Monday, March 30, 2009

Day 21 - Cereal, Falafel, Brisket

Watch The Beautiful Truth if you have not already done so (I have, as of Friday). From what I've read, it makes sense. Actually. Thank God we can cure cancer.

Unfortunately, I was in a rush this morning, so I settled for an unadorned (besides the nonfat milk) bowl of Trader Joe's 9 Whole Grains cluster somethings. I can't remember the name, as it's like the longest name of any cereal ever.

Falafel is amazing. I don't know why it tastes so good...but it does. Perhaps it is related to the fact that it has varied so little from its original form. The processors haven't laid their filthy hands on the food yet. Anyways, that's what I ate for lunch.

Dinner: finally my food gets interesting. We're cleaning out the CSA box before our next one on Wednesday, so I made mashed turnips. I sliced the baby turnips, steamed them for about 10 minutes (I would reccomend closer to 6-8 minutes), mashed them up with margarine (use butter, trust me), salt & pepper, and garlic powder. I tasted a slice raw, and it tasted almost exactly like a radish slice, but after steaming, the turnips tasted far more like cauliflower. I mean, if you had told me I was eating cauliflower, I would have believed you. Also, I made a salad of orach, baby romaine, bell pepper, cucumber, and cabbage. Everything was organic, and the orach and cabbage were from the CSA box.

It would take all the time in the world to explain why margarine is bad. So rather than sit here and bash ConAgra, corn monocultures, hydrogenation, artificial flavor, the FDA, and food additives in general, let's talk calcium disodium EDTA, an additive in the margarine I used. The box says it is there to preserve freshness, but I will do my own research. "Da !@#$ am I eating?"
  • Injected as drug to treat lead poisoning. The calcium is displaced by lead in extracellular fluid. The resulting lead disodium EDTA is excreted in urine.
  • The FDA has specified that calcium disodium edta may be used in oleomargarine not exceeding amounts of 75 parts per million. This small allowance probably accounts for the use of other preservatives in the margarine I used.
  • According to Wikipedia, the preservative would really only preserve the artificial yellow color. It's just one additive in a chain of food additives that all need each other for the margarine to remotely resemble food.
  • EDTA stands for ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid. It is in such widespread use it has emerged as a persistant organic pollutant (POP). These pollutants can cause death and several illnessess as well as the disruptions of human body systems. Exposure to POPs can also lead to cancer and neurobehavioral diseases.
Enjoy your margarine!

Sunday, March 29, 2009


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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Day 17 - Cereal, Satay Noodles, Blintzes

I woke myself up at 4:30 AM today to work, so when I was finally able to remove myself from my textbooks, I indulged in Trader Joe's 9 Whole Grain Crunch or whatever they call it. I say "indulged", because the cereal is pretty processed. Corn syrup and modified food starch are among the ingredients, for instance. Tomorrow I know I'm doing something with cottage cheese, peanut butter, blackberry jam, and bananas, but I am not sure how they all will fit together yet.

In foods class, we made satay noodles (with Skippy. Can you spell hydrogenated soybean oil? Euch.), but the dish did not come out fantastically, so I do not believe myself to be doing any disservice by not posting the recipe. If you're wondering about the chili, the recipe is coming...

I placed myself on dinner duty again. We're still in the midst of a freezer tirade, so I really only had to heat the blintzes up, as far as those are concerned. I did make some fresh salad from the CSA box goodies (same ingredients as yesterday, except I added some mushrooms which were about to go bad). I dressed the salad with organic extra virgin olive oil and apple cider vinegar, but the vinegar did not tast that good, so I'll be picking up some organic balsamic in the next couple of days.

