My Cooking Culture

george-chochran-shoot-086.jpgMy Cooking Culture

We lived all over the world, moving about every 3 years to another place on the planet. From Morocco to Spain, Canada to Japan with a few of the United States in between.

My father is an avid gardener; we used to joke about having a corn field in our back yard no matter where we lived. Fresh snow peas were the gardeners treat. They got eaten in the garden and never quite made it to the table. I used to eat snow peas instead of potato chips. After school, I would head to the garden and sneak a few off the vines then help my dad after work with weeding and tying vines to eat more.october-15-2011-farmers-market-015.jpg

To this day, I love garden grown green beans and home-grown tomatoes seem to be better than anything you can buy at a store.

My mom is Canadian; grew up in Nova Scotia where they grew a lot of their food. She fed us with garden grown fresh foods, or frozen. She tried cans on us once and we rejected them as repulsive so she didn’t try that again.

In the foreign countries, mom always managed to hire a native cook to prepare meals for us a few days a week. My parents made sure no matter what country we lived in, we learned about the culture, food and language. When we lived in Japan, the family that lived behind us was the same size. The mom there and my mom made great friends with each other. On Wednesday night, they would each prepare a full meal for the family, put it on trays; walk out the back door and swap meals. They got a traditional American/Canadian meal and we got a traditional Japanese meal. I loved it! My dad, not so much.

Imagine, from my Dad’s point of view, the aroma of pan-fried pork chops, green beans and mashed potatoes with gravy wafting through the air. Ah, the smell of the roasting garlic whetting the appetite. The coming to the table and finding plates of various sushi, rice, miso soup and tofu with cucumber seaweed salads. Surprise!

We have always eaten a ton of fresh vegetables, local meats and foods. What is horribly frustrating is seeing the decline in the quality of our food supply. In addition to the decline in quality, there is also the fact that so many people really don’t know what they’re eating, or how to eat well or make good food choices.

This is where I want to make a difference!

My dad, who is 87, still grows a garden and has the best tomatoes in the world. He also makes a terrific gyoza, thanks to “Mamasan’s” recipe.

Final Harvest!

Final Harvest!

I am one of the lucky ones. My parents didn’t take us to McDonald’s. Even though as kids we begged for it. I remember looking at the McDonald’s signs and noticing how the numbers of how many hamburgers they sold kept increasing. (Yes, they kept count in the early days!) I wondered if I would ever be lucky enough to be part of that statistic. Then came the day when the signs changed to “millions served” now it might be “billions served”. Yes, I finally got one. They must have, among other things in this category, the worst bread on the planet.

My son used to say my meals were always the same: 1 starch, 1 or two vegetables (1 always green), and a protein with a sauce of some kind. I have to admit it is a type of formula.

Today my Typical Dinner Consists of:

1 Green vegetable (1 cup)

Leafy greens, broccoli, cabbages, peas, any variety of beans, snow peas, there are so many! If you’re not familiar, pick something you don’t know, ask about it, look up recipes on the internet and play with cooking it.

Fresh picked kale

Fresh picked kale

1 Vegetable of another color (1/2 cup)

Any veg that is not green, peppers, onions, cauliflower, squashes, this is to make the plate visually interesting and it also adds a punch of nutrition!

Corn Crusted Grouper

Corn Crusted Grouper

Grain or starch of some kind (1/2 to 1 cup)

Whole grains like brown rice, exotic rice, lentils, beans, potatoes, sweet potatoes, barley, millet, mung beans, quinoa, farro, cous cous. I love how much the level of choice in this category has grown. There is so much more than just rice and potatoes.

1 High quality protein – not always animal based (4-6 ounces)

Guidelines for animal proteins:
  • No beef
  • No pork (but I love bacon! ) 😉
  • No farm raised fish except catfish or trout
    • No Tuna, Sea Bass or Redfish

Note: we no longer eat any fish from the Pacific ocean.

  • Organic poultry
  • Organic eggs
  • Organic Dairy

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

    Multi colored Carrots (I bought these!)

1 Sauce (1-2 ounces)

Can be made from de-glazing the pan or reserved cooking liquids or stock or vinaigrette. This provides a bit of moisture and can add another dimension of flavor. I avoid using fat and flour thickeners and cornstarch. Instead I thicken by reduction (enhances flavor), adding mustard or miso which also contribute to flavor.

