Be the Change You Want to See

The 2016 Rio Olympics are over.  I know a lot of people just don’t care about sports, but I love them.  I know a lot of people think there are more important things in the world.  Of course there are.  There are floods in Louisiana, and the horrible presidential race.  Not to mention the “controversies” of the games themselves.

“Controversies?”  Zika, sewage in the streets, polluted bay, crime.  These things weren’t necessarily controversial until American and European athletes were going to be exposed to them.  The 6.3 million inhabitants of Rio experience these things every day.  Some people argue that a country where about 26 percent of people live below the poverty line shouldn’t spend the money to host the games.  Does that mean that the Olympics should only be held in Europe and North America?  Does that protect poor people from indiscriminate spending, or does it just protect the rest of us from having to see poor people?  The first Brazilian to win a gold medal in these games was Rafaela Silva, a judo athlete from a dangerous favela.  Would her victory have had the same meaning in Paris or Los Angeles?

If you missed the opening ceremonies, the creative team put together a beautiful production that told the story of how colonialism, slavery, immigration, and climate change have shaped the culture and environment in Brazil.

What does all this have to do with you?  Or food?  A lot, it turns out.  If you found yourself offended or inspired by reports of the conditions in Rio de Janeiro, try making these 4 easy changes to reduce your negative impact on the world.

Use Less Plastic

Use reusable bags when you grocery shop (including produce bags).  Don’t buy plastic water bottles or other disposable plastic items.  Reuse any plastic things you do have as many times as possible.  It’s easy to forget that plastic is a petroleum product, and its manufacture and use contributes to global warming.  Plastics are also a big part of the litter problem is most places.  Plastics don’t break down in the environment, and are very hard to recycle.  Avoid them as much as possible.

Buy Local, In Season Food

Check the labels on the things you buy in grocery store, or visit your local farmer’s market.  Most food travels 1500 miles before we buy it.  This contributes to global climate change.  Also, many poor countries destroy their forests and other natural habitats in order to plant commodities to export to other countries.  The destruction leads to climate change, species extinction, and the loss of local economies.  Remember the story of the Irish potato famine, where crops were being exported while an entire population starved because their staple crop failed?  That’s still happening all over the world.  Local food systems help everyone stay fed.

Eat Less Meat

Meat production is very labor and resource intensive.  The food system is responsible for a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, and livestock production is responsible for 80% of that.  In addition, forests are often clear-cut to make room for grazing land, further contributing to the damage.

Reduce Food Waste

Food waste costs the average American family $1500 per year.  Plan your meals and shopping trips.  Check the refrigerator and pantry before shopping.  Learn to decipher “best buy” labels. (Hint: they’re mostly lies.)  Learn to use less than perfect produce.  (Yes, a post is coming, but you can get started today.)  When you toss out food from your refrigerator, you’re also tossing all the water, fertilizer, and other inputs that went into producing that food.

Do you have other ideas for reducing your negative impact in the world?  How about improving your positive impact?  Did you take anything else from watching the 2016 Rio games?  Leave a comment!

The Hard Way

Often, when people are having difficulty with their health (or anything) that needs work, they’ll say the tasks or changes are too “hard.”

“Eating right is so hard.”

“Going to the gym is so hard.”

“I’ll just make Timmy a separate dinner every night for the rest of our lives, because getting him to eat regular food is too hard.”

Seriously?  Cooking two (or more) dinners every night for your whole life is EASIER!?  Your definition of easy is sure different from mine.

Yeah, the gym is hard.  I’ll give you that one.  But making dinner doesn’t really take any longer than the drive-through.  Especially if you just make the one dinner.

So, is eating right, or having your family eat the same meal together really easier?  Or is it just quieter?

Now, I understand that quiet is a unique and beautiful resource, especially in a family or household situation.  But is it worth sacrificing your family’s health?

When your little one (or big one) throws tantrums at the mere site of green food, it’s easier to just give them some nuggets and restore peace and quiet.  Right?  What about next time?  Oh wait, you won’t have a next time, because you’ll spend the rest of your life making two dinners.

And what did your little one get?  Bad nutrition, and a round about lesson in shutting the hell up.

