Tag "food"

There are only a few (and I mean only a few) things I miss from colder climes, and one of them is the length of soup season.  Soup season, you ask?  You know, the time of year where you can sit down to a nice steaming bowl of soup and not die from sweating.  It’s one of my favorite times of the year.

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It’s apparently somewhat a la mode in blogging circles to snicker and make fun of people who like food and buy organic fruits and vegetables from farmer’s markets. As a person who does this, I take these criticisms in stride, realizing that spending half your day traveling to 3, sometimes 4, different places to buy your food probably isn’t high on most people’s lists, but this Adam Ozimek post about frozen vegetables is absolutely absurd:

Are future blue collar workers really going to take the time to grow themselves vegetable gardens in window boxes outside their apartments? A lot of working people, like Megan McArdle and Matt Yglesias, frequently don’t have time for fresh vegetables. Like Matt, many people have to teach themselves late in life how to make quick delicious snacks out of frozen vegetables. This would be a much more valuable lesson for poor kids then how to select the freshest kale at your local organic farmers market, or even more ridiculously, how to grow your own …

If you can get kids to eat and prefer frozen vegetables then you’ve got a sustainable improvement in diet and nutrition. If you get them to like fresh organic vegetables they’ve grown in the garden or bought at the farmers market, then you’ve temporarily instilled in them the tastes of upper middle class people with enough time and money on their hands for such luxuries.

The first thing I’ll point out is how incredibly ironic it is that this person (and others) think that vegetables (!) are a luxury item that only upper middle class yuppies can afford. This would be news to our ancestors, who survived almost entirely on grains and vegetables, with meat being served on special occasions. This would also be news to most Chinese people, seeing as the majority of their diet is fresh vegetables. We all know that China is the upper-middle class yuppie capitol of Earth.

Furthermore, the condescension towards “blue collar” workers is outrageous. As if these “workers” simply can’t be bothered to go shopping at grocery stores. Or that they simply don’t have the time to actually feed themselves. Or that it’s just ridiculous that they could even think of having a *gasp* garden! I mean, two urban, young bloggers who work 70 hours a week don’t have time for fresh vegetables, so that means all “workers” can’t possibly have the time.

As for kids and vegetables, I have a long-held theory that most kids don’t like vegetables because they are prepared very poorly. Ever had frozen spinach? Kinda sucks. Same goes for frozen green beans. But fresh sauteed spinach with garlic? That’s good. Roasted green beans tossed with butter and thyme? Delicious.

Both of these things take 15 minutes or less, and taste significantly better than their frozen counterparts. So here’s my counter thesis to Adam Ozimek’s idiotic thought: If you get kids to eat frozen vegetables, they may end up thinking that all vegetables taste like garbage and eliminate them from their diet permanently. If you get them to like fresh vegetables prepared simply, they’ll end up loving vegetables as much as a McDonald’s double cheeseburger.

On a much broader note, I do think that the Slow Food movement has some serious image problems. This class-based fight seems to come up often, whether in the form of frozen vegetables, organic vegetable nutritional content, or shopping at Whole Foods. To me the whole point of the movement is not these specific pieces, but a more holistic approach to food and feeding yourself. It’s about taking back ownership of your diet and proving that you can make wholesome food that tastes great, and is good for your health and the environment at the same time. Somewhere along the way this got lost (or misinterpreted).

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Making good salsa was something of a unattainable quest for me for several years. At first, I wasn’t really quite sure what kind of salsa I really wanted. Was I trying to make a fresh salsa, or a cooked one? How about style? Traditional or Tex-Mex? What I definitely knew that I didn’t want was the spicy ketchup so commonly labeled salsa, sitting in jars on the store shelf.

While this crusade isn’t like my others, which usually centers around the ingredient list of whatever I’m replacing (turns out most salsas are pretty tame from the processed food standpoint), it was equally as important to me, and turned out to be solvable by sticking to similar principles.

