Friday, March 30, 2012

Yet Another Reason to Avoid Processed Foods

Our wimpy-assed FDA isn't going to ban BPA in food packaging.  

Just remember, if it doesn't say it's BPA-free, it probably isn't. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Photo of the Day

Yeah, it's that simple.   That's all I ask, just disclose it on the label if you use GMOs in your product.   They disclose genetically modified ingredients in over 40 countries.   Why can't we do it here?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Chocolate Peanut-Butter Oatmeal

Since my surgery I've had some difficulty getting things to move.  I've been through this before.   The general anesthesia and the pain-killers afterwards bind me up, and it takes a good week or two to get things to move smoothly again.

So, I've been hitting the oatmeal in the morning to add additional fiber to get things rolling, and juicing it up a bit by adding ground flax seed.  

This morning I made myself a nice bowl of Chocolate Peanut-Butter Oatmeal.    I added some fresh cut apple and it was delicious.  

In addition to helping with my digestion, adding the Cocoa may actually help with my BMI as well according to this article.

So here's how I made it.  


1/4 cup thick cut oats
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tablespoon organic peanut butter
1 medium apple peeled and diced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
1/4 cup water

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and then microwave for 3 1/2 minutes. 


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bugs are All Natural?

Another reason to avoid processed foods even if they're labeled "natural."   According to Bruce Bradley, it turns out that many of these "natural" ingredients are pretty disgusting.  

Thanks Bruce for informing us that "Natural Red #4" on an ingredients list is actually crushed up bugs.   It's also good to know that "natural vanilla flavoring" or even "natural flavoring" on the ingredient panel can signify that the product contains BEAVER ANAL GLANDS. 

I, for one, always label any food product suspect if it has to be dyed to appeal to me, but I never knew that some of those dyes were actually derived from crushed up bugs.   Let's all let out a collective YUCK!!!!  

Turns out that some of these "natural" additives can also be problematic if you're a vegan or vegetarian.   I'll take my Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino venti minus the rosy, buggy hue--THANKYOUVERYMUCH.  

Better yet, I'll just brew up my own cuppa of joe here at home so I know exactly what's in it. 

Monday, March 26, 2012


I'm five days out from my shoulder impingement surgery.    My left arm is still in a sling, but I weaned myself off the pain-killers.   I should be driving by the middle of the week, but it's going to be a long time until I'll be able to balance on my hands again in yoga.  

The good news is that while I still have pain when I move my arm, it's not as painful as it was prior to the surgery.    The pain also seems to be lessening as time goes by, as opposed to constantly increasing the way it was prior to the surgery.

I'm scheduled to see my orthopedist this Friday, and after that I should be starting physical therapy soon after.  

My main goal at this point is to just get back to my yoga mat doing anything I can do.   It was recommended that I not practice yoga for at least 2 weeks, and so I won't.   When I do get back to the mat, it's likely to be the same modified practice I've been doing for the last few months.  

I have been walking.    I started the day after my surgery.   I wear my sling and try to keep my arm as staple as possible.   That means a slower pace than usual.   I keep telling myself that I'll eventually get back to my old routines.  

It just takes time to heal. 

Friday, March 23, 2012


Yesterday I had surgery to correct my shoulder impingement.  All went well, but typing is a little difficult.    I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Skeletons in the Kitchen Cupboards

I'm at the stage in my kitchen renovation where I'm starting to clear out my kitchen cabinets in anticipation of demolition.   Anything deemed "nonessential" has been banished to bins in the dining room.  

I, like many avid cooks, have quite a panoply of pots, pans, utensils and gadgets.  

Clearing out my cabinets, however, has brought to light a lot of skeletons--those cooking items I bought on impulse (or not) but now never use. 

There were, I'm afraid to say, many skeletons of my kitchen cupboards.   The expensive copper pots from Williams-Sonoma that I had to have, but then stopped using because I couldn't be bothered with the upkeep.   I also unloaded at least 10 vegetable peelers because I'm always on the look-out for that ultimate peeler--ditto for cork-screws.  

I also have the 2 fancy bundt-cake pans that you use for Christmas and Easter.   I haven't made a bundt-cake in over five years, much less a holiday-themed bundt cake.

