Monday, May 31, 2010

Big Salt Wants You!

It's been while since I've gotten on the blog soapbox. It's easier at times to just write about ways to incorporate healthy food into your diet. But whenever I hear that a multinational company is going on an offensive to maintain its false appearance of caring about consumers' health, I need to write a rant.

You've probably been hearing bad things about salt; in the media, from your doctor. But if we buy less salt, then the "poor" companies who produce salt will lose profits. That's why one of the latest grocery trends is to sell you "exotic salts", to make sure you keep buying their product. Even members of my own family, with whom we've discussed the perils of too much sodium in the diet, once again have salt on the table. "It's sea salt! Good for you!"

No salt - other than a very tiny amount each day - is good for you. We don't eat it in nature, it poisons our palate and keeps us coming back for more, and it's everywhere. Unless you make your own food from morning 'til night, do not put salt in your food. I can assure you, it's already there in dangerous amounts. You should consume less than 1 teaspoon total salt each day. All processed foods contain salt, so check your labels. You may be eating far above the recommended total of 1800 mg each day.

But do take a look at this article which exposes the manipulative Cargill company for trying to win back our salty loyalties. Or rather, our pocketbooks. You may recall, this is the same Cargill that tried to defend its honourable reputation after its tainted frozen burgers killed people.

The article
really exposes how the food companies care most about making large profits, and having low expenses: "Making deep cuts in salt can require more expensive ingredients that can hurt sales. ".

The food manufacturers also want to hook you on their products and make sure you cannot ever do without them: “Once a preference is acquired,” a top scientist at Frito-Lay wrote in a 1979 internal memorandum, “most people do not change it, but simply obey it.”

Examples like this one are terrifying; the manufacturer explains how when they remove salt from their food, it turns out to taste horrible: “Salt really changes the way that your tongue will taste the product,” Mr. Kepplinger [V.P. of Kellogg] said. “You make one little change and something that was a complementary flavor now starts to stand out and become objectionable.” Makes you wonder what they are feeding us in those shiny boxes. In my nutrition schooling, we read of lab rats who lived longer off the boxes which processed cereal came in, than actually eating the cereal, where they died within weeks.

Read and be forewarned. I see a not-too-distant future where we are all cultivating our own gardens, and by extension our own true health.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Dish of the Day: One Dish Dinner

Sadly, those of us in Vancouver have suffered recently with some very poor weather. It has been rainy and cold for weeks. It's almost June, but there's been only 3 days of sunny and warm weather (above 19 C). Yes, yes, I know it's been hot out East. Please, please send it our way!

For those of us whose stomachs are linked to the weather, it's not been all about the salads lately, rather the focus is still on warm food. Here's something I threw together the other night which was both quick and nutritious.

One Dish Mac n Cheese

- Boil macaroni in salted water. When five minutes remain in the cooking, add vegetables of your choice (e.g. kale, green peas, green beans, broccoli florets, etc) to the boiling water.
- Drain the dish into a colander
- Add the protein of your choice to the colander (e.g. tofu, cut up wiener, chopped boiled eggs, cubed ham, chopped chicken)
- Into the saucepan from which you drained the pasta, add in a tablespoon of butter and 1/4 cup of whole milk and heat over low heat. Stir in grated or shredded cheese and whisk to combine so it thickens and becomes a cheese sauce.
- Add the drained pasta, vegetables and protein and warm and serve.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Dish of the Day: Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

Look at this sweet little scoop. Pretty in Pink!!

I'm in love with my new Cuisinart compressor ice cream maker, the ICE-50BCC. It makes frozen treats in minutes. We really love our ice cream in this house but it's often so heavy and I assumed too sugary. I wanted to try and make a healthier version. I'm learning, however, that the heavier cream recipes make the more delectable ice creams. Think Safeway ice cream versus Haagen-Dazs. The Safeway stuff is lower in calories, and is much less indulgent-tasting because it's just milk and flavouring. The higher-end ice creams that taste super-creamy and heavy tend to be made with custard. They start off with heavy cream and egg yolks which is slowly cooked and cooled before being made into ice cream. Hence the heavier taste.

I like that creamy mouth-feel, but not the heavy feeling in my stomach afterward. So I'm working on that. I'd like to try keeping in the eggs, but maybe losing all that whipped cream; it's just too rich. Or experimenting with other thickeners, such as seaweed products.

Here is a recipe for a very light and fruity frozen yogurt. I'm going to try it again with a higher fat Greek-style yogurt. I think you can get 12% or higher nowadays and that might make it creamier.

Strawberry Frozen Yogurt
- Take 1 box of strawberries (generally a quart) and slice into small pieces and cover with 1/3 cup of berry sugar (fine granulated).
- Let stand on the counter for about an hour and stir with a spoon occasionally to bring out the juices.
- Then place in food processor with a full tub (e.g. 750 ml) of plain yogurt; NOT non-fat. I used Astro's 7% Balkan yogurt. Puree. Sprinkle in 3 single-serve packages of Stevia, 1/2 tsp ground cardamon and 1 tsp of fresh lemon juice.
- At this point, you can strain through a fine mesh sieve - which I had to do because otherwise this would not all fit into my ice cream maker - to get out the seeds. This takes a long time so be patient.
- Pop it back into the fridge covered in plastic wrap for an hour (or more, the more the better) to chill.
- Put in your ice cream maker and follow directions for frozen yogurt. I'm not going to recommend you pour this into ice cubes or anything - that has never worked for me. Use an ice cream maker for best results.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dish of the Day: Quesadillas

Spring is most definitely here in Vancouver and today actually felt quite summery. The Farmers' Market at Trout Lake was the first to open this weekend; a couple more weeks and the outdoor pools will be open too.

We hit the jackpot at the market this morning. Not only were there herbs aplenty for adding to my newly-planted garden, but a few vendors had brought some fresh produce. We made a melt-in-the-mouth Greek salad for dinner with the juiciest peppers, baby cukes and tomatoes I've tasted in a long time. I had leftover roast chicken and wraps, and a ton of cheese, which meant that quesadillas were inevitable. I try to keep them dry on the inside - adding salsa can make them too wet - and I load them up with toppings on my plate. Here's a quick "recipe":

1. Chop your protein (tofu, chicken, whitefish) into small thin strips. Place these on one half of the wrap.
2. Thinly slice some tomatoes and lay on top of the protein.
3. Sprinkle on chopped green onions, chives or whichever fresh herbs you have.
4. Over top of this all, sprinkle your favourite shredded cheese.
5. Fold the bare half over and place into a non-stick skillet (no oil required).
6. Cover with a lid and leave fro 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
7. Using a large spatula, flip the wrap over in the pan to heat the other side. Replace cover.
8. When you're sure that the cheese has melted and both sides of the wrap are warmed and slightly browned, remove from heat and cut in half (as shown on plate).
9. Serve with guacamole/chopped avocado, sour cream, salsa.