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Fruit trees are somewhat ubiquitous in suburban America.  Chances are, in any given neighborhood, someone is bound to have a fruit tree or two.  Unfortunately what is equally as ubiquitous is letting all the fruit from these home fruit trees fall off the tree and rot.  This is a shame.

At some point in the not too distant past, everyone seemed to have decided that canning was a strangely laborious process that was not worth the effort.  I’m puzzled by this.  Compared to making a meringue, or even roasting a chicken, I think that canning comes out as something fairly easy, and it becomes especially easy when we’re talking about fruit.

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Most of you who know me know that I don’t have much of a sweet tooth.  My wife, however, loves sweets enough for the two of us, so I find myself making dessert more often than I would for myself.  One thing I’ve learned in this process is, compared to making dinner every night, dessert is pretty easy.  Most of the time, you can make a batch of cookies and be set for a whole week (maybe two), and the thing is, it may be the best thing for your health.

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There was a time when I used to think that the single biggest driver in great food was the person cooking it.  The fact of the matter is, without great ingredients, most chefs would have a hard time making great food.  Does this mean that chefs aren’t really all that good at what they do?  Absolutely not.  It merely speaks to the importance of using great ingredients in your cooking.

Without a good starting point, it’s very tough to make something taste delicious, and, thankfully the reverse is true.  Take the recipe below (Bucatini all’Amtraciana) from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen.  It has 7 ingredients, and takes about 30 minutes to make.  With good, quality ingredients, it’s delicious.  Without them, it’s meh.

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I’ve always taken a sort of passive stance when it comes to my food radicalism.  I smile at my co-workers when they heat up a LeanCuisine.  I nod when someone tells me about a recipe using Campbell’s cream of chicken soup.  But at home, I’m rendering fresh lard, making sauces from scratch, grinding sausage, baking bread, making special trips downtown for grass-fed beef, and frantically googling for affordable sources of quality lamb.

I’m a food-psycho, I would say.  Nobody cares or would be interested in doing what I’m doing.  It’s too much work.

Not anymore.  I’ve become evangelized, and by a cheezy, Ryan-Seacrest-produced, probably-half-staged television show, nonetheless.  That’s right.  I watched Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, and it hit me deep.  Here’s one guy trying make some real change that can save millions of lives, and I’m hoarding my knowledge, however minimal it may be.

So, starting today, I’m going to be posting once a week on food.  Most of it will describe my long journey to effectively eradicate everything fake from my pantry and refrigerator.  What’s fake, you ask?  Anything that isn’t an actual food product.  My rule is that if I don’t know where to buy it, it shouldn’t be in my food.  Partially hydrogenated vegetable oil?  Never seen that on the store shelf.  Mono- and diglycerides?  Potassium sorbate?  Modified corn starch?  Nope.  Nope.  Nope.

This might seem like a huge pain in the ass, but I’m willing to bet you’re going to be surprised.  You’re going to be surprised when you combine good ingredients in a simple way to make great food.

Enough with the intro…

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I saw an article on aquaponics in the NY TimesAquaponics, says Wikipedia, “is the symbiotic cultivation of plants and aquatic animals in a recirculating environment.”  And while the water requirements are significantly lower than in a traditional garden, the article makes it sound like the yields are pretty impressive.  One of the guys they interviewed has engineered himself a very badass greenhouse… some videos from his YouTube channel after the jump.

From the NY Times:

Mr. Torcellini’s greenhouse wouldn’t look out of place on a wayward space station where pioneers have gone to escape the cannibal gangs back on Earth. But then, in a literal sense, Mr. Torcellini, a 41-year-old I.T. director for an industrial manufacturer, has left earth — that is, dirt — behind.

What feeds his winter crop of lettuce is recirculating water from the 150-gallon fish tank and the waste generated by his 20 jumbo goldfish. Wastewater is what fertilizes the 27 strawberry plants from last summer, too. They occupy little cubbies in a seven-foot-tall PVC pipe.

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I recently accepted a new work schedule, which I just started this week: Sun->Wed, with Thurs optional depending on workload.

