Oh Those Tasty Sneaky Greens

As Little Sis so eloquently pointed out in “It’s Not You, It’s Them”, just because it’s in the grocery store, doesn’t make it safe to eat.  The safest foods in the grocery store are the whole, unprocessed foods: fruits and vegetables!  And of course it is an age old battle to get children to eat more vegetables.  Our culture’s diet is not based on fruits and vegetables, it’s based on bread and meat and potatoes and meat and lots and lots of sugar.

Although the popular notion that children have different taste buds or stronger taste buds than adults is difficult to tease out scientifically, due to many other factors affecting perceptions of taste, children do seem to have a higher density of ‘sweet’ taste receptors which is offset when puberty increases the ability to differentiate between tastes and the preference for sweet declines.

There’s no denying most children love sweet and most seem to like bland.  Maybe that’s because they can’t differentiate and so complex flavors seem strong.  But let’s get back to the basic problem.  How to get more vegetables into your children, and into you and your adults as well?!  We adults also exist in this culture and have also been inundated with bread, sugar, meat, sugar, potatoes, sugar, meat, and sugar as well!  I am not looking to engage people in a discussion about the relative merits of meat here, but it’s simple math.  If your plate is full of bread and meat – where are the vegetables?  Vegetables are key to good health!

We have lots of vegetable based recipes on board here, but I wanted to share a vegetable-increasing-money-saving-technique especially for the vegetable impaired. Continue reading

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Salt, Sugar, Fat – It’s Not You, It’s Them

The release of Michael Moss’ book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us has prompted a flood of news stories. Moss is a New York Times reporter and a Pulitzer Prize winner. The guy has street cred as an investigator. I’ve not yet read the book; however, I’ve read the excerpt provided by Moss to the NYT Magazine. I also heard Moss interviewed on NPR’s Fresh Air yesterday. Moss’ revelation confirms the worst of my concerns about the producers of processed and convenience foods. The long and short of it is that when you feel like you can’t stop eating Oreo’s, that’s because you very nearly can’t. It’s not you, it’s them.

Moss reveals that in 1999 the Vice President of Kraft addressed CEOs of the other leading food producers and laid out his concerns about the growing obesity crisis and the increasingly clear links between highly processed foods and some of America’s biggest health threats. This individual worried about his industry’s culpability both from a moral and a financial perspective – we could get sued people. The response of his peers? We are responsible to our shareholders. We’ve spent a long time figuring out exactly how much salt, sugar and fat to use to ensure that consumers will buy our products and we cannot risk the loss of marketshare that would surely result from a change in practices.  Let me say that part again: we are beholden to our shareholders.  Guess who’s not in that sentence?  You (unless of course you are a majority shareholder in General Mills or something).

Let me be clear, I am aware that companies who make food are for-profit companies.  I realize that this is the arena in which they are making their living.  Somehow, however, the brazenness of the shareholder beholden-ness shocked me.  The implications of the food industry’s refusal to consider health crises in food formulation are vast.  For me, the takeaway from Moss’ revelations is two-fold: 1) processed and packaged has been scientifically researched and developed to maximize taste, addiction, and profit, and 2) the onus of providing your body with nutritious food falls entirely on you. Continue reading

Great Grains: Buckwheat

Buckwheat, eh?  A little skeptical?  Buckwheat my friends, is a very cool plant, and a versatile little workhorse of a grain.  It used to be much more popular and still is commonly found in Eastern Europe as a cooked grain and porridge and is also found in Asia in buckwheat noodles.  Buckwheat pancakes and crepes are common worldwide.  And yet, it seems that many folks have not embraced this funny little triangular grain.  I am woman enough to admit that I was a buckwheat naysayer.  Didn’t see the point, so many other more familiar grains available.  But buckwheat really is interesting in a number of ways that I think make it merit a second look. Continue reading

Lettuce and Eggs? You’ll be Glad You Did

Sam I am would be delighted to eat this ‘Green Casserole’.  The eggs aren’t green, but there is enough green stuff in there that they might as well be.  This dish comes out seeming very refined somehow, and yet it is easy and very tasty.  Sort of a savory vegetable tart.

I gently changed the Green Vegetable Casserole recipe found in “Healing Psoriasis” by John Pagano.  It is a very adaptable recipe to whatever greens you have around, but the surprising thing to me was the inclusion of romaine lettuce in a dish that you bake.  I was dubious, but it is really tasty and the romaine holds up well.

Personally, I think leeks are a centerpiece of this dish, but you can try it with any combo of greens, other than tender lettuce, you like. Continue reading

Plant Your Own!

IMG_8883It would seem that a great number of you are HUNGRY for home grown veggies.  And I can’t blame you one bit.  There is little more satisfying in my food world than picking my meal in my backyard and preparing it (at least the portion I don’t eat en route) in my kitchen.  While I have many times in the last several years had some success in growing my own veggies, until the last few years my success with starting from seed was sporadic, at best.  Last spring’s write-up of seed starting tips was my earnest and enthusiastic response to the best homegrown seedling  year I’d had to date.

Now I’m back for more, and I’ve made a few more changes that should help with my seedling success rate (she says with fingers double crossed).  I thought I’d share those changes with you so that you can start your own and skip the early years of leggy croaky seedlings that I experienced. Continue reading

You Deserve Real Food….. Baby Step #8

BabyStep8“Psssst!”

“Who me?”

“Yeah you.  The one who is being unkind and intolerant to someone.”

“I’m nice to other people, what are you talking about?”