For "Da !@#$ am I eating?", I've chosen an old favorite. Since today is the first time since starting my diet that I had partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (as far as I know, at least), I'm taking this oppurtunity to bash the stuff. What's wrong with it, you say? Well...
  • trans fats: this is where they come from. Even if the nutrition facts say "trans fats 0g", chances are the product still has trans fats. They are basically normal fat molecules (which we need) grossly misshapen.
  • trans fats inhibit the body's ability to digest essential fatty acids (which we need), interfere with the functions of cell membranes, have zero nutritional value, and can quickly lead to obesity.
  • of all hydrogenated oils. hydrogenated soybean oil can be considered the worst, as it has been shown to depress the thyroid, making the body more sluggish and obese.
To avoid hydrogenated vegetable oils (at all costs), don't ingest food that lists hydrogenated anything as an ingredient. Recently, manufacturers have begun using the terms "monoglycerides" and "diglycerides", because, as consumers, we're beginning to avoid anything with hydrogenation in the name. But these are hydrogenated oils, so don't eat these either.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Day 16 - Cereal, Chili, Burgers

Foodwise, today was one of my best so far.

I diced a few conventional strawberries (it's hard to get fresh local fruit in March), and dumped them in my organic corn flakes with nonfat milk.

Lunch I made in foods class: vegetarian chili. The ingredients were conventional, but pretty much unprocessed. The chili tasted amazing topped with shredded monterey jack and green onions. I'm posting the recipe.

WE GOT OUR FIRST CSA BOX TODAY! Escarole, chantenay carrots, orach, leeks, baby turnips, cabbage, mei quin choy, lettuce, and parsley root.

I ripped some of the escarole and orach up into a salad with a diced yellow bell pepper and half a cucumber. Dressed the salad with miso dijonnaise salad dressing and topped it with slices of the chantenay carrots. It tasted so fresh! After the salad, I had veggie masala burgers fried in Mazola oil (personally, I would suggest butter). I ate the burgers on a bun with muentster and a large lettuce leaf.

Orach: "Da !@#$ am I eating?"
First of all, it's pronounced like Iraq, except with an "O". It is very similar to spinach, except it tastes a little milder (in my opinion), is much more purple, and it can survive under frost much better. For more information, check out the Two Small Farms newsletter.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Day 15 - Toast, Nachos, Ravioli

Today I did not make out amazingly (nothing O/L, really, and I didn't drink enough water), but tomorrow I get our first CSA Box, which will greatly facilitate my new diet.

I toasted up Trader Joe's whole grain bread, and spread on this gourmet blackberry jam I bought from Draeger's. When we start getting fresh fruit this summer, I plan on preserving it for the following winter. Trader Joe's didn't have any organic whole grain bread besides a quote "artisan" bread that had nuts, and dried fruit, etc. so I settled for conventional. I might add it was made with stone-ground wheat, which is ideally what to look for, because it means the nutrients were not removed.

Lunch was nachos again. Ha.

We're still in clearing-out-the-freezer mode (until Passover), so for dinner, we just heated up a frozen portobello mushroom ravioli from about a year ago. The pieces had molded together in the freezer, so it was more of a huge chunk of filled pasta than any distinguishable ravioli. Over it, I put heavily processed Prego marinara sauce, a product protected by the first amendment. I will make sure we don't buy it again.

In the Prego, was what Campbell or another processor has christened "vegetable oil (corn and/or cottonseed and/or sunflower)". Which seed oil was in my sauce though? "Da !@#$ am I eating?"

Since 1911, when Proctor & Gamble patented Crisco, a solid of oil from cottonseeds, researchers have figured out ways to make vegetable oils cheaper, less flavorful, and less nutrient rich. Campbell, the processor that made my Prego, like Kraft, Nestle, and other major processors, processes tons of seeds every day to get energy-rich products. Oils from the seeds are partially refined to get the carbohydrates, and Campbell finishes the job, refining the oil from the seed cotyledons until the flavor is gone. Then, they mix the oils from every type of seed they process, and call it "vegetable oil". When we finish off the rest of the processed marinara, I'm making my own.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Esek-fleisch Recipe

We're talking meat balls. The most flavorful, delectable meat balls.