On typical workdays, my breakfast consisted of a (free) piece of fruit (thanks, Intel!) and coffee, which for a breakfast lover like myself, is pretty sad.

To me, breakfast is the ultimate playground for innovation. It’s that time in the morning when you’re peaking in your fridge and pantry, dreaming up an ultimate combo. With an extra day off, it gives me an extra opportunity to create said combo, and I definitely delivered today.

Inspired by a recent NYT article about turning dinner into hash, I decided that last nights shredded beef I made for tacos was definitely making it into some hash. In fact, I decided this as the beef was finishing up last night, which placed somewhat of a damper on my tacos, as dreams of beautiful hash danced through my head.

So, without further ado, I present spicy shredded beef hash.  I apologize if the pictures are a little blurry, but I was shaking with anticipation.  Let’s be honest here: you’re lucky I stopped to take any pictures at all.

Lord knows how many calories are in this, but I do know one thing: I don’t care.

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I want to put some thoughts on the table, because Rob’s post about the seed vault got me all riled up.

It’s really upsetting to think that we’re losing so much biodiversity for the sake of things that we pride ourselves in: globalization, efficiency, and modernization.

Sometimes I feel like it would be easy to blame capitalism for the loss, but I don’t see how any other large, modern society could function any better.  The problem (I believe, although I’ve heard some dissenting opinions) is that the most prevalent production methods will be those that are the most cost effective.  Factory farming and monocropping will provide the cheapest and most abundant food sources, until disaster strikes and they are no longer economically (or ecologically) feasible.

I read two Michael Pollan books this summer which were definitely life-altering and highly recommended:  The Botany of Desire and In Defense of Food. The former  touches on the importance of biodiversity, while the latter discusses the absurdity and dangers of a Western diet (did you know that there are now cases of obese children who are ALSO malnourished?!?).

Nothing is more important to a living being than the food it eats (with the possible exception of sex).  This makes your dinner plate a sort of mirror that reflects the nature of your lifestyle.  When you eat highly processed foods and chemically altered food derivatives, you accomplish two things:

First, you affirm that your lifestyle is synthetic.

Second, you voluntairily increase your chances of suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity (also, absurdly, malnourishment).  When this happens, Mother Nature is literally punishing you.  This is part of the “natural selection” process.  Poor diet reflects an inability to sustain one’s self in one’s environment, which results in health complications.  Organisms unfit for their environment can either adapt to the environment, change environments, or die.  The environment here is your “foodscape”, like a landscape composed of all of the foods that you consume.  Remember that individuals do not evolve, populations do — you are stuck with your genes.  Therefore you, the individual, can not adapt to the environment.  You have two more choices.

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I’ll write about this later when I get home, but I’ve always been really intrigued by what they do at the Svalbard Global Seed Vault.

Edit: Yes, really, I have been. Look at the front door to that place.  It gets me all nostalgic with regards to my favorite post apocalyptic movies.

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KFC’s new sandwich:

The creation features a dollop of the Colonel’s secret sauce wrapped in a slice of both Pepperjack Cheese and Swiss Cheese, between two slices of bacon and two filets of KFC original recipe chicken that serve as the ‘bread’ of the burger.

That’s right – instead of bread, you get breaded chicken. Multiplied by two.

The name?  The “Double Down” of course.

This strikes me as exceedingly disgusting.  And what’s the deal with the War on Bread lately?  I understand that everyone seems to want to limit their carbs, chasing diets, but bunless sandwiches?  I mean, that’s not even a sandwich anymore.

Think about it this way.  If I told you that last night for dinner I made fried chicken, then put two slices of cheese on top, along with two slices of bacon, and then squirted on my “secret sauce,” what would you say to me?


[Via Slashfood]

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Let’s rewind to right around when our beloved Juice the Blog was born.

