Thursday, June 24, 2004
While I can't stand sweet coffee, I must admit to a craving for sweetened tea that I picked up while in Ireland a few years back. There are some food stories there that I'll have to post some time. Anyway, I love the occasional sweetened tea, but I'm pretty much totally off of sucrose. The idea of adding aspartame to a hot beverage fills me with dread (it's not good for you) so I mostly just don't drink sweetened tea anymore.
Recently I decided to try stevia, which comes from a plant, is much sweeter than sugar, and comes from a natural source. It also has 0 calories and supposedly 0 effect on blood sugar. I got some packets of stevia mixed with FOS (a soluble fiber that's supposed to promote the growth of healthy GI bacteria) for bulk. It's quite lovely in tea. No after taste that I can detect, it's quite sweet. I use a really big teacup, so a whole packet is OK, but in a regular sized cup it would be too sweet for me. I haven't tried it in any cold drinks yet, but will soon. I want to see if I can make it work for sekanjabin, which is one of my favorite summer beverages.
The only thing about it that inspires caution is that it hasn't been approved as a sweetener by the FDA, but I would tend to agree with some web sources that the lack of approval probably has a lot to do with the fact that stevia is a plant that isn't patentable and therefore doesn't benefit big chemical companies (the ones with all the lobbyists) who make stuff like aspartame and sucralose. There are some references to studies on stevia.net that suggest that it's pretty safe, but of course many such studies can be made to reach whatever conclusion you want. The fact that the FDA hasn't approved it as a sweetener (although they OK'ed it as a "dietary supplement") won't keep me up nights.
This weekend I'm going backpacking for the first time in probably 12-13 years. I'm ardently trying to remember what kind of food is good for backpacking that isn't the hideously priced stuff they sell in outdoor stores. I'm just going overnight, so weight is important, but not crucial. The classic macaroni and cheese is just a bit too high-glycemic for me. There are several good brands of sealed and irradiated Indian food that might be good. Not as light as dehydrated stuff, but tastier, and not nearly as heavy as cans. You just boil them right in the package and out comes delicious veggie Indian food. There are even some rice dishes now, although they don't survive the process quite as well. Peanut butter and jelly works well, and keeps well. Not too heavy. Hmmmm. Some low-glycemic, whole wheat pasta might work. My son requsted alphabet soup. We'll see how that works out...
For breakfast there's the classic instant oatmeal. There are several good organic, not-too-sweet brands. Salted cashews make a good snack, or jerky.
Luckily I still have a few days to decide...
You don't often see this groovy green globes for sale, but luckily I found a lovely 1/2 pint of very fresh, bright green goose berries at my local farmer's market last night. "What to do with them?" you might ask. Some classic examples are jam, or the very brightly colored "gooseberry fool". I put them on cereal. With some blueberries and a nice purple plum. Very tasty, and quite a different texture from other berries. More watery that a blueberry, and fairly tart.
Friday, June 18, 2004
Next month I'll be organizing and cooking a Roman feast for a gang of friends. I'm already looking forward to it. I've got some good sources for Roman cooking, and there are lots of interesting recipes I've never had a chance to try out. I'm going to try to document the process (menu, cooking, final product) and post pictures etc. here as I have a chance. Stay tuned.
Thursday, June 17, 2004
Woohoo! It's finally berry season. We went to the Hillsboro Tuesday farmer's market this week, and scored some really nice berries. Red and yellow raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and some blackberry-like things (ollalieberries, maybe). All were fantastic. I love berry season. I'm a big fan of fruit and cereal for breakfast, and I've been existing on pretty much apples, pears and bananas all winter. Not only is it exciting to get some new variety, but the berries don't require cutting up before they go on the cereal, which saves me a bunch of time. Soon it will be stone fruit season (I got some early plums, but they were less than amazing) and then it will be plums, peaches, nectarines, etc. I'm particularly fond of those little donut peaches on cereal. They have a very subtle flavor that comes through well at room temp, and they tend to go really well with the vanilla soymilk.
