Not Just Brownies Any More

Stoner Lasagna. I'm sorry but "stoner" is not a description to be proud of.

Stoner Lasagna. Nothing to be proud of.

Since it is the holiday season, what better time to return to my blogging after a three-month hiatus? After all, ’tis the season for all kinds of festive foods, holiday cheer and good wishes to my readers.

Yes, but that is not why I decided to write today. You can call me a Scrooge or a Humbug and I won’t mind. I came back here to have a little non-Christmasy rant about something.

I came across an Associated Press article about Executive Chef Chris Lanter who owns a French restaurant named “Cache” in Aspen, Colorado. Lanter was demonstrating to a group of “marijuana aficionados” how to prepare foods with marijuana in it. How to deglaze a pan with pot-infused brandy. How to “pair” marijuana with fine foods.

GIVE ME A BREAK!

Pot foodie:  “Excuse me Chef, but is it okay to pair Northern Lights with fish?”

A hip Chef: “Yes that is a lovely combination. And if you find you don’t like it, just take a few more hits and you won’t care!”

This is not new in Colorado ever since they passed a law legalizing this drug. The pot industry there is said to include “a booming trade in cookbooks, savory pot foods and frozen takeout dishes that incorporate the drug.”

REALLY?  FROZEN DINNERS?

Kid to big brother: “I’m hungry and Mom’s not home from work yet.”

Big brother: “Don’t worry. I’ve got this frozen lasagna in the microwave and you can have some.”

Kid: “What’s that funny smell?

Big brother: “Who cares you doofus. Just eat it!”

Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he's going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his "cuisine" in his chic restaurant.

Chef Chris Lanter. A stoner who thinks he’s going to make money pushing the envelope to get on-site pot consumption legalized so he can serve his “cuisine” in his chic restaurant at the vast detriment to our society, especially our youth.

What really irks me is the way this whole thing is being positioned.  Chef Lanter is “acclaimed.” His eager audience paid $250 to see his pot demonstration and attend a special weekend celebration in Aspen.  Lanter’s French restaurant Cache is described as “tony.”

WELL LA DEE %^$#*& ING DA!

There is an ongoing public relations campaign to make consumption of marijuana acceptable. One must understand that there are vested interests and when you see a story about illicit drug use becoming okay to do, you are looking at someone’s PR campaign. All you have to do is follow the money.

Most people—even pot users—are not rock-solid certain that usng and consuming marijuana is a good idea because we all know it is a drug, it lessens our awareness, makes us introverted, and can be addictive and it has other undesirable side effects.

Or do we?  [No wait. It’s an ingredient, right? Like an herb? It’s natural and organic. It has to be safe because the government is legalizing it. I heard it’s even medicinal, dude! Look–here it is in this cookbook. How bad can it be?]

One wise person said to me, “It’s not just a ‘gateway drug.’ Let’s face it. It’s a full-blown addictive drug with damaging side effects all by itself.”

Justifications for legalizing this illicit drug are plentiful. In the meantime, the PR Spin goes round and round and has even targeted those of us who love food and cooking. What a frivolous excuse for a covert enterprise.

I will never be that kind of “chic” or “tony.”

I will never be that stupid and uninformed.

Here’s a link to some very good and accurate information about marijuana. The entire website is really, really excellent and I suggest it for yourself to be informed and of course for our children so they don’t grow up thinking marijuana-laced steak au poivre is fine dining. They need to know what it REALLY is.

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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)

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.

 

 

Shocking Celebrity Sighting!

Today’s Daily Prompt asks:  Scour the news for an entirely uninteresting story. Consider how it connects to your life. Write about that.

Have you seen MSN or Yahoo home pages where they shout various hot stories at you? There’s always some celebrity gossip available and usually none too flattering. These don’t interest me at all because I respect artists and I’m not into cabal.

The page I saw was this one:

“CELEBRITY TOOB:  3O FAIRLY SHOCKING PICTURES OF CELEBRITIES WITHOUT MAKEUP PHOTOS”

(Gotta love the redundancy here. You can tell this is high-class news reporting.) I looked these pix over and thought most of the celebs looked pretty darned okay without their glam on. Just as I was thinking they shouldn’t be too offended, I came upon picture #25. This was a celebrity I’ve known nearly all my life. One that is beloved the world over and has personally been a part of millions of lives!

I was shocked indeed! No need to tell you who she is—you’ll recognize her in an instant.

Celebrities_Without_Makeup_25

This is just wrong. Barbie deserves way more respect than this. But even so, Barbie looks amazeballs with or without her makeup, doesn’t she? (Perfect hair. How does she do it?)

Of course this connects to My Cooking Life. I was immediately reminded of something that happened just last night!