1 Side dish of raw vegetable salad (1/4 -1/2 cup)

This can be a green salad, carrot salad, cucumber, onion, Caesar, or lightly blanched vegetable and may contain a fermented/ pickled vegetable like pickled beets, cauliflower or onions. A homemade vinaigrette dressing, sometimes lemon juice and olive oil and cracked black pepper.

Anaida's Beans

Anaida’s Beans

This side does not need to be a big portion. 1/4 to 1/2 cup is a typical serving.  It can be used as a palate cleanser between tastes on the main plate.

Lunches:

Sandwiches with a chip and pickle of some kind. I’m working on improving the chip option but I really am fond of a handful of chips with a sandwich. I’m trying nori chips and kale chips. . . I may still go back to potato once in a while.

Light bits of left over dinner

Soup with good bread (I’ve made the bread we eat in the house for the past 10+ years)

Noodle stir fry

Grill pan dinner“Ploughman’s lunches” using what we have on hand

Vegetable Sushi

Breakfast:

On our own for breakfast. Most of the time I’ll grab something with protein.

This meal is usually quick , easy and light. Unless it’s oatmeal.

What we always have on hand:

Buy Organic whenever possible

Chicken stock, 1/2 & 1/2 for morning beverages and sometimes chai, fat-free milk, fresh greens, eggs, fruit, tetra-pac tomatoes, variety of beans, canned and dried, various rice and grains, legumes and potatoes. We will keep a stock of chicken and sometimes fish in the freezer for meals during the week.

I shop whenever we need fresh vegetables; I try to use fresh vegetables over frozen.

I leave processed foods on the shelf and process my own condiments, pickles and breads.

That’s it! My cooking culture, in a nutshell. A bit of many cultures rolled into a multitude of meals.

I believe everyone should be able to make healthy food choices and healthy food should be affordable and available to all.

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

Strawberry Rhubarb Oatmeal Hemp Seed Crisp

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Learning to Love Yourself

Hearts in the snowLoving ourselves isn’t always easy.

Most of us don’t treat ourselves as if we even like ourselves let alone love ourselves.

We find ourselves running around doing things for others, our friends, family, children, spouses and fall short on finding time for ourselves. The scary part is being alright with no time for yourself.

When do we pay attention to ourselves, it’s usually a comment directed to a reflection in a window or mirror.

“Ugh, I need to lose weight; hate my hair, my thighs are fat, wish I had clear skin or straight hair or better sense of fashion.”

“Why am I short, tall or why does my top ride up over my backside like that? One day you’ll start exercising, look at that belly!. . .” and the messages go on and on, continually.

It makes no wonder so many have self-esteem and confidence problems!

The first step we need to do in order to accept ourselves just the way we are is to  take a look at what is in your heart.

Most of us are kind, loving human beings who choose to do the best we can as we go along.

Take a deep breath. Try to listen to your heart and recognize that feeling. Pour the same love you have for your spouse and children all over yourself.

How does that feel?

Can you allow yourself to feel good and wonderful from receiving love from your own self?

Why are we surprised and flattered when someone expresses interest in us? Why do we wonder why they like or love us? Why can’t we simply accept the feeling and feel like it’s good, deserving and wonderful?

Why do we put ourselves last? We ALL matter, each in our unique way. When we learn to love ourselves, it becomes easier to be happy. It becomes easier to be brighter and as we all know a bright smile and happiness is easy to spread.

When you learn to love yourself and accept who and how you are right now, everything you do from then on will celebrate that.

The food you eat will change to nourishing because you make better choices, you body will change because you choose to take care of it by exercising, your mind will change because you will have lost that negative self talk that poisons everything.

Take 10 minutes, just ten quiet minutes and listen to your heart. You may love people or animals, but accept that you deserve some of that love energy directed at you too. You deserve it, you are worth it.

Look in the mirror and tell yourself: “I am worth it!”

It makes it easier to put that doughnut down and go out for a walk.

Catch yourself next time you find yourself criticizing anything about you. Find one thing you like about yourself at that moment and dwell on that. It could be how fast you got errands done, a good hair day, how you helped someone, anything you feel good about and hold on to that thought and feeling for a few minutes, if you can.