“Everyone?”

“Well, I certainly try.”

“And what do you say to yourself when you look in the mirror?”

(silence)

“And what do you say to yourself when you make a mistake or slip up on a plan or intention?”

“Well that doesn’t count!…… Does it?”

What do you think?  Does it count?

When my students would pronounce themselves stupid or a jerk after making an academic or behavioral mistake I used to ask them what they would say to their best friend in the same circumstance.  They always had lovely encouraging things to say to their best friend.  But we don’t treat ourselves like a best friend.  And although the deep seated human condition from which our self-directed harshness and nastiness arises is beyond my expertise in terms of explanation (or understanding, as I do it too), I do have some suggestions for overcoming it.  I believe that a lot of our problems related to diet and food choices stem from the same kind of negative self-directed language as well as the language that advertisers have drummed into our heads. Continue reading

Have you started your seeds? I’ve decided to ignore most of the available wisdom this year and have started 3 weeks earlier in an effort to beat the early heat we had last year. I imagine this will turn out to be some kind of mistake, but I have to play the odds somehow, and if I can lean in the direction of a longer growing season, I’m in! I thought I’d reblog my tips on starting seeds from last year in case you’re considering diving in and would like to have some success right off the bat rather than wandering in the intuitive wilderness as I did. 😉 Spring is coming – get your fingers in some dirt and get yourself some veggies!

my sister's pantry

Or Learn From My Mistakes…

One of the glories of spring – watching those little green bits poke out of the soil, transforming from a hard little pebble into something that may well be able to feed you.  Miraculous.  Especially when it works.  In the past I have not had good luck with starting from seed and it took lots of reading for me to realize that I am not alone.  Most gardening guides tell you right off the bat that starting from seed, while potentially rewarding and money-saving, can be very frustrating.  In the past I have started seeds, used the few plants that worked out, and bought seedlings for the rest.  I have, however, made minor adjustments over the years and for the first time – and I am reluctant to say anything and jinx the outcome – I seem to be growing several plants that might actually…

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Veggie Basics: A String, A Green, We’re Full of Beans!

When I was young, my weary mother occasionally prepared green beans.  They were canned green beans and they were cooked in the style of the day, which is to say that they were boiled until limp.  Now, if you are a canned limp green bean fan, please don’t take offense. I cannot make some “truth” claim about what is a good green bean, but I can tell you what green beans are good TO me, and as you may have guessed canned limp green beans are not in this club.  The only other green bean exposure I had with any regularity was at my dear grandmother’s house.  Her addition to the container of limp green beans was a big piece of fatback.  While I understand that might entice some folks, it didn’t create a veggie siren song for me.  All this is to say that I am a late bloomer where the green bean is concerned.

Years later, I was convinced to try green beans with a promise of something truly different from what I’d experienced before, something that tasted like, well, something other than salt water.  Al dente… tender crisp… a vegetable that is still cooked, but that resists the bite, offers a little crunch, demonstrates a need for teeth.  And so began my love affair with green beans.  I’ve since tried all the varieties I can find (I must confess that the yellow ones still don’t work for me), and have prepared them a variety of ways – and that’s they part you’re probably actually interested in. Continue reading

Chocolate Almond Butter

Almond butter is a wonderful indulgence.  A nice change from peanut butter, not an allergen for as many folks, some would argue it’s better for you, and it does not have the problems of some molds and toxins that may well be what sets off some people’s peanut allergies.  Alas, it is an economic indulgence.  It costs at least twice what peanut butter does in the store and much retail almond butter is produced in factories that also process peanuts and so still is inedible to those allergic to peanuts.

Enter this wonderful blog-o-spere linking so many creative (and cheap) people to me!  I found lots of people are making their own almond butter who claim that it is easy in a food processor.  They were right!  And inspired by my Little Sis who can never leave a recipe well enough alone… I decided I should put my own stamp on homemade almond butter to share with you.  But what to do to almond butter?  Clearly, chocolate should be involved.

This is not a great innovation mind you.  Chocolate and nuts have been meeting in back alleys and broom closets for centuries.

Lots of my co-workers rave about Nutella ( a hazelnut and chocolate spread) and I have eaten it before – but it packs a whopping 21g. of sugar per 2 Tbsp serving.  Sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil is the second, relegating the hazelNUT part of the nutella to 3rd place on the ingredient list.

This recipe of mine also foreshadows our next Baby Step which will address the notion of baby stepping away from the more dangerous food choices in your life (or your kids lives).  Lots of kids eat sugar-y crap for breakfast…. Pop-tarts, sugar-y cereals, doughnuts, etc.  One way to move away from those choices is to offer an alternative that still provides a nod to the devil in one ear whispering
“I want sugar with Ka-POW,
Give me sugar, give it to me NOW!”  (scene shifts to hyper child jumping around and evil laughter in the background.) Continue reading

Sound Advice on Meal Planning

Hey there!  In our baby steps series we have urged folks to adopt a plan for changing their eating habits a little bit at a time.  Whether you’re following the Baby Steps or not, there is not way to avoid the fact that planning what you’re going to eat is one way to give yourself a shot at a healthier meal.  Our friend Barb Hoyer takes this one step further and suggests that you don’t just plan how you’re going to do it, but imagine how that’s going to work.  This is SO smart.  Big plans fall short if we fail to be realistic about how to put them in action.  Give her a minute of your time and increase your chances of planning healthier and realistic food choice. Thanks Barb for helping me see a detail that I often overlook!