So when I read this New York Times piece this morning it hit home.    It was interesting to read how even famous chefs who appear on the food network aren't immune to kitchen gadgetmania.   

I have to say that I've always resisted large, expensive, one-use items.  I've never owned a rice-maker, bread-maker, nor any of the other "makers" William-Sonoma seems to come up with monthly (the pie-maker and soup maker are two of the more seemingly useless gadgets they also market).  

I have a relatively small kitchen, and with no place to store a bread-maker I simply didn't buy it nor any other of its "maker" cousins.   Lack of space, in some ways, is a god-send if you're disciplined enough to work within the restrictions.

My "panini maker" consists of putting my heavy cast iron skillet on top of the sandwich as it sits on my grill pan.   Half-way through cooking I flip the sandwich, replace the heavy cast iron skillet, cook a bit longer and viola the perfect panini without the bother of having to find someplace in my already over-stocked cabinets to store a dedicated panani maker. 

But I am a sucker for expensive pots and pans and for small kitchen gadgets.   Some of these items I couldn't live without.    My morning coffee wouldn't be the same without the battery operated milk frother I bought for $2.99 in Ikea--ditto for my ceramic one-cup drip coffee maker bought in a fancy coffee shop in Ireland.

But, emptying out my cabinets has brought to light quite a few items that I can indeed live without.    When the time comes to move things out of the bins into the new cabinets, I think I'll have to set many of these non-essentials aside and donate them to Good-Will.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Bittman on Read Meat

Last week I posted about a study linking red meat consumption to early death.  I thought it was an interesting study and went to prove the point that eating less meat is an overall good idea, for both your weight and your health.

Today, I went over to check out Mark Bittman's blog at the New York Times, and it turns out that he has quite a thoughtful piece written about the study which you may want to check out. 

As he usually does, he asked some good questions and had a few good thoughts worth pondering.  Such as:

There are two things wrong with focusing too closely on meat in the diet. One, meat is not the only problem with how we eat: we eat too many animal products in general (more than a pound a day, all told) and we eat too many grains stripped of all their value. And — as everyone in this great big room has been told since they were old enough to listen — we don’t eat our vegetables. Finally, from a strictly dietary perspective, meat is not our biggest problem: junk food is.

Secondly, industrially produced meat’s effect on our morbidity and mortality and the associated infamous health care costs are not the only problems with meat. Industrial agriculture damages the environment too. (Whether it’s the No. 2 factor in climate change, as the United Nations has suggested, is debatable. That it’s generally been an enormous contributor to environmental degradation is not.) It’s made it difficult for small-to-medium farmers to hang on. And industrial meat producers haven’t exactly been loyal members of the A.S.P.C.A.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Another Success!!!

And this time it was vegan.

I've been experimenting with veggie burgers for a while now, and I have to say they haven't been that big of a hit.  I've tried all sorts of recipes, and my husband (and often myself), pretty much gave them the thumbs down.

Last week, however, I was trying to figure out what to make for dinner.  Looking in the refrigerator, pantry, freezer, etc., I found the ingredients to make an Indian-inspired veggie burger.

Unfortunately, I don't have a recipe (because I literally just grabbed stuff and whipped it together.)   The basic ingredients for the burgers were lentils, curry, cumin, mushrooms, carrots, coconut oil, scallions, and chick-pea flour thrown into the food processor and mixed until the ingredients formed a thick batter.   I coated my cast-iron skillet with oil, then formed the paste into patties and fried them up.  I served the "burgers" in whole grain pita pockets with Mango chutney and arugula.

My husband looked at my creation rather dubiously at first, but then he tasted them.   HE LOVED THEM.

Now all I have to do if figure out exactly how I made these burgers so that I can make them again.

That's the problem with cooking on the fly, if you come up with a dish that's truly worth making again, you have to remember what you did the last time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Meatless Mondays May Just Help You Live Longer

It turns out that red meat can kill you, or, at least increase your chances of mortality by 20%.   Bummer!!

Not that I'm all that much of a red meat eater.   I tend to eat "mostly" vegan, and when I do partake in animal protein, it's usually fish or chicken.   