Do not allow any negative self talk, or if only’s or whens. Now. Just now.

So this Valentines Day, whether you have someone else to love or not, take a nice long look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself from your heart, “I Love You”.

  Start there, it’s a good beginning.Rose

Monk Fruit in the Raw VS. Sugar

Monk Fruit In The RawOK, so at the start of every new year, almost everyone says “I’m going to lose weight or get fit” or something. So I decided to see what this zero-calorie Monk Fruit In the Raw “all natural sweetener” is about.

The ingredients are: dextrose, monk fruit extract. In the larger bulk pack, the ingredients were: maltodextrin, monk fruit extract.

I wonder why the difference? I wonder what percentage of dextrose to monk fruit extract am I getting? Theoretically, they could simply add a few drops of the extract to the bin of dextrose and call it Monk Fruit in the Raw, but it is far from raw and since dextrose is the first ingredient, it is also far from being monk fruit.

So, I bought some to explore since I didn’t think the store would appreciate me trying this in the store. I opened a pack and poured it into my hand. I put some in my mouth and tasted it.

Sweet on the front, but it had an odd numbing sensation, slight, but numbing. Then the bitter after taste came on a few minutes after I had finished tasting the newly discovered miraculous ‘have your sweets and no calories too’ monk fruit sweetener. Yuck!

Then I put some in a perfectly good cup of coffee and totally ruined that too.

While the initial taste is sweet, it’s the dry bitterness of dextrose (yes another ‘natural’ sugar) that gets you in the end. Not being a diet soda drinker, I suppose my taste buds are more sensitive to those kind of flavors, but I didn’t like it at all. It actually numbed my taste receptors for a while after I finished  tasting, that I didn’t like at all!

I read the website the claim “Has the least after taste . . .” but whats with that tongue coating effect?

After washing my tongue off and getting it back to normal, I tried the same with a bit of organic sugar. Yup! Pleasure, smooth and sweet.

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl

So what’s the conclusion? Use sugar, just use a lot less. I’m learning to like my tea with no sweetener but Earl Grey really likes a small bit of sugar.
Unless you enjoy the sensation of diet/low-calorie food things in your mouth, stick to using sugar. Train yourself to use less. I know that’s not an option for diabetics., but maybe use the real fruit instead of this processed junk?

The packaging is romantic and describes the ancient history of using monk fruit as a sweet ingredient. I’d bet they didn’t have granulated sugar then either, let alone dextrose or maltodextrin to mix it with. What they used back then is not what is wrapped up so neatly in bright orange packages and presented to you as monk fruit.Monk Fruit In The Raw Packets

And the zero calories? The say on the side of the box that each package contains less than 3 calories per serving which the FDA recognizes as zero calories. But whose counting?

This is my opinion and your tastes and experience may differ. I love that!

Southern Iced Tea

Southern Iced Tea

In My Kitchen, January 2014

Wow! A New Year already and another In My Kitchen Post for January 2014. Shout out to Celia who is the host of this wonderful series!

My kitchen was quite busy in December. This year, I decided to make Spa Baskets for the women of the family and Kitchen Baskets for the families. The spa baskets were such fun! I got to play with making bath fizzies, lip balm, body butters and lotions. I had a blast.

We went to a holiday party where they passed out bags of organic produce as we left.

Burlap potato sacs

Burlap potato sacs

The bags were made of this nifty burlap that make perfect places to store potatoes in the cabinet. I am strangely drawn to them.

Like Joanne in her January INK post, I too got some things to cook hard-boiled eggs in only this package is called “Eggies” while hers are “Easy Eggs”. It doesn’t matter but I haven’t tried them out yet.

Eggies!

Eggies!

Tyler is in my kitchen! I swear he’s grown another inch!

It’s been wonderful to have him home. He goes back to grad school Saturday; we will miss him. Tyler's in the kitchen

In November, I started taking a class on Learning Herbs.

My herbal study nook

My herbal study nook

I got to set up an area just off the kitchen to house all my new ingredients, tools, tinctures and all the great fun stuff needed for the lessons. I really like my little herbal nook.

Tinctures brewing

Tinctures brewing

Spring can’t come too early, I want to plant some herbs!