I was cruising around my natural food store late last night after work looking for some ready-to-eat dinner. I was going through the produce section on my way to the deli hot food when I spotted them.

I couldn’t believe it! Completely whole. No trimming. No preparation. No hiding their large, rough, blemished roots. One of the most famous, world-renowned celebrity ingredients in nearly every cuisine, cooking method and dietary program.

And I caught them incognito without a speck of glam!

CELERY ROOT PAINT

True culinary stars loved by all. Do you recognize them? I didn’t at first until I took a closer look.

CELERY ROOT CLOSE UP

“We’re not quite ready for our close-up, Mr. DeMille,” they exclaimed. “Don’t worry, Miss Celli, you’re gorgeous just as you are!” I answered.

I was so thrilled, I didn’t bother asking for an autograph. I swept these two off their shelf and brought them home with me. Imagine what these will look like when they’re all glammed up! Ahhh, the things you have to endure in show biz.

Stay tuned for that. . .

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Like Fine Wine

What is your favorite staple ingredient?

NAMA SHOYU BOTTLEThis could be difficult for you to choose but for me, the answer is my Nama® Shoyu! I use shoyu in nearly every meal I make. I strive to get full and satisfying flavors out of my meals without using too much salt and Nama® Shoyu is the best by far. “Nama” means “raw” and “Shoyu” means “soy sauce.”

You will know this is great stuff the moment you break open the seal on the bottle. Remove the lid and savor the deep and complex aroma wafting from the bottle! Opening a new bottle of Nama® Shoyu is one of my favorite pleasure moments in the kitchen! It is like opening a bottle of fine wine.

There are many brands of naturally-brewed soy sauce available in most health food stores but I find none of them come anywhere close to the deep, rich flavors and aroma of Nama® Shoyu. This is hands down the absolute best! With other soy sauces, I find you cannot get all the flavor without using too much of the soy sauce and that makes the food too salty. Not so with Nama® Shoyu—just add a little and you get all the great flavor and your food will not be too salty.

NAMA SHOYU INGREDIENTSNama® Shoyu is made by Ohsawa®—an organic food company well-known for providing the highest possible quality of traditional Japanese condiments.  It is 100% organic, unpasturized soy sauce that is traditionally aged in barrels for two years and retains its live enzymes and friendly bacteria.  This is a truly fermented food that benefits the body and the digestive system in many ways that other more processed soy sauces do not.  In fact, many raw food enthusiasts use this particular soy sauce because of its “aliveness.”

Nama® Shoyu is higher-priced than other brands but you will use less of it and get much greater flavor and health benefits. If you do not see Nama® Shoyu in your natural foods store, you can order it from Gold Mine, the exclusive importer of Ohsawa® products.

Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’

I’m not one to be super critical of products and companies on this blog and I’m going to put as positive a spin on it as I possibly can. But I ran into something recently that was quite a wake-up call for me and I’m going to share this with you.

It used to be that if you were vegetarian or macrobiotic or into eating whole grains, rice cakes were the standby snack food. Plain, slathered with peanut butter or apple butter, or perhaps with hummus, rice cakes made an extremely innocent little snack that didn’t harm anything or anybody.

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Claude loves rice cakes with toasted sesame tahini and sauerkraut. Moi aussi, Claude, me too!

Today there are many brands of rice cakes. Most notably in my supermarket I see Quaker brand. That makes sense, doesn’t it? Aren’t they the oatmeal people? Rice cakes have been a natural expansion of their product line for years.

Fine. They are an industrial food manufacturer, very mainstream and it is not surprising to find that several of their rice cakes have sugar and a bunch of other stuff that I wouldn’t feed to a dog. No surprise there.

What about a well-respected organic food company that has been farming high-quality organic brown rice for us since 1937? This is a company I have relied on for the mainstay of my diet for decades. I’m talking about Lundberg Farms. When my kids were young and I had a house full of students and recipients of my homecooked meals, I bought Lundberg Organic Short Grain Brown Rice by the 50-pound bag—just about every other week! (Yes, I did a ridiculous amount of cooking back then and I loved it.)

I also bought their rice cakes. My favorite is the Mochi Sweet Rice but I also like several of the others. These make very substantial snacks. In fact, the bags are surprisingly heavy because, as the company brags, they are made with twice as much rice as other brands. And sure, I know that “caramel” and “cinnamon toast” rice cakes and some others are likely to have sugar in them and I never bought those.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is, I used to be able to pick my flavor of rice cake and just toss it into my cart. I didn’t have to give it a second thought. These were Lundberg’s after all. I could count on them to be high quality, fine products.

A couple of weeks ago I was shopping and I saw two flavors of Lundberg Rice Cakes that were new to me: Organic Hemp-a-licious and Organic koku seaweed. I picked the sea weed one because I have been conscienciously adding more sea vegetables to my diet lately.

