Smarter Than Pancakes

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Risotto

Filed under: WW Points — shaye3 @ 2:27 pm
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First the disclaimer:
I’m sure there are good pictures of risotto in existence, but this isn’t one of them.

BUT, the recipe rocks and is delicious!!!

Here’s the non-great picture-
(Sorry about the quality of photography.)

Now let me say that if you’ve never had risotto, you HAVE to try it.  It is so creamy and delicious, we’ve been known to eat it as a main dish!  And it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be to make!  Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to stir it constantly.  It does take about twenty minutes to make, but I usually start it just as I’m starting our main dish and it’s done at around the same time.

Basic Risotto (6 WW points per serving)
Makes 6 servings
1 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 cup minced onion (of course i use more)
3 cups broth (I use vegetable, but chicken works well)
1 cup Arborio rice
1/4 cup white wine (I’ve also used red with good results)
Italian seasoning or whatever dried herbs you’d like to use
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese (I frequently throw in more)

Two things before we start–
You can’t make risotto with just any kind of rice.  You have to use a short grain, sticky rice like Arborio.  There are other kinds of risotto rice, but Arborio is the most common and easiest to find.
The type of pan you use also makes a difference.  You can use a regular sauce pan, but your dish won’t come out quite as creamy.  Use a saucier pan if you have one.  (It’s the one with a wider top than bottom and sloped/rounded sides.)

  1. Put the broth in a small pan on your back burner on a medium heat and bring it to a low boil.
  2. Then put your larger saucepan or saucier on the front burner over medium heat, throw in your oil and butter, and heat until your butter melts.
  3. Add your rice and minced onion, and cook and stir until they start to get a little golden brown.  (Stir often because they go from golden to burnt in a very short time.)
  4. As soon as everything looks golden, pour in your wine and stir for a minute or two to allow the alcohol to burn off a little.  (This is also when I’ll throw in a shake or two of whatever herb sounds good at the moment.)
  5. Ladle in enough hot broth to just cover the rice, and stir frequently until most of it has absorbed or evaporated.
  6. When most of the liquid is gone, add another ladle of broth and stir it in.
  7. Keep that up until your rice is tender but still chewy.  Start checking after you’ve added about two cups of the broth.  (You don’t have to stir constantly, but you don’t want the bottom to burn. Toward the end start adding smaller amounts of broth.  I think I pretty much always use all three cups of the broth, and mine has never been mushy.)
  8. Once your rice is done, stir in the cheese and taste to see if it needs salt or pepper.
  9. Serve it hot.  (It doesn’t really reheat well and the leftovers aren’t nearly as good as the first time around.)
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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Easy Tomato Soup

Filed under: Soups — shaye3 @ 9:26 am
Tags: ,

This soup is so easy, and once you’ve tried it you’ll NEVER want the stuff from the red and white can ever again!  I sent some in Simon’s lunch this morning along with some TLC crackers, a sliced kiwi, and some Silk Very Vanilla soy milk.  The only lunch he likes better is when he’s home for lunch and we make grilled cheese soldiers to dip into the soup!

Better-than-condensed Tomato Soup

Easy Tomato Soup (1 WW point per generous 3/4 cup serving)
Serves 3
1 29-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp. minced garlic (or 1 Tbs. roasted garlic is really good)
1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
12 fresh basil leaves (or 1 Tbs. dried basil if you don’t have fresh on hand)
Salt, pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes to taste

  1. Combine tomatoes, garlic and basil leaves in a food processor or blender and puree to your desired texture. (I also like to start by sauteeing my garlic in the olive oil, add everything else to the pan, and use my stick blender.)
  2. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan until the oil shimmers, add tomato mixture.
  3. Heat to simmer, and cook partially covered for 5 minutes or more.
  4. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and hot peppers.
  5. Serve hot.