Was that what you meant to teach them?

How often do you tell your kids to shut up?

Not often, I hope.

But how do you think they feel when you shut them up with food, or toys, or busy activities?  How do you really feel when you shut yourself up with food, or alcohol, or busy activities?

Sure, it’s nice and quiet.  But what are you teaching them?  Let them know that a tantrum isn’t going to change the food on the table, and that you’re just trying to give them the best food you can.  Let them know they don’t have to eat it.  They’re entitled to their opinions, if they’re expressed politely.  And we’ll listen.  Politely.  And sometimes, you might have nuggets, and a side of broccoli, and some peace and quiet.

Do you use food or busy work to shut yourself up?  Your kids?  Did your parents do it to you?  Leave a comment!

stfu

 

‘Round the Way

 

Link round up time!  Here are some things that caught my eye the past few weeks that I thought I’d share with you guys.

First, a podcast about dealing with the hormonal effects of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS is an often painful condition that can cause fatigue and weight gain, and is associated with insulin resistance.  This podcast from Eat to Perform discusses some coping mechanisms and the importance of sleep and exercise in dealing with this condition.

Depression is a depressingly common problem (see what I did there).  Most everyone will struggle with it at some point in life, and one of the most effective non-medical treatments is exercise.  But if you’ve ever been depressed, you know that even getting out of bed can be a struggle.  Putting on workout clothes, being in public, and then showering can be impossible.  This post puts some perspective on the issue, and offers lots of advice for moving when you’re too depressed to move.

Think canned salmon is for 50’s housewives?  Think again.  Check out this story about the insanely sustainable fishery in Bristol Bay, Alaska, and how buying their canned salmon helps preserve both the species and the local culture.  Also, there are seriously places in NYC where people pay for a spread of canned fish?  I didn’t realize I was a Green Acres-style yokel until I read that.  Don’t know what to do with canned salmon.  I got you here.

Lastly, some schools and nutrition educators are using colorful cartoons to get kids to eat more fruits and veggies.  Count Chocula’s known this for years, but broccoli’s just catching up.

 

 

Gone Fishin’

So, you’ve decided to increase your Omega-3 intake, but you go to the store, and wild caught salmon costs the same as a month’s worth of day care, and it kind of seems like it’s worth it for your kid to forego that brain food.  That’s what she goes to day care for anyway, right?  Here are a couple of recipes using canned salmon.  Still look for wild caught, and know that the Sockeye fisheries in Alaska are sustainable, and support Native Alaskan cultures.  A skin-on, bone-in brand like Natural Sea is healthier.  I usually take the skin off, but leave the bones in (the canning process cooks and softens them.  You can break them easily with your fingers, or take them out). Eat on.

Salmon Salad

1 can (14 oz) salmon

1/2 red onion

2 Tablespoons chopped pickles or relish (sweet or not, up to you)

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Mix it all together, season with salt and pepper.  Put it on toast, or crackers, or salad, or whatever you do with tuna salad.

 

Salmon Cakes

This is something my dad used to make all the time.  And listen Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong.

1 can (14 oz) salmon

2 cups mashed potatoes (use whatever leftovers you have)

1/2 red onion

2 Tablespoons oil

Mix the salmon, mashed potatoes, and red onion in a bowl, using your hands or a potato masher.  Season with salt and pepper.  Shape into patties about the size of the palm of your hand.  Heat a pan over medium heat and add the oil. Carefully place the salmon cakes in the oil.  Don’t crowd the pan, you may have to do multiple batches.  Cook, without disturbing, for about 4-5 minutes, or until brown.  Flip carefully with a spatula.     Cook for another 3-4 minutes, or until brown.  If the cakes start to fall apart, add a little more oil to the pan, and let them get a good crust on the bottom.  Serve with a salad or veggies on the side.