Like a lot of people, however, every now and again I just crave a big piece of red meat, cooked medium-rare.

I view my forays into carnivorism as just that--forays.  It's not something I do regularly, and I don't think eating meat once every blue moon is all that bad for me (can't speak for the critter I'm eating).

Still, as the study demonstrates, it is something best kept to a minimum.

BTW, I don't eat any processed meats, so I'm good there.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Girl Scout Cookie Time!!!

My daughter is a Girl Scout, and I think the Girl Scouts is a fantastic organization.  

I just have one complaint--the cookies.

Being that my daughter is a Girl Scout, that means that I'm not only obligated to sell cookies every year, I have to buy them.

I have a confession.

I am a Girl Scout Cookie-holic.   I can not have them in my house without eating them. 

I should know better by now and only order Thin Mints.

I don't like Thin Mints.

But, every year I order a couple of boxes of Somoas and Tag-A-Longs.

Those I can't resist.

Thank god Girl Scout cookies only come around once a year.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

How Do I measure Success???

When my rabidly carnivorous husband actually comes up-stairs to complement me on a meal that contains almost no meat.

As I've chronicled here before, my husband and I had a clash of cultures when we first got together.   My Italian family ate very little meat, and when we did meat was almost a side dish.   Meatless meals were common, and it wasn't unusual for us to go for a week without meat on the table.

My husband, however, grew up in a family were meat was always center stage.   Roasts were common as were steaks, burgers and hot dogs.

Wanting to please my husband, I for years cooked pretty much only meat-centered meals.  If I made anything like spaghetti with meat-balls or sausage, I upped the quantities of meat just to make him happy.

When I came to realize that pleasing his palate was not only bad for my waist-line but his heart, I made a determined effort to reduce the meat in all our meals, and go meatless several days a weak.

This transition was not easy.   Let me tell you I had a lot of knock down, drag out battles with my better half over the reduction or elimination of meat from our meals.

But guess what?   He got used to it.   He now generally complains when a meal has little or no meat, but he eats it without a fight.

Now, years ago, if I was making a dish for the two of us and using Italian sausage it wasn't unusual for me to use 1 1/2 pounds of meat.

Yesterday, I was scrounging around the kitchen for something to throw together for dinner.  Out of the fridge came some left-over rice, peeled baby carrots, peeled garlic and leftover Tuscan Bean soup with Kale.   I also pulled a can of tomatoes out of the cupboard.

I looked in the freezer and found four sausages---less than 3/4 pound in a zip-loc bag.   I almost used all four links, when it hit me to just use two and save the two for another "almost meatless meal."

Everything got thrown together into a pot and simmered with a bit of Romano cheese for a risotto-like stew.  

My husband got home late, but dinner was waiting for him on the stove.  

I thought he'd complain because of the paucity of meat.

Instead, he came upstairs to specifically tell me he thought dinner was delicious.

Battle won.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Imagine--A world Without Big Food

An interesting read, although I don't actually agree with it 100%.

I found this, in particular, interesting to contemplate:

The breadth of products controlled by the food industry -- amply toxic and less so -- is itself a symptom of a deeper problem that has public health symptoms, but a political economic cause. The food industry is an oligopoly that has transformed not only what we eat but how we eat it, and what we think of food. Which is why the logic of Proctor's argument as it could apply to the food industry waits in the wings -- for now. It's hard to entertain the abolition of the food industry, because it's difficult to imagine ourselves in a world without PepsiCo, Nestlé, Kraft (formerly part of Philip Morris), and friends, and their product lines.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Post Cancer Update

My life has settled down somewhat from the whirl-wind, cancer-fest of surgery, doctors and radiation therapy I had to endure last Autumn.  

There is, however, one daily reminder.   Everyday I get to be reminded that I had breast cancer because every day I have to take a daily dose of Tamoxifen--an estrogen inhibitor.

Prior to starting Tamoxifen, I was somewhat worried.  

I'm one of those women who has never been able to take the Pill, or any kind of hormone therapy.    The minute a drug starts tinkering with my hormone levels, I generally go pretty loony.   Even pregnancy and post-partum for me was traumatic.   