The crackers shown in the picture are Kashi TLC Original 7 Grain snack crackers.  They are a processed food that I make allowances for, and we LOVE them!   They have no HFCS, no hydrogenated oils, zero grams trans fat, whole grains, tons of fiber, and very few ingredients I can’t pronounce.  A serving of 15 crackers is about 2.5 WW points.  (If I had a good recipe for homemade, whole-grain crackers I’d make them.  Heck, maybe that’ll be my next research project!)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Old Food

Filed under: Meal Plans — shaye3 @ 8:52 am
Tags: ,

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been a total slacker when it comes to meal planning and preparation this past week. To make up for it, I pulled out several cookbooks yesterday to peruse for inspiration. While I was at it, I ran across a book I inherited called Mother’s Encyclopedia, put out by Parents’ Institute in 1965.

It is full of all kinds of hilarious information about rearing children, I thought I’d share this sample menu for a 10 year old.

A Sample Day’s Meals For A 10-Year-Old

BREAKFAST
Tomato Juice (3/4 cup). Hot whole-wheat cereal (2/3 cup) with milk (1/2 cup).
Toast (2 slices) with butter or fortified margarine (2 teaspoonfuls). Milk (1/2 pint).

LUNCH
(If served at school or at home)
Creamed eggs (3/4 cup). Green beans (1/2 cup) with butter or fortified margarine (1 teaspoonful).
Oatmeal muffins (2) with butter or fortified margarine (2 teaspoonfuls). Milk (1/2 pint).
(If brought from home)
Sandwich–peanut butter and raw carrot on buttered whole-grain or enriched bread.
Sandwich–chopped dried fruit on buttered whole-grain or enriched bread.
Supplemented at school by–
Orange. Milk soup (1 cup) or cocoa (1 cup).

DINNER
Meat loaf (1 serving). Scalloped potatoes (2/3 cup). Cole slaw with red and green peppers (1/2 cup). Whole-wheat bread or enriched bread (2 slices) with butter or fortified margarine (2 teaspoonfuls). Applesauce (1/2 cup). Molasses cookies (2 thin). Milk (1/2 pint).

First of all, you can just forget about my child willingly consuming tomato juice, creamed eggs, or meatloaf. He’s a pretty good eater, but there are some things even I won’t make him eat. Creamed eggs? Yuck!

Next, the sheer amount of enriched bread (a.k.a. Wonder bread) and fortified margarine was boggling! How enriched and fortified did they thing that stuff was???

Finally, I notice the complete lack of green leafy vegetables, and a serious shortage of produce in general.

It’s no wonder people are so unhealthy in our country today if that’s what was being taught was a healthy menu forty years ago.

We’ve come a long way, baby!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Food in the News

Filed under: News — shaye3 @ 1:26 pm
Tags: ,

While I’ve been a slacker and haven’t been taking pictures of anything I’ve been cooking this week, I have been reading the news. There have been three different food-related tidbits that I thought I’d post about.

1. Costco and Sam’s Club are limiting the amount of rice people are able to buy.
I guess a drought in Australia is causing problems with their rice crops, so the price of rice has really gone up in other parts of the world. That’s a real issue since so many people in the world depend on rice. I’ve heard “experts” suggesting that this is just the beginning, and that people need to start stockpiling food. I don’t know if stockpiling is an answer, but I do know that it strengthens my resolve to get started on our garden this weekend. Even if all of this blows over quickly, it’ll still be nice to have some home grown food to enjoy over the summer, and possibly even freeze and can for a rainy day later on.

2. Retailers in the U.S. are selling shrimp from Asia produced using forced labor and child labor.
I don’t know how surprising this is. With the global economy we now have, it’s a safe bet that the products we buy have been produced at least in part by people working in less than ideal conditions. We want cheap goods, so we tend to look the other way. It’s a really ugly Catch 22.