1 large onion, finely grated
1.5 lbs. chopped meat (like you might use for hamburgers)
1 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. sweet & sour salt
water (enough to cover the meat, once in the pot)

Boil water, then add the grated onion, sugar, and sweet & sour salt.
Loosely pack the meat into meatballs, then drop them into the boiling mixture. At this point make sure the meat is totally covered by water. If there's insufficient, add more. Stir.
Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower heat to lowest or almost lowest setting. Cover pot, and let cook about 80 minutes. Stir regularly.
Place covered pot in refrigerator over night.
Before eating, skim off fat from the top with a spoon or spatula, then reheat.

Notes: Eat over egg noodles, challah, or just in a dish. Make sure the liquid does not go to waste, by pouring it over noodles as a light sauce, or soaking it up with challah. Honestly, the liquid may be the best part.

This recipe receives my Asparagus Soup seal of Sustainability (but you still have to use local onions, organic sugar, and local, grass-finished beef).

Day 14 - Raisin Bran, Nachos, Esik-fleisch

Breakfast was Post Raisin Bran in non-fat milk again. After the box is done, I'm buying organic raisin bran, alright? I am still deciding what type of milk is the best until I am able to get organic, raw milk from grass-fed cows (doesn't that sound dreamy?), milk I need to get my hands on. Currently, I'm looking into Organic Pastures, but I haven't figured out how to get it without walking into Whole Foods (aka whole paycheck) or ordering it by UPS. We'll see.

I bought lunch in the cafeteria. Today's vegetarian option was nacho chips with beans, salsa, cheese, and sour cream. It's not really okay, but I'm trying to get breakfast and dinner going smoothly before I begin packing my own lunches. At least the cafeteria lunch is pretty natural.

For dinner, we heated up leftover esik-fleish (I'll explain in a minute) over Manishewitz egg noodles with a romaine-based salad on the side. I topped the salad with Miso, Ginger & Wasabi salad dressing.

Now, esik-fleisch. My mother got the recipe orally from her mother, who heard it from her mother, and so on and so forth. I know it tasted great, but "Da !@#$ am I eating?".  I'm posting the recipe so you can get an idea of what I'm talking about, but what does the word even mean? "Fleisch" is German for meat (I don't think it's a stretch from "fleisch" to "flesh"), but I've had some trouble finding a definition for "esik". According to Yiddish Dictionary Online, "esik" translates to vinegar, but as there's no vinegar in the recipe, I'm inclined to think that "esik" can be more loosely translated as sour. Restaurant Pasternak in Berlin, Germany defines the dish as "stewed pieces of beef in sweet-sour cream and plum-sauce", so sour could be an appropriate word. All I know is it tastes amazing. Get your grass-fed beef, organic sugar, and local onions out for this.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Day 13 - Eggs, Pizza, Chicken

I tried to make two (organic) eggs sunny side up, but soon after cracking the eggs into way more butter than I needed, I burst both yolks. What I ended up with was scrambled eggs, except the whites were cooked a little longer, and the whole glop never became properly scrambled. After sprinkling with salt & pepper, laying between two fat slices of leftover Semi-Freddi's challah, and taking the first bite I immediately called them "eggs of the gods", they looked and tasted so good. 

Unbelievable what you can discover by accident. Apparently, I didn't come up with the concept, however. In perhaps one of the most magnitudous coincidences of culinary history, I discovered while reading March 2009 GQ (p.202), that this is the way eggs are supposed to be scrambled: too much butter, break the yolks in the pan, don't mix too much, and then sprinkle with salt & pepper.

I'm still taking credit.

I followed with a less eventful lunch: Trader Joe's Tomato & Pesto Pizza, a dish that cannot be considered environmentally friendly by any account, but I'm only 13 days in, so there's still a lot of food to eat up. If it's not green, but still healthy, and we've bought it already, I'm not doing any service by throwing it away. I will call this the first amendment to my Food Policy.

Dinner lies in the future. We're planning on heating up chicken sczheczwan by some no-name frozen foods brand. It too is protected by the first amendment. I am not exactly eating any chemicals today, so my daily "Da !@#$ am I eating?" shout out goes to chicken broth, what I can consider the most processed ingredient in the frozen chicken dish.