My kids are pretty gaga for the berries too. Always nice to get something non-starch based down them. They've been begging to back to the market (next one on Saturday) to get some more. OK by me!
Monday, June 14, 2004
There I was, all ready to host this year's Cast Iron Chef
competition. Piled beside me was 75lb. of secret ingredient (no I'm still not telling). NO ONE SHOWED! Slackers! We waited 1 1/2 hours to see if maybe someone would show up. Nary a one. Maybe we'll try again later in the year. Very disappointing.
Thursday, June 10, 2004
10 Foods you should never eat [via Scott]. I'm not sure I agree 100% with all their criteria, mostly around saturated fats, but all in all quite the lineup. It's pretty amazing how gross a lot of commercial food products are when you stop to think about it. There are some studies coming out that maybe saturated vegetable fats aren't so bad for us (in moderation) but 40% of your day's fat from a little snack is obviously not a good thing.
Luckily most of the foods on their list are completely gross, and you wouldn't want to eat them anyway .
Wednesday, June 09, 2004
One of the strangest things (to me) about the way we eat is why we (Westerners in general, American's in particular) have such hang ups about breakfast food. In most other parts of the world, what is for breakfast is pretty much what's for lunch and dinner. There's no concept of sacrosanct "breakfast food". Many Americans get whigged out at the idea of eating something for breakfast that isn't eggs/bacon/toast/cereal.
I'm not one of those people.
One of my favorite things for breakfast ever since childhood is hotdogs. Preferably wrapped in a tortilla with some cheese and hot sauce. Mmmmmm good. Of course, my wife and kids think I'm a total freak, but I can live with that. Which isn't to say that I never eat breakfast food. I'm pretty big on cereal too, but I often go through long periods during which I just don't want to eat cereal for breakfast. Then it's back to hot dogs, burritos, ramen noodles (although I've given that up as too high-glycemic) or whatever else strikes my fancy. When I lived in Japan I reveled in the "Japanese breakfast" of rice, fish, seaweed and miso soup. That's the way to start your day.
Of course, there are times when I want cereal for dinner. Last night, in fact, I couldn't decide what to eat and ended up settling for some imported Swedish muesli with some nice vanilla soy-milk. My kids thought I was completely off my rocker, but as people who often start their days with frozen bean burritos, I don't think they really have a leg to stand on.
Just a few more days until this year's Cast Iron Chef competition. The secret ingredient has been finalized (still not telling) and we're hoping to get a good turnout. It looks like the weather might even be nice .
In years past I've been really impressed at how creative people can be. The first year we did onions as the ingredient, and we got some truly amazing food, including onion desserts. One team even went so far as to dye their table clothes with the onion skins prior to judging. Last year it was prunes, and again, we got some amazing entries. Everything from game hens stuffed with prunes, to some North African food, to a pie decorated yellow and white checky with a lion's head rendered in prunes (the An Tir device). I'm looking forward to seeing what people come up with this year. I'll post some of the examples next week.
Thursday, June 03, 2004
I think I'd have to say that Lebanese food is some of my very favorite, especially when the weather turns warm. Last night I decided it was Lebanese food weather (it's in the mid 70's, which is pretty nice for Portland this time of year).
So, I cooked up some
- Fried eggplant with pomegranate sauce: fry up some slices of eggplant in a fair amount of oil until tender, then drain on paper towels. The sauce is pomegranate molasses mixed with some chopped garlic, good olive oil, salt and pepper, drizzled over the eggplant slices. Puts eggplant in a whole new light. I've served it to people who swore they didn't like eggplant (my sister in law :) ) and had them come back for seconds.
- Cucumbers in yogurt: just chopped cucumbers in yogurt (use laban if you have a Middle Eastern grocery around, or drain the yogurt for best results) with garlic, dill, salt and pepper. I mixed in some Italian parsely and just a touch of Spanish smoked paprika with fine results.
- Lamb patties: I was lazy at this point, and just mixed up some ground lamb with some of Penzey's "Turkish Seasoning" and chopped garlic, then pan-fried them. Would be good as kabobs too.
- Whole wheat pita. I got some "Bible Bread" from Garden of Eatin'.
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