3. Arby’s is buying Wnedy’s for just under $2.4 million.
The parent company of Arby’s is buying Wendy’s in an all stock deal. The article I read about it had an interview with Dave Thomas’s daughter, and she said that Dave Thomas had rejected offers from this company many times. I guess Dave would not have been pleased.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Opinions

Filed under: Opinions — shaye3 @ 3:52 pm
Tags: , ,

Here are a few things that are just not right in my opinion:

  • “Chocolate” made with vegetable oil rather than cocoa butter. (There’s a reason those football shaped chocolate Easter eggs are so nasty.)
  • Of the 35 million pounds of antibiotics consumed each year, 24 million of those are consumed by livestock. (Livestock that probably wouldn’t need antibiotics if they were fed the food they were designed to eat and given adequate room to move around.)
  • The practice of boiling ribs before grilling. (Yuck! PLEASE tell me you don’t boil the flavor out of your ribs! If you can’t smoke them, at least throw them in a low oven for several hours so the connective tissue can cook properly.)
  • Restaurant servers who call me “Hon” or “Sweetie”. (If you aren’t in my immediate family, please don’t use false terms of endearment with me.)
  • People who salt food before they even taste it. (Nuff said.)
  • People who think a meal isn’t a meal if it isn’t comprised of a meat and two veg. (That is a hard mindset to escape from since it was drummed in many of us from such an early age. Learning to eat vegetarian was tricky! And I swear we really don’t eat meat that often, I just have a lot of opinions about meat.)
  • People who think they won’t like something before trying it. (I tell my eight year old that we develop new taste buds every seven years. Even if he didn’t like something the last time he tried it, his new taste buds might like it more.)
  • The fact that I still haven’t mastered making rice on the stovetop. (I can make it in the oven and I can make it in my rice cooker, but my stovetop efforts are always a dismal failure.)

Here are some of my loves:

  • The discovery that bacon can be cooked in the oven. (Throw it on a rack on a sheet pan at 400 until it’s done to your liking. No turning, no curled pieces, no spattering, very little mess. Awesome!)
  • Small appliances. (The number of small appliances I own borders on obscene. I have an extra closet off my kitchen to keep them in, and I inherited most of them–which is my favorite excuse for having so many.)
  • Sharp knives. (I hadn’t realized how dull my knives had gotten until I got a couple of new ones long long ago. I swear it’s like being a new person!)
  • Seasonal produce. (I live in Indiana, which means we don’t get fresh local produce until at least late May–if we’re lucky! I wait with baited breath for our farmers’ markets to open!)
  • The *idea* of having a vegetable garden. (We haven’t actually planted a vegetable garden in years, but I’m very excited about the garden we’re currently planning for this summer.)
  • Successful new recipes. (Let me tell you, I’ve tried some real clunkers. And sometimes it isn’t even my fault!)
  • Having people over for dinner. (My New Year’s resolution for 2007 was to try to have someone over for dinner once a week. We didn’t make it *every* week, but we sure had a great time when we did have people over.)
  • My laptop. (Between my recipe software and all of the recipes and food advice that I’ve gotten from various sources on the internet, I wouldn’t be half the cook I am today without my laptop.)

What are some of your peeves/faves??? (Inquiring minds want to know!)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday Pizza Day!

Filed under: Healthy Junk Food,Pizza,WW Points — shaye3 @ 10:37 am
Tags: ,

Friday is pizza day at our house. Most of the time, my husband makes the crust. I don’t know why, but he just has a knack for it. Occasionally I’ll pull out a more complicated pizza crust recipe that I make in my bread machine, but for today I’ll just give you the fast and easy recipe.

Our toppings vary, but this is the version we make most frequently over the winter. (Our Summer version involves fresh tomatoes.)

Easy Pizza Crust

8 Servings – 5.5 WW points per slice

1 package active dry yeast (or a scant tablespoon of bulk yeast)

1 cup warm water (105° to 115°)

2 1/2 cups flour (My original recipe says use all-purpose, but we frequently use 1.5 cup bread flour and 1 cup whole wheat flour.)

1 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 Tbs. olive oil

  1. In a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients and vigorously 20 strokes. (I’ll knead it a little to make it smoother if it feels like it needs it.)
  3. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes before using to give the gluten time to relax.

* * * * *

Our Normal Friday Pizza

This is how I make our normal pizza. (I usually have all of the ingredients on hand.)

1 recipe pizza crust

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

A sprinkle of Italian Seasoning (I frequently use Penzey’s Pasta Sprinkle or Italian Herb Mix)

8 oz. mozzarella cheese (I prefer to get the block and shred it myself, but we use bags or shreds a lot.)