It was at the former residence of Beej, Choof, and Colin where I first heard Brian (BLin) go on his tirade about corn due to (what I’m assuming) was his recent reading of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  I’ve got to be honest, at the time I thought it was little more than a BriBri rant-du-jour.

I’ve been meaning to say this for a while (especially after I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma not too long ago), but I was wrong.  Mother of fuck was I wrong.

The state of food production and consumption in this country (in addition to the surrounding regulatory bodies and main corporate players) is in an atrocious state.

The path to eating better (in a manner of purchasing higher-quality foods that were more often than not organic and absent of unnecessary corn products or by-products) has been not all that difficult for me.  It’s a lifestyle that requires responsible planning, really, and nothing more (although having a vegetarian girlfriend did ease the transition for me as I was already planning meals for the both of us nightly that were vegetarian safe).

Tonight, I saw Food, Inc., and maybe it’s because I’m more sensitive to audio/visual stimulation (damn my videogame upbringing!), but I finally can relate to the level of rage and passion Brian had that night.  There are some familiar old friends in the film, with both Michael Pollan (Omnivore’s Dilemma), and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) make significant appearances.  Upton Sinclair’s ubiquitous book The Jungle is also mentioned appropriately.

I don’t really want to take anything away from the film (not like one can really spoil a documentary film), but y’all should really go see it, even if you have read some of the aforementioned books.

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Hard-Necked Garlic
Green beans

Coming Soon:

Nectarines and peaches in abundance
Peppers in abundance
Cherry tomatoes

In case you were wondering…

[Via Serious Eats]

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Yglesias highlights what I think are the two main reasons Americans are fat:

More broadly, though, when discussing this issue it’s important to recall that vegetables are not expensive. I went to the farmer’s market over the weekend and mixed root vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, various kinds of onions and potatoes, etc.) were available for $1 a pound and all these are, needless to say, for sale for less money at a regular supermarket. Indeed, it’s the relative abundance of vegetables that gets us in trouble. Having evolved in an environment where plants are plentiful but meat and sweets and refined grains are rare, we’re programmed to act as if we’ll be eating plenty of vegetables out of necessity and had better grab the other stuff while we have a chance. So any policy to turn these habits around will run into some difficulties as it’s literally going against human nature.

But the bigger issue than price for most people is almost certainly convenience. We’ve created a society where people work longer hours than they used to, where parenting expectations have gotten higher, and where fewer and fewer families have mom serving as a full-time unpaid housekeeper/cook/nanny. Ezra observes that most people “live closer to a McDonald’s than a grocery store.” And, indeed, looking back on it I’ve been struck by how rapid and dramatic the change in my eating habits has been since I moved from being near many takeout food options but far from a grocery store to living closer to a supermarket than a takeout spot.

Since reading In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma, I’ve taken a slightly extreme position on my food intake.  I don’t eat anything that has ingredients I would never use.  So anything with soy lecithin and modified food starch is out.  There are the occasional exceptions, and the chronic ones (can’t seem to go without a soda at lunch time), but for the most part I stick to it.  I never buy anything from the freezer section of the supermarket, hardly anything from the snack aisle, and absolutely nothing from the prepared food aisle.

The one thing about doing this, though, is that it’s a lot of work.  I typically spend a good 1-2 hours in the kitchen after work, counting clean-up.  This means that on a typical day, I have about enough time to cook dinner, clean up, make a couple blog posts and then go to bed.

To me, though, it’s worth it.  I love my food.  And the thing is, I don’t even eat “healthy” in the pop science sense.  I eat a lot of cheese, and a ton of carbs.  I probably eat a lot of fat, too.  But I also eat a lot of vegetables.  I also don’t exercise much.  I typically walk about 1/2 mile 3 times a week after lunch.

The thing is, I’ve lost 5 pounds since last year.  So go figure that out.

Personally, I’d much rather spend a lot of time in the kitchen, eat great food, and not get fat, than spend more time on my Wii, eat quick “healthy” meals full of calcium diglutamate, and have to run 6-miles a week to stay thin.

That’s just me though.

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