# Tuesday, March 09, 2004

OK, "riblet" is a pretty bizarre word, but the meatless ones from Gardenburger are really good.  I've seen them around for a while, and finally took the plunge last night.  Not only were they really tasty, but very easy to work with.  They come in little bags, which you can microwave or boil (I boiled).  There were also cooking instructions for grilling them, but I'd be concerned about them drying out. 

Anyway, they're great.  Very nice texture, reasonably like ribs (only there's no mad soy disease) and the BBQ sauce they come packed in was very flavorful. 

Even my (extremely) picky, sauce-phobic 5 year old daughter loved them, which is saying quite a bit.  We threw them in sandwiches with some cheese, lettuce and pickles. 

Way less work then actual ribs, and by far superior to things like McRibs. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2004 7:29:28 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I couldn't help myself.  I know it's still pretty early in the year, but my local grocery store finally got in some organic asparagus, the first I've seen this year.  They were pretty thick, and priced somewhere around gold bullion, but it was totally worth it. 

I was time contrained, so I ended up stir-frying the asparagus with a little chicken, some ginger, a dash of dark soy sauce and some hoisin sauce.  Very tasty.  Just what I wanted.  Chicken and asparagus was something my Mom used to make a lot when I was a kid, and it always reminds me of big Chinese food dinner parties.  And it's amazingly easy.  Added to that I whipped up some stir-fried cucumber with chili-bean sauce (cucumber is really good cooked) and some bean sprouts.  Total cooking time was probably on the order of half an hour, and I dawdled. 

Sometimes I forget how quickly you can make real food.  But I'm always glad when I do.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004 7:23:52 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, March 02, 2004

I've been under some pretty crazy time pressure lately, and as a result I've been eating out way too frequently.  Most of the time I try to be pretty selective, and stay away from junk food. 

Last night I had all of about 10 minutes to get dinner for the whole family in between hectic activities, and I cracked.  I went to McDonald's.  The ignominy!  The shame!  The carbs!  The worst part, of course, was that it tasted really good.  Just like the cheap gastronomic crack that it is.  I shudder to think what it's doing to me even now.  I heaped on some extra flax seed oil on my cereal this morning to compensate. :-)

Therein lies the problem with food like that.  It tastes good.  It's full of things that are rare in nature, and that our bodies therefore crave and have lots of taste receptors for.  And the occasional indulgence probably isn't too bad.  Or maybe I'm just rationalizing.  People who eat that kind of food all the time are hurting themselves.  Stay away!  It's not good for you. 

On the other hand (and I didn't know the rant would go this way, but there you have it) it's certainly not McDonald's fault that people are hurting themselves by eating their food.  The idea that people are suing fast food companies over being unhealthy is completely ludacris and inappropriate IMHO.  The fast food companies are catering to the market.  They don't make you eat there every day.  That's your choice.  It's up to consumers to understand that the food's not good for them, and that's hardly a secret.  Taking responsibility for your own health and nutrition is essential, and no one is going to do it for you.  Don't wait for your doctor to tell you to go on Lipitor, just eat better (and excercise, but that's a whole 'nother story).

OK, I'll stop now.  I'll go back to basking in the glow of my musli and soy yogurt with apples and bananas.  Ahhhhhh. 

Tuesday, March 02, 2004 6:03:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [2]
# Thursday, February 26, 2004

Sorry I haven't posted anything in a while.  It's been a heck of a week or so, and I've been pretty much treading water.  Not much time for exciting contributions to world cuisine :-)

This has been a week of sausages and from the can minestrone (although I threw in some farro I had lying around which made a great textural addition). 

I'm hoping to break loose long enough to do some cooking this weekend.  I've been craving a nice pork roast in chile sauce, or some such.  Made chile verde?  Only time will tell.  At the same time, I'm desparately craving Korean food, but I may cop out and just go out for some.  Portland has some pretty decent Korean restaraunts. 

I just re-picked up Mark Kurlansky's Choice Cuts which is a collection of essays and excerpts from various culinary writers.  Mr. Kurlansky's books are pretty much universally great, so I'm expecting to be entranced.  Cod is pretty much one of the best food books I've ever read (if you haven't, you should).

Thursday, February 26, 2004 7:40:55 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 17, 2004

A three day weekend is always a good excuse for lots of cooking, so I did some. 

On Saturday night I tried a pork chop recipe from the new Cook's Illustrated.  Very nice.  Sauced with brandy, prunes and shallots.  Very tasty.  And their recommendation to start the chops in a cold pan worked out beautifully.

Sunday morning saw some Parsi egg curry (scrambled eggs with onions, and a little coriander, tumeric, ginger) and some fruit salad (with a little Vietnamese cinnamon from Penzey's, makes all the difference)

I have absolutely no recollection of what I made Sunday night, but I recall it being good.  Hmmmm.

Last night was salmon fillets baked in parchment with some salt and pepper, a little tarragon, spinach and watercress, and a few nameko mushrooms.  That worked out fabulously, and was even popular with the picky 5 year old.  To go along with it I made some rice and lentil pilaf (just rice, lentils, chicken broth and a little curry powder) which also went over well with the troops. 


Tuesday, February 17, 2004 7:08:18 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Thursday, February 12, 2004

I've been trying to encourage my son (who's 8) to take a bit more responsibility for getting his own food.  So far we're pretty much only up to breakfast, but that's a start.  What really impressed me was that when he got into making his breakfast the other day (a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) when his sister showed up (she's 5).  He gave up his hard won PB & J to her, and started in making another one. 

Does my heart good. :-)

I started cooking pretty seriously around his age (fried eggs being my specialty) and I remember even then the sense that food you make yourself tastes that much better.  I noticed that he devoured that sandwich with relish.  Never too early to start.

Thursday, February 12, 2004 8:39:14 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# 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.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004 9:38:38 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Tuesday, February 10, 2004

I’m 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:

  • The 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 sagas!)
  • We know what modern Scandinavian food is like
  • Given the above, we can recreate Viking food with a fair amount of confidence
  • The foremost barrier to recreating Viking food is that many modern people think it sounds gross
    • I happen to like oatmeal and onions, but many don’t :-)


More on this topic hopefully soon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004 9:23:03 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]
# Friday, February 06, 2004

I’ve mentioned in several of my previous posts that I favor organic ingredients, and I felt it was time for the full-on rant.

<rant>BUY 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>

OK, I’m finished now.  Back to your regularly scheduled food related stuff.  I just had to get that out of my system.

Friday, February 06, 2004 6:10:20 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]

I was 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 dishes. 

Easy and tasty.  Two big sellers on a busy weeknight.

Friday, February 06, 2004 5:59:59 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #    Comments [0]