1 7 oz. can of sliced mushrooms, well drained (Or mushroom pieces & stems are cheaper.)

A handful or two of Morningstar Farms soy “sausage” crumbles (I know, these are totally processed food; but it’s hard to find veggie alternatives that *aren’t* processed, so I look the other way sometimes.)

  1. Preheat your oven to 400°
  2. Oil your pizza stone, terra cotta tile, or another pan. (A stone or stone tile will make the best crust.)
  3. Spread your crust out by pushing it with your fingers or the heels of your hand. (Try to push instead of stretch because stretched dough usually tears or springs back.)
  4. Sometimes I throw the crust in the oven for a few minutes, sometimes I don’t. It’s a mood thing. (Last night I did pre-bake the crust because it makes it a little easier to spread the toppings sometimes.)
  5. Spread the tomato paste all over the top of the crust. (If you open both ends of the tomato paste can, you can push one end of the can all the way through and all of the tomato paste will come right out.)
  6. Sprinkle Italian seasoning all over the top of the tomato paste. (If I’m out of Italian seasoning, I’ve also just sprinkled dried basil, dried oregano, garlic powder, or whatever sounds good at the time.)
  7. Dump the whole 8 oz. of shredded cheese on top and spread it out to the edges.
  8. Sprinkle the sausage and mushrooms on top of the cheese. (You can obviously sub any toppings you want.)
  9. Pop the whole thing back into the oven and bake until the cheese starts to get golden.
  10. Pull it out of the oven, and let it sit for about 5 minutes before cutting.

Yum!

* * * * *

I’ll throw in this bonus picture of a slice of our pizza. My hand was shaking a little bit, so it’s a little blurry. I would love to blame it on our earthquake, but I actually made the pizza last night and our earthquake was at 5:38 this morning. 😉

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Hot Fudge Sundae

Today is our second day of sunny, 70-degree weather in Central Indiana, and trust me when I say we’ve been taking advantage of it! Yesterday I got our patio tidied and pressure washed the winter dust off so we can eat out there, and today I’m working on the lawn. I think tomorrow is supposed to be our last warm, sunny day before the April showers start back up, so it was definitely time for some ice cream!

(A hot fudge sundae with 1/2 cup of this ice cream and 2 Tbs of this hot fudge is 7 WW points)

Vanilla Ice Cream

I got this recipe from Alton Brown’s “Good Eats”.

1 cup heavy cream

2 cups half and half

1 cup minus 2 Tbs sugar

2 Tbs peach preserves (I used apricot because I had it.)

1 vanilla bean, split and scrape the seeds into the mix (I’ve read that you can also use 1-1/2 tsp vanilla extract if you don’t have a bean.)

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan, and stir over medium heat until the mixture reaches 170°.

Pour into an airtight container, and stash it in the fridge for at least four hours, but overnight is better. (I strained mine to catch the pieces of vanilla bean and the pieces of apricot that were in the preserves.)

Pour into your ice cream maker and process according to ice cream maker directions. (For my machine, you just pour it into the frozen insert while the blade thingy is running and let it freeze for about 20 minutes or until it looks like soft serve.)

After it has reached soft serve consistency, spoon it back into your airtight container and stash it back into your freezer to let it cure. (Let it harden and let the flavors meld some more.)

Or you could always just eat it like soft serve, which I think is better anyway!

I have to say that this recipe was a little too sweet for me. It tastes a lot like Dairy Queen soft serve—which is good, but I think I prefer the custard type ice creams if I’m going to harden them off. Next time I’m going to just eat this as soft serve.

This is very close to the recipe that came with the ice cream maker, but the ice cream maker recipe skips the preserves and only uses 3/4 cup of sugar. I might try using 3/4 cup minus 2 Tbs sugar next time and include the preserves and see what we think.

* * * * *

Hot Fudge Sauce

This recipe is a slight adaptation of a recipe I got from my friend Kelly’s mom. We love it because it is thick, creamy, and made of stuff we always have on hand. (I’ve actually thought about mixing up enough dry ingredients for one batch, and keeping it in the cabinet in case of chocolate emergency!)