The Lundberg line-up including Hemp-a-licious, which I thought I might try.

The Lundberg line-up at Whole Foods Market.

“Hmm.” I thought, “these are pretty sweet. How come?”

How come. HOW COME? Hello! . . .  Because they have cane sugar in them!

If this doesn’t shock you, believe me I understand. The quality of food in our so-called healthy foods stores is rapidly spiralling in the wrong direction. I read food labels no matter where I’m shopping. I just didn’t think I had to read this one on the Lundberg Rice Cakes.

But I sure should have. I threw the seaweed rice cakes out. Actually, seaweed can help your body get rid of things like excess dairy and can help you re-balance your body when you have been eating sugar. BUT NOT IF THERE IS SUGAR RIGHT THERE IN IT!

Cane sugar in seaweed rice cakes!  Are you kidding me?  Eldon and Harlan Lundberg must be rolling in their graves!

I checked out some other flavors in the Lundberg lineup to see if they had sugar, too. Several did—such as the Organic Hemp-A-Licious. Guess I won’t be trying that one after all, boys. Organic Sesame Tamari? It has sugar and it didn’t used to. Organic Sweet Chile Rice Cakes? Yup, it has sugar and brown rice syrup. (What is the point of that? Can someone please explain?)

There are also some flavors that still do not have any cane syrup in them, but they are in the minority these days down on ol’ Lundberg Farms.

I’m disappointed in the Lundbergs, no doubt about it. But I am also going to continue to buy their excellent products that I consider worth eating like their organic rice, their organic brown rice syrup and their rice cakes that don’t have sugar in them. Ultimately, I can do without the rice cake and stick with the whole grain brown rice.

After all, Lundberg Farms has played a very big role in promoting organic, sustainable farming and they still do. They have done as much for the expansion of the natural food industry as most any other company. They take a stand against GMO’s and I applaud them for that. Perhaps they figure a little sugar in some of the rice cakes to keep the bottom line from crashing is a price worth paying in order to continue holding the line against powerful enemies like Monsanto.

Well I don’t agree. Tell the Lundberg boys they are sliding down a slippery slope—the slope that places profit over quality. But actually, WHO is sliding down that slope?

Is it Lundberg Farms? Or is it us? Would it be a good idea to boycott this company for putting cane syrup in their rice cakes? Or would it be better to not buy those particular products and continue buying their fine, organic, sugarless, rice products? Should we “pick our battles” as they say? Or have we underestimated the hold the sugar industry has on us and our economy?

You tell me. I, for one, will continue to vote with my dollars. But it is a tricky business. I go in my Whole Foods store and week after week they have discontinued items I bought regularly and they have filled the shelf space with new products, many of which I will never buy because of what’s in them. They do this because these products are “what sell,” explains the Customer Service representative. I get it. There’s only so much space on the shelf and they have got to move their inventory and make a profit.

I wouldn’t want a company like Lundberg Farms or Whole Foods to go out of business. Then where would we be? I have been putting in more time to shop at the smaller health food chains and a local co-op that often have some of those hard-to-find products and I try to find time to go to local grower’s markets when they’re open. My voting dollar has a little more power in these smaller arenas, I feel.

But I do have the ability to do more than vote with my dollar and so do you! I also “vote” with my voice, my blog and any other appropriate communication channel. I talk to someone at Whole Foods customer service frequently. I tell them what the problem is and sometimes they bring something back onto the shelf that is of far better quality than what they had. Sometimes I talk to other shoppers. Most of them are in there because they do want to eat healthier food and they simply don’t know their way around yet.  I’ve helped a few and have learned a lot myself from doing that.

At the end of the day, I don’t know how much difference my actions will make. But that doesn’t mean I won’t keep trying. Been doing this since my childhood days as a member of the United Farm Workers Union.

I am putting my shoulders to the wheel with a lot of other individuals who have already made a big difference and we are going to just keep going! The question I first asked was, Can We Effectively ‘Vote with Our Dollars?’  Yes, if enough of us get busy telling the story so we have lots of votes.

And, I am going to write a letter to those wayward Lundberg brothers.

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

Lars prefers yummy jam on his rice cakes. Mmm, Cherry jam is a good choice, Lars!

Scary Ingredients You Should Know About

A friend recently posted her comments on Facebook to this article she found and I think it’s very important information for all of us to have. This is about some commonly found ingredients that are put into prepared food which includes restaurant food, fast food, packaged and processed food. And it is a good follow up to my post, “Your Right to the Health You Created.”

So unless you don’t mind having beaver anal gland juice in your food, please read this article called, “The 11 Scariest Things in Your Food.”

I know. Eeeeew.

i have no idea

I had no idea! (Photo credit: jamelah)