In my kitchen is an entire drawer devoted to tea.

The Tea Drawer

The Tea Drawer

Since getting the tea pots and cups out of storage, we’ve been making and drinking a lot more tea. I change teapots every week or so. We have two pots brewing almost all of the time. One for regular black tea which gets used mostly for iced tea or the occasional cuppa with a cookie or two.

The other pot is for an herbal tea, kept under a cozy to keep it warm as long as possible. Lately the tea finding its way into the herbal pot is Earl Gray. I love it with a thin slice of lemon and a small bit of sugar, in a china cup , of course. If I could find fresh bergamot, I’d be in heaven.

A student of mine and his wife took a trip to China and brought me back this lovely tin of “Fruit Tea” with the strainer.

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Chinese Fruit Tea, love the label!

Inside the tea looks like diced dried bits of various fruits and roses. It has a delicate sweet taste that is quite pleasant! I put the spent bits of tea out for the birds with their winter food. They like the fruit! Doug told me the tea was for “graceful aging.”

Since we’ve started drinking more tea, I’ve realized a new tea cozy or two would come in handy and have decided to make a couple. I haven’t started that project yet. This morning, I saw the adorable knitted tea cozy on Celia’s IMK post with knitted olives! I know I won’t be that elaborate, or even knitted but I’m looking forward to seeing what happens. I used to quilt and embroider and tailor so who knows what the tea cozies will look like!

Cozy Update: Celia tole me the knitted olive cozy belongs to Glenda! So if you want to see it, go here to check out the neatest cozy! (Sorry Glenda!)

Anyone out there ever make a tea cozy? What do yours look like? Do you have a pattern or tips you can share?

It’s about to get real cold here in the next week. Down to 8°F which to me is unthinkably cold. I’ll be staying in so maybe working on those cozies may come about.

Here’s to drinking more tea!
Chinese Fruit Tea

Chinese Fruit Tea

Keep comfortable where ever you are.

I’m ready for a great new year, how about you?

10 Thoughts on 2013

Here are 10 thoughts on the passing of 2013:

1. Truly, what you focus on actually comes to happen. Your thoughts are things and can manifest  that which comes to pass. Be careful. This basic principle has been demonstrated, quite vividly, over and over again, this past year. Good and bad.

When we fill our thoughts with right things, t...

When we fill our thoughts with right things, the wrong ones have no room to enter (Photo credit: symphony of love)

2. Horrible things happen, which have no words to describe, that can break your heart into a million pieces. And in spite of being broken into a million shards, you still have to carry on, smile and be pleasant. It’s not fair, it’s not right and it’s so hard.

3. I’m glad to see 2013 come to an end. I’m ready for a new year. It’s become very clear to me that I want my own business again. That happening is very exciting to me! Hum, What will it be? There are so many possibilities and that’s exciting!

4. Having something to do that you believe in is crucial to a happy life. It’s essential. Without it, life would be shallow, meaningless, hopeless, who wants that?

I love teaching and being around young adults entering the workforce. The energy that comes from my students is an amazing force. There is hope for the world.

5. Doing things for others outside of yourself does amazing things to the soul. Random acts of kindness, volunteer at a hospital or assisted living home, homeless shelter, or  food bank. Count your blessings and give generously in return. Giving generously does not always mean money. Time and talent are commodities greatly needed. A little goes a long way. Once you start doing this, it becomes addictive and you won’t want to stop. I double dog dare you to try it!

6. Sometimes it’s just easier to give up and walk away. If it’s worthwhile, it will come back in a different, less stressful form. Stop fighting and wrestling with things. If it’s giving you a hard time, put it down and walk away. When you return, it will either be gone, calmer, seen from another perspective. Whether it’s installing a cabinet shelf, or a heated discussion with someone or anything at all. “Know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away. . .”

7. Loving someone does not mean they will love you back. You have to be OK with that. You cannot control anyone else’s emotions. Love fully anyway, love always returns, not through the same path sometimes, but it always comes back to you. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you love them, especially your parents and children, husband or wife.