To make chicken broth yourself, you basically just simmer chicken meat in water, until the flavor comes out. It has more water than chicken stock, but is otherwise similar. The packaged stuff, like Swanson Broth is pretty much the same, except they use massive vats, useless scraps of bones and meat, and coagulants to clean out sediment. Swanson even offers organic chicken broth, but if you need to use broth for a recipe, it is better to make it yourself.

In other news, after 16 years, I've decided to get rid of our garage fridge-freezer unit, hopefully this spring. Also, this Wednesday we are picking up our first CSA box delivery, so expect more news on that.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Day 10 - Eggs, Waffle, Pasta

I didn't eat breakfast today. Or lunch.
OK, fine. I ate brunch.

At Holder's Country Inn, I ordered poached eggs, whole wheat toast, waffle, and fruit. Yeah. It was a big meal. I'm pretty sure the only thing organic/local (O/L) was the organic maple syrup from Lucky I snuck in. But even that was from a supermarket (sorry I.e). I'm learning that most restaurants are not effective food mediums for the good stuff.

Speak of the devil: we ate dinner out too, at Frankie, Johnnie, and Luigi Too, an Italian place. I ordered fettucini (with salmon, spinach, tomatoes, and alfredo). I actually made almost the exact same dish last year, so I'm not sure why I went out to eat. For dessert, I picked up a slice of extremely decadent chocolate cake from Draeger's, this gourmet supermarket. With the cake, I drank multiple glasses of nonfat milk.

Unfortunately, since I really do not know what was in any of my food today, because I did not make it, I'm finding it difficult to even do a "Da !@#$ am I eating?" So I'll make lemonade out of these lemons. Da !@#$ is nonfat milk? I mean, last time I checked, you can't just take stuff out of food and not replace it, right? So what do they put in nonfat milk?

Right. Apparently, the only thing added to nonfat milk is vitamins A&D. On a related topic, because there is less fat, there's more protein; but on the other hand, the fat is probably good for us (why else would it be in there?), so it's not clear what reason there is to drink nonfat milk rather than whole milk. Except that the nutrinionists reccommend it, and that's not a reason at all, considering that it was nutritionism that put us in this bloody situation in the first place.
Let's look at the numbers: say people have been drinking milk for anywhere between 5 and 8 millenia, which is what scientists estimate, based on the evolutionary adaptations we have developed to drinking milk. For at least 5 to 8 millenia of those 5 to 8 millenia, humans drank whole milk. Why should we change that practice now?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Day 9 - Cereal, PB&A, Corned Beef

I know, I know. Cereal? That breaks at least 3 rules, right? (Actually, I.b, I.c, II.a, II.e, just off the top of my head.)
The cereal in question is none other than Post Raisin Bran. And the way I justify it is that it's from whole grain, and I use to have cereal everyday, so I'm not about to stop now. Just have less of it, and have better cereals. Small steps, I always say.

For lunch, I was in a rush, and I couldn't find anything great in the house, so I had a sliced conventional apple topped with organic peanut butter from Trader Joe's. What was particularly great about this particular butter of nuts is the fact that it has one ingredient: peanuts. That's it. Just organic peanuts, unblanched, unsalted, and unadulterated. Oh, and tasty too.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day (I'm not Irish or even remotely related to Irish, but I am American), we ate Meal Mart corned beef on dutch crunch rolls (from Le Boulanger) with Gulden's Spicy Brown Mustard. As sides we had a bright orange heirloom tomato and boiled cabbage with lemon. Probably should not have had such a meat-centric meal, but it's St. Patty's Day (and it tasted really good). In the corned beef was sodium erythorbate, something I could not honestly describe to you, which bring us to "Da !@#$ am I eating?"