1/2 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa

1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

1 dash salt

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons butter

1 teaspoon vanilla

1. Mix dry ingredients.

2. Stir in room temperature water.

3. Microwave 90 seconds–stirring every 30 seconds.

4. Blend in butter and microwave 15 seconds more and stir.

5. Continue to alternate microwaving for 15 seconds and stirring until it reaches desired thickness. (The longer you cook it, the thicker it gets.).

6. After microwaving stir in vanilla.

7. Serve warm.

The trick to this hot fudge sauce is to keep putting it back in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time until it is as thick as you want it. If you like it thinner, it won’t take very long; but we like it pretty thick and fudgy so I keep putting it back in. After it is as thick as you want, add the vanilla and you’re golden!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Veggie Burger and Veg-o-Matic Fries

The other day, I decided that I wanted to create the ultimate vintage diner meal; except a healthier, vegetarian, and homemade version.

I present to you–Veggie Burger with Homemade Bun and Veg-o-Matic Fries!

The bun recipe is tried and true. I found it on a cooking site that I frequent, and it is always good. I’ve never managed to screw it up, which is saying something when it comes to yeast bread!

Burger Buns

3.858 WW points for 1 bun if you make 10 / 3.215 WW points if you make 12

1 cup water
2 Tbs butter or margarine
1 egg
2 1/4 cup flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tsp instant yeast

1. Place all ingredients in your bread machine. Select dough. Allow to run cycle

2. Dump out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 8 pieces. Slap each piece into a bun shape. (Usually 4 or 5 slaps will do it.) Place on greased cookie sheets or your bun pans, cover; rise about 30 to 40 minutes.

(I used my muffin-top pan, and it worked really well—except that it only has 6 holes.)

3. Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 12 to 15 minutes until golden. Cool on wire racks

Food Processor Directions for buns:

Place flour, sugar, salt and yeast in your 7-cup or larger food processor bowl fitted with the metal blade.

Pulse to combine, add the egg and butter and pulse again to combine.

With the motor running, add warm water (90-95 degrees F) through the feed tube until it starts to form into a rough ball. Stop the machine and check that the dough is slightly sticky. Add a little flour or water if necessary.

Place in a bowl you’re either oiled or sprayed with a cooking spray like Pam. Cover loosely with some sprayed plastic wrap, and let rise for about an hour.

From that point, follow the bread machine directions for shaping.

(Someone told me that they sometimes add 1 tsp onion powder and 1/2 tsp dehydrated minced onion. I did that this time, and it added a light onion-y flavor that was really good.)

Servings: 10

Unfortunately, I forgot about the buns and they got a little more brown than I prefer, but they were still soft and very tasty. I’d made the burgers before, and we love them. I try to keep some of the burger patties in the freezer for quick lunches.

Chicago Diner Burgers

2 WW points for 1 burger if you make 12 out of the mixture

Vegetarian Times Issue: July 1, 2007 p.69

3 stalks celery, diced (about 1 1/4 cups)
1 small onion, diced (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce (I used Bragg’s Liquid Aminos because I didn’t have a lot of soy sauce.)
2 tsp. onion powder
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
12 oz. mushrooms, finely chopped
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
(I also threw a couple of dashes of liquid smoke into the water with the veggies.)

Directions

1. Bring 4 cups water, celery, onion, soy sauce, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and liquid smoke to a boil in pot over high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. Stir in oats, mushrooms and flour, and cook 5 minutes more. Transfer to bowl, and chill. (I put mine in the fridge overnight.)

2. Preheat oven to 350F. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray. Shape mixture into patties, and bake on prepared baking sheet 15 minutes. Flip, and bake 10 minutes more. Cool. (At first I put these on parchment. That was a mistake because it kept the bottoms soggy. The next batch I put on sprayed foil, and that worked much better.)

3. Heat grill to medium-high. Place foil on grill, and coat with cooking spray. Grill burgers on foil 7 minutes per side.
(I re-used the same foil that I baked them on.)

Homemade French Fries

(No idea how many points for the fries. I use Living Cookbook to calculate calories/fat/fiber, and I don’t know how to calculate how much fat is soaked in when you deep fry the potatoes. Sorry.)

