Wednesday, February 11, 2004
Over the past two or so years I’ve lost over 50 pounds (yea me!) and the first thing that people I haven’t seen in a while ask is “are you on ‘the Atkins’?”.
Nope. I think the Atkins diet is bad for you, and has long term consequences for your health that you may not notice for years to come. It makes people sick. Don’t do it. I know there’s been a great deal of controversy on this particular issue, and I don’t have tons of statistics on my side. Mostly instinct. We’re not made (evolutionarily speaking) to eat that way. Meat is hard to catch. The other big problem is that people do lose weight on the Atkins diet quickly, and that’s pretty encouraging. I just don’t think it’s worth the eventual consequences. It teaches people to forget that in the long run, at the end of the day, you have to expend more calories than you eat every day, or you won’t lose weight. That means that just because you’re eating too many calories that all came from fat you won’t lose weight any faster than if you’re eating too many calories worth of white bread.
My dieting strategy has had much more to do with the theories behind books like The New Glucose Revolution. The key issue to be concerned about is not whether or not you are eating carbohydrates, but what those carbohydrates are doing to your blood sugar. Eat carbs all you want, but choose carbs that have less impact on your blood sugar (and therefore insulin) levels. Wheat bread instead of white bread, rice instead of potatoes, whole grain cereals like musli instead of cornflakes. These are pretty simple changes to make, and they make a difference. I think this route leads to much healthier eating than does the Atkins diet. We’re supposed to be eating things with carbs. Look at pre-industrial society for clues there. We’re just not supposed to be eating refined carbs like white flour and sugar.
Anyway, I think that no matter which diet you choose, the single biggest factor is what I think of as “mindful eating”. I realize that sounds rather Buddhist (and it is, I suppose), but it makes a huge difference in how you feel and how much you weigh. Just think about what you’re putting into your mouth. It’s as simple as that. Ask yourself questions like
- Is this good for me?
- Is this bad for me? (chemicals, artificial ingredients, etc.)
- If so, how bad?
- Am I going to expend this many calories today?
- Do I really want to eat this? Or is it just habit?
- What’s really in this? (possibly the most important one)
- Is there an alternative that would be better for me?
I’m not suggesting that you adhere slavishly to the answers to any of those questions, but I think you’ll find that just by asking them, you’ll eat better, and probably lose weight, if that’s your goal. I think way too many people these days eat horrible food because they don’t stop to ask these questions. I mean not just horrible in terms of health concerns, but just plain gross food. Take a look at some of the junk in the grocery store.
On that note, please take as much care about asking yourself those questions before you give food to your kids. They depend on us to feed them food that’s healthy and won’t harm them down the road.
I think if you get in the habit of asking yourself about the food you eat, you’ll find yourself eating more whole foods, and more food that’s better for your body (and your wallet, but that’s another story). You may decide that you worked out extra hard, and you just feel like a chocolate bar today. OK, eat it, but just think about why you're eating it, and what it means to your body.
One last note: I had been excersing pretty regularly for a couple of years, and not losing any weight until I changed my diet. Now that I've lost the weight, I find that how much I excersise makes a bigger difference now than it did before. Even if I eat mindfully, I still have to excersise or I'll start gaining weight. Remember, if calories in > calories out, you'll gain weight, no matter where the calories came from.
Tuesday, February 10, 2004
going to post a bunch more on this particular topic over the next month or
so. I’m teaching a class on Viking cooking in late April, and I’ll
be organizing my thoughts and opinions as I write the class, which should
result in some interesting stuff. Watch this space.
As just a
quick note, though, basically my thoughts about Viking cooking run like this:
Vikings didn’t use recipes
- So we
aren’t going to find any
- We know
what ingredients they ate from the archeological record
- We know
what tools they used for cooking from same
- We have
some idea about their tastes from contemporary literature (know your
- We know
what modern Scandinavian food is like
the above, we can recreate Viking food with a fair amount of confidence
foremost barrier to recreating Viking food is that many modern people
think it sounds gross
happen to like oatmeal and onions, but many don’t
this topic hopefully soon.
Friday, February 06, 2004
mentioned in several of my previous posts that I favor organic ingredients, and
I felt it was time for the full-on rant.
ORGANIC! Do yourself, your family and your planet a favor and buy
organically grown produce. It’s gotten popular enough now that it
doesn’t really cost all that much more than conventional, and in my
experience it’s often better and fresher, which means you’re more
likely to actually eat it before it rots, making it less expensive (since if it
rots you get 0 benefit). It’s better for you. Some studies
have shown better vitamin content than conventional produce (I can’t
vouch for how scientific those studies are, so consider that bit hearsay).