Once when I was pregnant for my son, I broke down crying and couldn't stop for over an hour because my vacuum cleaner stopped working.

Knowing that menopause is a rather emotionally challenging time for most women, and that going on Tamoxifen would essentially send me into menopause on over-drive, I was somewhat hesitant to start.

To my pleasant surprise, the Tamoxifen has had no effect on my emotional state.


But, there is a but.

Since I've been on Tamoxifen, I've had not one, but two bladder infections.  

Prior to this Winter, I hadn't had a bladder infection since I was in college.  I'm a 50 year old woman who's been married for over 20 years, I'm not exactly having wild sex any more.

I thought the first bladder infection was odd (it took me close to a week to even realize it was a bladder infection since I hadn't had one in so long), but when the second one hit, I knew something was up.

And, that's not all.

I've had yeast infections pretty much bi-monthly since January when I started the Tamoxifen.  

Yes, I know that being on the anti-biotics for the bladder infections can lead to yeast infections, but the first yeast infection hit me prior to the first bladder infection.

So, it's obvious that while the Tamoxifen didn't make me go loopy emotionally, it does seem to be reeking havoc on my system.   I'm looking into pro-biotics at this point to try to set everything right, and I'll talk to my oncologist about these side effects as well. 

Hopefully, I'll get through this soon, and continue on my recovery drama-free.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Weekly Reading Round-up

I thought I'd share with you some interesting articles I've found on the web this week.

'Natural': The most meaningless Word on your Food label?   There's really no meaning to the term, and any manufacturer can slap the word "natural" on a label because there's nothing regulating the term.

Selling Processed Foods in a Whole Food World?     A look into the marketing of processed foods to those of us trying to eat better.

Access to Good, Healthy Food Should be a Basic Human Right.    We can do better than large agribusiness firms polluting the planet and producing less than wholesome food products.

The Importance of Portion Control.   Quote of the week:  "If  I could teach just one thing about nutrition, it would be this: Larger portions have more calories".


Thursday, March 1, 2012

An Ode to Cast Iron

It's nice to see that someone else has the same loving relationship to his cast iron pan that I have to mine. 

This dude waxes pretty poetic to his pan writing shit like this:
The idea for the cast-iron pan has been around for hundreds of years, a relic of an age before cookbooks, let alone blogs, recipe apps, and all the rest. It’s an enduring, sacred object that transcends almost everything we think and believe about cooking. It’s a wonder to me that even I, a person who traffics in meditations on food and history, took it for granted so long. But then, that’s easy to do when something has no label, no parts, no color, and virtually no cost. I would suggest that every household in America needs to own a cast-iron pan, even if you aren’t in the habit of making fried chicken, one of the many dishes for which it is absolutely indispensable.
And this:
This pan, this mute dense tool, roots us to our parents, and our grandparents, and the hundreds of generations that came before them. It is Confucianism cast in black iron. Every one that was ever made, whether by Lodge or the million nameless smithies and shops across America, is basically the same: a heavy, immovable piece of metal that takes a long time to heat up, that picks up a patina with long use, and which grows to fit the hands that hold it. The modern way of cooking is to buy a pan, use it for a while, and then throw it out when a flashier or better version comes along. I have thrown out dozens of non-stick pans, ranging from toxic tin bought in Indiana superstores, to luxury versions purveyed by Sur La Table and Williams-Sonoma. I’ve had copper pans that cost a fortune, and which I never used before losing in a divorce or a move, or ruined by leaving on the stove too long. But I still have this same black pan, which has accompanied me, like the last survivor of a shipwreck, through every turn of a life radically wrenched on multiple occasions.
I'll note here that he forgets one important point about cast iron--once it's been properly "seasoned" if maintained it puts any modern "non-stick" surface to shame.   Plus, you can use metal utensils in cast iron, and not worry about accidentally killing any pet birds in the room.

If you already cook with cast iron, you probably got a pan or two from your mother or grandmother.   I have several from my grandmother, and I'm hoping to pass them on to my daughter some day.   As cast iron dude points out, cast iron has a way of linking generations, of bringing us together in the kitchen.  I think of my grandmother every time one of her pans comes out of from under the counter.