smell aromatic. Take them out at that point.

3. When the beans are about cooked and you have added the salt to them, throw in the currants. [Yes I know I am breaking my own “rule” here because I had advised no fruit with beans. I find adding currants here works okay but you could skip them if you want to.]

4. Combine the miso paste/barley malt with the beans and mix thoroughly.

5. Simmer the bean and miso/barley malt mixture. Barley malt will thicken up like a soft candy so just get the mixture simmering and that’ll be enough.

6. Add the walnuts and put the mixture into a 9 X 9 inch pan and let it cool. Refrigerate it to make it even more firm.

This will firm up really well and you can cut it in little squares. You will find it has a savory, slightly salty, slightly sweet taste. A small serving will be all you’ll need at one time. This is a great snack for anyone doing physical labor or athletic activity.