Teach Your Children Well

I recently got to hear Chef Jacques Pepin speak here in Austin.  (I ❤ tiny old men.) It was a fun and interesting question and answer session, facilitated by his daughter, Claudette.  I learned a lot, but the moment that connected to me most was when Claudette read a question about how to get kids to eat new foods.  Claudette said she encourages her daughter to eat a variety of foods, and uses the “all, some, meh” approach.  Eat all the veggies and some of the meat on the plate, and anything else is up to you.  “I don’t do the clean plate club, though,” she said.  Chef Pepin threw his hands in the air.  “Eh, you eat what’s on the table,” he said in his thick French accent.

I work with teenagers, young adults, and young families with children.  This question comes up all the time.  How do we get our kids to eat something besides nuggets?  Should they clean their plates?  How do we get OURSELVES to eat healthier foods?  All of these questions are based in a few myths about how children eat and learn to eat.  So, let’s explore.

Myth #1 – “My kid only eats nuggets (or fries, or pizza, or whatever bland brown or white thing), and there’s nothing I can do about it.”

This is the big myth that leads to most of the others.  Starting with the myth that your kids go to the store and buy their own food.  Your three-year old is strong-willed and independent, but not that independent.  If they eat nuggets three times a day, it’s because you give them nuggets.  You need to change your mindset, and take responsibility for the foods you offer.  They (mostly) only  eat the foods you give them at this point.  Which leads to…

Myth #2 – “But what if they starve?”

Humans are magnificent beings, with amazing wills.  As you know, because your little ones (or your big ones, because I know some grown-ass nugget freaks) are throwing fits and refusing to eat.  But the flip side of that is that it’s really hard to starve oneself to death.  Occasionally, you hear of yogis and political prisoners refusing to eat, but they have enlightenment to achieve, or a cause to fight for.  Your toddler’s really not that motivated, or rather, their motivation is to live, not starve themselves.  Offer them a variety of foods (including foods they already like), and let them eat what they want.  Gently encourage them to try new things, but don’t force it.

Myth #3 – “They’re wasting so much food!”

First off, it’s not wasted; it’s an educational opportunity.  Studies have shown that it can take 10 to 50 (fifty!) exposures to a new food before a child will try it.  (Think about how many it might take for an adult with “fully developed” preferences!) That’s not even times putting the food in their mouths.  It’s times seeing the food.  But cooks often give up serving something new after three tries.  I know rejection’s hard, but keep trying.  Second, serve less.  Especially when you’re introducing new things.  Serve something familiar and liked, and also serve a vegetable.  Maybe only a teaspoon full.  Let the child decide what, and how much, to eat from the plate.  Just keep trying.

Myth #4 – “Kids HATE vegetables!”

Do they?  Do they really?  Take your kid to the produce section.  Take YOURSELF to the produce section.  Honestly, how often do you go there, and really look around, with an open mind?  Look at all the colors!  Smell the smells!  Is there something new on the shelves?  Let your children pick out a fruit or vegetable each week.  Find a recipe online.  Hate it?  Try a new recipe.  Scared of wasting food and money?  See Myth #3.

Myth #5 – “I only eat nuggets and soda, but I want my kids to be healthier than me, so I’m going to make them eat healthy food.”

No, you are not.  If you’re concerned about your kids’ health, you need to set an example.  This also applies to your friends, relatives, and significant others whose health you’re concerned about.  One, you can’t make anyone eat anything they don’t want to.  (Cue screaming three-year old.)  Two, you need to set the example.  Your kids want to be like you.  If you want them to try new things, and eat healthy food, you need to do the same.  Hate vegetables?  See myths 3 and 4.  You can grow and learn together.  It’ll be fun.  Mostly.  Put a vegetable on everyone’s plate every time you eat.  When I was a kid, we always got fast food to go, and when we got home, my mom would open a can of veggies to go with our burgers and fries.  Commitment.

Is it easy to raise kids who eat healthy food?  Maybe not, but there’s not much easy about raising kids.  Change your mindset, and don’t buy into the belief that kids (or reluctant adults) don’t enjoy fruits, veggies, and other healthy choices.  It’s worth the extra time and effort to cultivate healthy, adventurous eaters.

Can you think of other myths you were told about eating or feeding your children?  Do you have great eaters you want to brag on?  Leave a comment!