Making french fries from potatoes is kind of an inexact science, in my opinion; but I think I’ve found a good trick! I do actually fry my fries in canola oil. I know it adds more calories from the oil, but I’ve heard Alton Brown say that if your oil is hot enough when you put them in, they really don’t absorb much; and I believe him. (Of course, I still try to never eat more than a small potato’s worth–just in case.)

Here’s how I do it:

Use one potato for each serving you’d like to make. (I like to use the mealier rather than waxy potatoes because I’m going for crispy outsides and fluffy insides with my fries.)

I’ve heard many people recommend frying fries twice. The first time on a lower temperature to soften and cook the potato, then put them back in again on a higher temperature to crisp the outsides. The problem with that method is that if I believe Alton Brown, the first low-temp fry might make them greasy–which I obviously don’t want.

The trick I’ve figured out is to give the outsides of the potatoes a cursory wash, poke steam holes in them, and bake them in the microwave until just before they’re fully cooked. (I put my potatoes uncovered on a plate for about 3 minutes a potato. I kind of give them a gentle squeeze; and I’m going for when they’ve softened a little, but aren’t yet fully done and squishy.) I then drop the potatoes in cold water to cool them quickly, and then you can pull the peel off really easily when they’re cool enough to handle.

After they’re peeled, cut them into fry-sized sticks. (A Veg-o-Matic is a delightful way to achieve that, but I realize that not everyone has a Veg-o-Matic so a knife works just fine.)

Heat your oil to about 375. (A little higher is ok because the oil temp will drop a little when you add the fries.) I use my handy-dandy deep fryer that I got a few years ago at Costco, but you can definitely use a large pan or dutch oven and a thermometer that goes up to 375.

Drop in your fries, but keep in mind that it will lower your temp so you might not want to put in too much at a time. (Mine has a basket, so I fill the basket about half full at a time. If you’re using a regular pot, I don’t think I’d put in more fries than would cover the entire top of the oil with one layer of fries at a time.)

Let them fry until they’ve reached your desired degree of golden and they’re done. You’ve already cooked the insides, so you pull them out throw them on something to drain, and give them a little salt and ketchup. (And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Heinz Organic ketchup has no high-fructose corn syrup, and we actually prefer the taste over the original. It is a little more expensive, but we aren’t huge ketchup eaters so a 10 oz. bottle lasts us a while.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the Veg-o-Matic!

Ok, so the receipt in the box says 1962, but I still love it!

I live in a wonderful 1940s ranch house that used to be my husband’s grandparents’, and is filled with character. I would absolutely love to be able to undo the modernizations that have been done to it, and return it to it’s full 1940s kitchy splendor. For now, I just delight in things like the vintage Veg-o-Matic that I got from my grandma when she moved out of her home and in with my aunt years ago. I had forgotten all about the Veg-o-Matic until I was recently cleaning out my basement, but I’ve used it several times since then!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hello world!

Filed under: Opinions — shaye3 @ 4:33 pm
Tags: , ,

Word press started my first post for me, so I decided to keep the title they gave it. Works for me.

I’ve decided to start a dedicated blog about food that will include recipes, pictures, and my own personal food musings.

I’ve been cooking since I was about eight years old, and I think I’ve become pretty good at it. I am fascinated by recipes and nutrition. I read cookbooks for fun. (What a geek!)

I don’t have Photoshop, so when my pictures look more like a snapshot that some woman took in her kitchen, (as opposed to something created by food stylists and photographed by a pro,) please keep that in mind.

I find that food as a topic of conversation is almost as risky as politics and nutrition now a days. You have the low-fat people, the low-carb people, the slow-food people, the restaurant people, the cook-from-scratch people, the cook-from-cans-and-boxes people, people who eat to live, people who live to eat, and lots of people in between! And it seems like people frequently express stronger opinions about food than they do religion or politics.

I’m no exception to this, so I’ll tell you that I’m a cook-from-scratch person for the most part. I tend to follow the teachings of Michael Pollan when he says “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.” He espouses trying to eat real foods, and avoiding food-like substances that are mostly made of highly processed chemicals. I have so many friends who think that is a really hard thing to do, but with a little planning is really isn’t that much harder than cooking from mixes.