They obviously have way less pesticides and chemicals, which aren’t good
for you, your kids, or your local watershed. Organics are getting easier
to find. My local Costco has started stocking a number of organic
products, like peanut butter, oatmeal, and others. Don’t judge
organic produce by the crap they sell at Safeway. They go out of their
way to buy crummy looking organics so you’ll buy the (much cheaper and
higher margin) conventional produce. Go find a store that cares about
organic food. We can’t afford to keep intrusting our food supply
and the health of the environment to agrobusiness, which have demonstrated
their lack of concern for anything except profits. And while you’re
at it, support your local organic farmers and farmer’s markets.
Find out where there’s one near you, and start going. May small
organic (and conventional) farms offer subscriptions, where you pay a fixed price
each month for a share of their crops. They get to support their family
farm, and you get good healthy, locally grown food to eat.</rant>
finished now. Back to your regularly scheduled food related stuff. I
just had to get that out of my system.
feeling lazy last night, but still wanted to eat real food for dinner. I
happened to have a lovely head of organic broccoli, so I went through the
pantry/fridge to see what went with broccoli. I came up with some organic
whole wheat pasta (which has really come a long way. The whole wheat
pasta of my hippie youth was much more like punishment.), some blue cheese (Point Reyes Blue)
and some walnuts. A little olive oil and salt and pepper later, I had
some lovely pasta with broccoli, walnuts and blue cheese. Even better, I
have a steamer that sits on top of a good sized pot, so I cooked the pasta in
the bottom and steamed the broccoli over the pot, but minimum fuss and extra
tasty. Two big sellers on a busy weeknight.
Wednesday, February 04, 2004
harder and harder these days to promote good nutrition at home, since so many
of the products that kids and other family members are exposed to are full of
complete and total crap. Don’t even get me started on school
lunches. (More on that some other time.) So there are times when it’s
useful to sneak in some nutritious foods without your kids (or others )
My son is
pretty adventurous in his eating habits. He loves sushi, eats bean-spread sandwiches
with relish (enjoyment, not pickles) and demands
chicken livers at New Years. My daughter, on the other hand, is a
completely different story. If she could live exclusively on
cheese-flavored wheat flour paste, she would.
the areas that I always seem to get into conflict with the rest of the family
is pancakes. I like “weird” pancakes. Whole wheat,
cornmeal, buckwheat, barley flour, you name it. And I tend to throw in
things like flax seed meal, wheat germ, soy flour, and other (IMHO) interesting
ingredients. Since I took up the low-glycemic
lifestyle 2 years ago, the last thing I’m down with is pasty white
doesn’t go down well with the rest of the gang. My wife asks for “regular”
pancakes, and my son begs for no more “healthy” pancakes.
discovered, however, that crepes are apparently exempt from these
restrictions. I make what my wife calls crepes, and I grew up calling “roll-ups”
with all the weird ingredients I want. Bring on the flax seed, bran, soy
protein, you name it, and no one seems to be too bothered. Of course,
when you roll said crepe around enough butter and applesauce, there’s
only so bad it can be. I continue on the path of pancake experimentation,
but for now at least I have an out.
been meaning to try some yeast-risen pancakes or waffles. I used to do
that fairly often, but haven’t in ages. I noticed that in this
months Cooks Illustrated,
there’s an article on yeast-risen waffles, so I’m feeling re-inspired.
like Ethiopian food (or if you’ve never tried it, you should) and you
happen to be in or around Portland check out Queen
of Sheba. I love Ethiopian food, and they make some of the best I’ve
had. I went a couple of weeks ago, and it was fabulous. Vikki and I
had the vegetarian sampler, and everything was just right. Spicy but not
too hot, very flavorful, and everything was a little bit different.
Definitely a place where vegetarians won’t feel denied. It’s
gotten me all in the mood to make Ethiopian food at home, which I haven’t
done in ages, but I just haven’t had the time to do all the prep work
want to try it at home yourself, I’d recommend checking out Exotic
Ethipian Cooking by Daniel Mesfin if you can find a copy, Amazon seems
to suggest it’s out of print. My other favorite source for
Ethiopian recipes is the rather unlikely source, Jeff Smith’s The
Frugal Gourmet on Our Immigrant Ancestors. Check out your favorite
used book store for copies of either. Powell’s
might be a good bet.
the best Ethiopian food experience I ever had was in Washington DC.