Sodium erythorbate- a salt of sodium and erythorbic acid. Used in processed meat, as well as in soft drinks. Keeps meat pink, improves flavor stability and prevents the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines. Produced from sugars in plants rich in sugar, like cane, beets, and corn.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Day 8 - Bagel, Flatbread, Blintzes

I have on days and off days. Today, I'd say I tended to lean towards an off day.

For breakfast, I had a toasted onion bagel with plain cream cheese. Except for some obvious basics, like flour, onion, milk, and cultures, I don't actually know what was in the food.

For lunch, I had half of this bake-it-yourself tomato and basil flatbread from the freezer section at Trader Joe's. I had the ingredients, but I threw the box out and I don't really feel like running to the curb to get it back from the recycling bin. Before eating, I did make sure I recognized everything, which I did. Tasted pretty good, ahaha.

For dinner, I started with a salad with romaine lettuce, cherry tomatoes, steamed asparagus tips (leftover from my cream of asparagus soup, the recipe of which I got from a vegetarian cookbook), cucumber slices, and a oriental vinagrette. As a main course, I ate cheese blintzes from the frozen kosher section at Lucky. Seeing as they had quite a lot of stuff no-go on my diet (for instance, enriched wheat flour, modified corn starch, locust bean gum, and others), I am now inspired to make my own. I found a recipe in a Jewish American cookbook for blintz loaf, so hopefully I'll make that in the next couple of weeks.

Anyways, my mentioning locust bean gum brings us to the first daily segment, "Da !@#$ am I eating?":
locust bean gum- a polysacharide (a long chain made of sugars) made of the sugars galactose and mannose. It is extracted from the endosperm of the seeds of the carob tree Ceretonia siliqua, which grows in Mediterranean countries.
  • The ancient Egyptians used locust bean gum to bind the wrapping of mummies.
  • In more recent times is is used as a thickener in salad dressings, cosmetics, sauces, as an agent in ice cream that prevents ice crystals from forming, and as a fat substitute.
  • In pastry fillings, it prevents "weeping" (syneresis) of the water in the filling, keeping the pastry crust crisp.

Food Policy - The Rules

I.        Eat Food
a.       Don’t eat anything your great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.
One:         Don’t eat anything incapable of rotting.
b.      Avoid foods products that contain ingredients which
One:          are unfamiliar;
Two:         are unpronounceable;
Three:    are more than five in number;
Four:        or include high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
c.       Avoid food products that make health claims.
d.      Shop the peripheries of the super market, rather than the middle.
e.      Actually, just get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
One:         Shop farmers’ markets and find community-supported agriculture (CSA) box service.

II.      Mostly Plants
a.       Eat mostly plants, especially leaves
b.      Meat should be a side-dish or a flavoring for a plant meal.
c.       You are what you eat eats too.
One:         Buy good meat in bulk and keep it in a separate freezer
Two:         Good meat means chickens were “pastured” and beef was “grass-finished”
d.      Eat like an omnivore (vary the species in your food)
e.      Eat well grown food from healthy soils
One:         Organic or its un-USDA approved equivalents from local farms
f.        Eat wild foods when you can
g.       Be the kind of person who takes supplements (except you don’t have to take supplements)
h.      Eat more like the French. Or the Italians. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks.
One:         That is, subscribe to culinary practices based on culture and tradition
i.         Regard nontraditional foods with skepticism
j.        Don’t look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet
One:         The diet is greater than the sum of its parts
k.       Have a glass (about 1) of wine with dinner

III.    Not too much
a.       Pay more, eat less
One:         Don’t go back for seconds. Hara hachi bu: Eat until you are 80% full.
b.      Eat meals. Don’t snack.
c.       Do all your eating at a table.
d.      Don’t get your fuel from the same place a car does.
e.      Try not to eat alone.
f.        Consciously consult your gut.
g.       Eat slowly
One:         As in literally, and as in Slow Food, rather than Fast Food.
Two:         Say a blessing before and after every single meal or snack.
h.      Cook, and if you can, plant a garden

April 16th Update: If you think you still don't know what "real food" is, see here.