People sometimes think that opening a cake mix is so much easier than baking one from scratch, but when you have a good recipe it is so worth it to spend the extra five minutes measuring out the ingredients rather than opening a box. And I realize that it is a little more involved to boil some noodles and make a quick white sauce and melt in real cheese for your mac and cheese, as opposed to opening a package of florescent orange cheese-like powder–but can you really compare the two when it comes to taste and nutrition?

Another thing I’ve learned from Michael Pollan (and my doctor) is to avoid high-fructose corn syrup when at all possible. According to my doctor’s research, most of the type II diabetes, pre-diabetes and obesity that seem to be running rampant in our population can be traced directly back to hfcs. My doc told me that when we eat or drink something with hfcs in it, our blood sugar spikes sky high. Almost as quickly, our pancreas starts pumping out the hormones like insulin to counteract, and our sugar bottoms out. As soon as we bottom out, we mistakenly start to think we’re hungry again, so we go back for another snack–that probably also contains hfcs if it’s processed food. Our blood sugar starts to have levels that look like they’ve been created by a high-bounce ball, and our poor pancreas spends so much time counteracting all of the hfcs, and our bodies eventually start to wear out. And if you don’t think you consume much high-fructose corn syrup, you’re so mistaken. Pick up almost every processed thing you eat, and it’s there. I’m sure you immediately think it’s only in the sweet stuff like soda–and you’re right. Hfcs is second only to carbonated water in non-diet sodas in the U.S.

Because of corn subsidies in the United States, hfcs is much cheaper than sugar for food processors to use, so it’s in almost everything sweet you can think of like candy, cookies, and cakes; but it’s ALSO in things you’d never realize like bread products, cereals, Stove Top stuffing, most sweetened drinks and juices, toaster waffles, most condiments (ketchup, salad dressing, bbq sauce, pickles, jelly, syrup, steak sauce, Miracle Whip and light mayo), crackers, and soups. Trust me when I say it is NOT easy to avoid.

Another soap box with my footprints on it is the one that supports eating local and organic when feasible. In my opinion, eating local is much more important than looking for the “Organic” seal. Most of the food that you might find at your local farmers’ market was probably produced in a pretty organic manner, but the folks growing it just didn’t bother fighting the government red tape to become officially certified. I find that the person I’m buying from was usually the same one who tended the garden, and can tell me in pretty good detail how the food was grown. And before you start thinking I’m one of those west coast, crunchy granola people–I should tell you that I live in a small town in central Indiana! You can find farmers markets in every state over the summer, you just have to do a little homework to figure out where! (I googled to find mine!)

As far as organics are concerned, you can bet that our family can’t afford to eat everything organic, but I do believe that produce grown with chemical fertilizers can’t possibly be as nutritious as produce grown using natural fertilizers like compost. I understand that scientists have figured out that certain chemicals make plants grow, but I don’t believe that scientists know everything there is to know about nutrition and how foods work within our bodies. I also don’t believe that just because a plant is growing with chemical fertilizers means is as well nourished or as nourishing as one grown in more traditional ways. Not only that, but think about how much better veggies fresh from the garden taste compared to grocery store veggies. There’s nothing like a late Summer tomato–especially not those nasty red rocks they try to pass off as tomatoes in my Kroger over the winter. Bleh!

Milk is the one thing that I always buy organic. We can taste a real difference, and I’m really trying to avoid the hormones and unnecessary antibiotics that come with non-organic milk. I think it’s nutritionally a wash though, since the organic milks are usually ultra-pasteurized. It’s nice that my milk doesn’t go bad for months and months in my fridge, but I’m not sure that the extra heat doesn’t kill off everything beneficial while also killing the bad guys.

I understand perfectly if you don’t agree with me on some of my hot-button issues. Trust me when I say that one way or the other, you’ll still probably find something that looks pretty good to you once I get started posting.

I intend to spend some quality time in the next few days trying to figure out all of WordPress’s tricks, and then I’ll become a recipe posting fool!

Please stay tuned!!!

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