Unfortunately I don’t remember the name of the restaurant. There’s
one block in DC that has no less than three Ethiopian restaurants, two across
the street from one another. I’ve been to two of them on various
trips. The last time was with Scott
Hanselman and Joe Tillotson when we did the Gear.com roadshow. Scott
ordered in Amharic (yes, it was impressive) so I’m not sure what I ate,
but it was fabulous. It’s a three story restaurant on what I
vaguely remember to be the west side of the street, but I could be wrong about
that. I’ll see if I can come up with a name at some point.
that this is rather stream-of-consciousness, but the rhubarb got me thinking
about stuffed dates.
possibly the most decadent dessert product I can think of, or at least that I
mascarpone cheese (I’ve tried this with whipped cream, but the
mascarpone is WAY better)
of your choice (I use honey or agave nectar, powdered sugar also works)
- True cinnamon,
although regular grocery store cinnamon (which is really cassia) can be
used, but doesn’t have the same floral quality
- A touch
of either rose water or orange flower water. I’ve used both,
and tend to prefer the rose, but some people don’t like it
some fresh (NOT DRIED) dates, split them down the long axis, take out the pit,
and fill the resulting cavity with the filling. Especially if the dates
are really fresh, these will just melt in your mouth (and go straight to your
backside). The best dates I’ve ever had were labeled as “Black
Sphinx” dates, and they were truly sublime, like little bags of date
flavored jelly, but since I’ve only ever seen them in stores twice, I
usually go for medjools instead. You can use dried dates, but it really
won’t be as good.
also seen some recipes for dates stuffed with almond paste but I haven’t
Tuesday, February 03, 2004
not sure how, but some how or another Jason
went from chicken livers to rhubarb, so now I’m thinking about
fine pie, especially with strawberries or blueberries. I’ve also
had good luck with strawberry/rhubarb crisps or crumbles. Up the topping
over what you’d use for apples, since rhubarb gives off a lot of
absolute favorite rhubarb thing is a Persian lamb (or beef) and rhubarb stew (or
“khoresh”). Truly amazing. Take some cubed lamb or beef
and brown it with onions, then add some cinnamon, preferable true
cinnamon from Penzey’s or your
favorite serious spice source. Add water or stock to cover and then
simmer until the meat is tender. Then add some cut up rhubarb, and lots
of parseley, like a bunch worth or more, and some fresh or dried mint and salt
& pepper to taste. Cook until the rhubarb is just tender, then serve
up with Persian saffron rice.
amazing. It’s worth getting the good cinnamon for, and some quality
mint. I use dried Bulgarian spearmint, also from Penzey’s.
some other really great Persian meat/fruit combinations, like chicken and
pomegranate, and beef w/ peaches. Check out Najmieh Khalili
Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies
for all this and more. It’s my favorite Persian cookbook. I
have a couple others that I can’t think of titles for right now.
Maybe it’ll come to me.
OK, I’ve already gotten one semi-snide comment about the chicken liver and smoked pork pie. As I said, I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but I thought it was really quite tasty.
And as long as I’m here, let’s talk about chicken livers. My parents aren’t fans, and so I’d never really had any exposure to the little death bombs until I was in my teens. My stepmother’s family is big on rumaki at New Years. If you haven’t tried them, they’re worth the effort: sauté some chicken livers (do yourself a favor and try to get organic ones, for the sake of your own liver) wrap them up in some bacon with a piece of water chestnut, and broil until the bacon is done. Best served with some Chinese-style hot mustard. For the faint of heart, green olives make a fine substitute for the livers.
My son, who is 8, loves rumaki with a passion. This turned out to be the first time in many years that we didn’t spend New Years with my stepmother’s family, so he begged me to make him some myself. I’ve got to say, cooking chicken livers is pretty nasty, but they tasted great.
I’ve been wanting to try making some Jewish-style chopped liver, and just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The grocery store we frequent (New Seasons Market) only has large quantities of organic livers every once is a while, and I haven’t gotten the timing right yet. Maybe for Passover. I’m not Jewish, but when it comes to food, I try to hit all the holidays regardless of denomination.
Monday, February 02, 2004
household we belong to (Ulfredsheim)
held their annual mid-winter feast this weekend. It was big fun to see
everyone, and there was (as usual with our household) a really lot of really
good food. Some highlights for me were some period gingerbread, a Roman
honey cheesecake (mmmmmm) a flourless almond cake with caraway, and a very
tasty pie of chicken livers and smoked pork products. That last one was
not for the weak of palette, but I thought it was great. I love to see
people recreating historical recipes, and it’s even better when I get to
I still aren’t quite sure where / when we’ll do this year’s Cast Iron Chef
contest, but I’ll try to keep everyone posted.
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