 

Salad days are here again

Technically, most salad greens are in season in the winter, but we live in a wondrous world of greenhouses and grocery stores, where lettuce abounds year ’round.  Most of us probably think of summer as salad season because of all the other great produce that’s at it’s best now.  And also, it’s nice to make a meal that doesn’t involve heating up the kitchen in hundred degree heat.  Of course, you could open a bag of “America Mix”, and throw a couple of cherry tomatoes on top, and drown it in ranch (mmmm, sour milk with MSG and herbs).  But please don’t, especially if that salad is a meal.  Don’t make sad meals.

garde manger week 3 018

“Salad days are here again as the summer evening flows….”That’s how it goes, right?

The Base

Typically, this is where that bag of ‘Murica mix comes in.  Try branching out with other leaves.  Spring mix or spinach are a good jumping off point.  Dark leafy greens like collards and kale stand up really well to heavy dressings (and can be dressed up a day ahead of time, usually).  Feel free to mix in some iceberg or romaine for crunchiness.

Also, lettuce does not a salad make.  Tomatoes, grains, and herbs make awesome salad bases.  Don’t forget beans.  What’s easier than opening a few cans of beans, adding some chopped veggies and lemon juice, and stirring it up?  Not much, and the kids can help.  They like to stir shit.

Crunch

One of the most important things in making a salad interesting is texture.  Add some nuts, toasted bread, tortilla chips, or other veggies.  That’s what the cabbage and carrots are for in that salad mix.  Radishes, onions, and apples are also good choices.

Fat

Did you know that fat helps you absorb vitamins A and D?  Adding fat to your salad in the form of avocado, grilled meat, or oil in the dressing is essential to getting the most nutrition out of the meal.  Because you’re not just eating salad for fun.

Dressing

Honestly, I don’t care much about dressing.  In fact, there was a time in my life when I regularly ate dry salad with my fingers while driving the 91 freeway between work and culinary school.  (Yeah, that’s what I existed on in culinary school.  Next time someone tells you they’re a cook, make them some food.)  Anyway, put down that bottle of hidden valley high blood pressure, and dress your own greens.

This is another place where balance is key.  Bitter or spicy greens are great with vinaigrette dressings.  Heavy, creamy dressings, like ranch or Caesar, are best on crisp greens like iceberg or romaine.  Young leafy greens (baby kale, mustard, or collard) can be dressed with a simple oil and vinegar mixture, but their grown up counterparts need a little more love.  You can massage them with vinegar or lemon juice and let them sit for an hour or so before serving.  You can also toss them with Caesar or other dressing the day before serving (keep your other goodies on the side until you need them).

 

salad days zeppelin

May your salads be as gorgeous as young Zeppelin.

 

 

Dress you up in my love

I hate recipes, but here are some anyway.  I’ll do anything to get you to eat salad.

Basic Vinaigrette

1 cup oil (olive is always a good choice, but any neutral oils will do.)

1/2 cup acid (lemon or other fruit juice or vinegar)

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk the mustard and acid together, then add the oil slowly while whisking.  Season with salt and pepper.  If you don’t care if your dressing separates more, just pour all the ingredients in a bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it up.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups, and keeps for a few weeks in the fridge.

 

Ranch

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup milk

1 Tablespoon vinegar

3 Tablespoons dried herbs (dill, basil, oregano, whatever’s in your pantry.  Dill is the traditional flavor)

1 teaspoon sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together.  If it’s too thick, add a little more milk.  If it tastes bland, add a little more salt.  Makes about 1 1/2 cups and keeps a week or two in the fridge.

 

Caesar

1 egg yolk

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Juice of one lemon

1 tube of anchovy paste (1.5 oz), or 6 anchovies, smashed with the back of a knife (yeah, that’s what Caesar is made of)

1 1/2 cup olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

Whisk together the egg yolk, mustard, and lemon juice.  Add the anchovy paste and mix well.  Slowly add the olive oil while whisking.  (Or add a little oil, whisk thoroughly, and repeat until all the oil is incorporated.)  If it’s too thick, slowly add a 1/4 cup of water, making sure to whisk well.  Season with salt and pepper, and mix in the Parmesan cheese.  Makes 1 1/2 cups and keeps for a week in the fridge.