8. You have no influence over what other people say or think about you; so don’t listen. Live your life anyway and have less and less to do with negative people. Get rid of Debbie downer, negative nanny, picky Paul, nasty Nancy, you get the idea. You can choose not to be around those who criticize your every move. To hell with them anyway, they are the ones who would keep you from reaching your goals. There isn’t time for that so  don’t give them any energy. As the British said “Keep Calm and Carry On.”

9. Take a deep breath and know that everything, sooner than later, will pass. Then take another d e e p breath, and let it out very    s l o w l y.

10. Even in the face of adversity, try to find the light. It may be hard, but it is always there, somewhere. Focus on the outcome and what you can do to achieve it. You can always ask, “What am I doing to contribute to this situation?”

The answer to that question will amaze you.

Another approach to dealing with adversity is to take on the perspective of considering yourself the source. With that perspective in mind, what would, could or should  or will you do?

Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to ... So it is with these thoughts, I step into creating the vision of where I want to go for the next year.

This next year is going to be exciting and vibrant.

I am looking forward to a better year in 2014.

 

Thanks for All The Fish

I am going on an alarming rant here, about the condition of the oceans and the fish that swim in them. This is a very sobering situation and it seems there are only a few people talking about this.

It is stated that the entire Pacific Ocean will be completely contaminated with radiation by 2016.

Let that sink in. By 2016, if not sooner.

We should all be very alarmed.

Fukushima has always been a world issue but only a few dedicated heroic Japanese are working non-stop to solve the problem. The brains of the world should step in and assist in trying to figure out what should and could be done.

However, I feel it is already far too late to save the food we get from the oceans. The blue fin tuna being caught off of the California coast are testing positive for radiation.

This is not the radiation we commonly find naturally in food; our bodies have adapted to that. In case you didn’t know, bananas, Brazil nuts have extremely low doses of potassium-40 and we have naturally occurring radiation such as radon and radium. Our bodies have adapted to potassium-40. Potassium does not collect in our bodies, any excess is dumped. And we have adapted our environments to deal with radon.

We are referring to radioactive elements such as cecium-137 which has a half-life of 30 years, and idoine-129 and iodine-131 has a half-life of 8 days as an internal transmitter, while iodine-129 has a half-life of, get this, 15.7 million years. Additionally, Fukushima has dumped radioactive strontium-90 which is also a strong internal transmitter, mimics calcium and collects in bones.

We have not adapted to these elements and they cause cancer. Cecium-137 is hard to avoid due to the environmental and atmospheric  testing of bombs. Cecium-137 enters the body through food and milk. It is chemically similar to potassium and is processed in the body the same as potassium.

Cecium-137 collects in muscles; Iodines in the thyroid and strontium-90 collects in bones. These are not naturally occurring radioactive elements are extremely dangerous. Due to the long half-lives, exposure is cumulative and builds up until one or the other perishes.

Please read this article and series of articles regarding this on the blog Washington’s Post, poke around while you are there and read more.

There are articles, studies and research that back the information up so it’s not just some doomsday freak writing scare tactic articles.

Yes, I’m sure you have heard about the talking heads saying the levels of radiation are harmless and much lower that what we encounter everyday in our natural environments and medical procedures.

To quote the blog “Washington’s Post”

The bottom line is that there is some naturally-occurring background radiation, which can – at times – pose a health hazard (especially in parts of the country with high levels of radioactive radon or radium).

But cesium-137 and radioactive iodine – the two main radioactive substances being spewed by the leaking Japanese nuclear plants – are not naturally-occurring substances, and can become powerful internal emitters which can cause tremendous damage to the health of people who are unfortunate enough to breathe in even a particle of the substances, or ingest them in food or water.

Unlike low-levels of radioactive potassium found in bananas – which our bodies have adapted to over many years – cesium-137 and iodine 131 are brand new, extremely dangerous substances.

And unlike naturally-occurring internal emitters like radon and radium – whose distribution is largely concentrated in certain areas of the country – radioactive cesium and iodine, as well as strontium and other dangerous radionuclides, are being distributed globally through weapons testing and nuclear accidents.

At this point, I’m not sure if there is anything “we” can do except be aware. I predict our time to eat ocean fish from any ocean is limited. In five years, we may not be able to eat any more ocean food.

I went to high School in Tokyo Japan. I still have many friends living there, in Hawaii and Guam. They all express concern and have fears of what the future may bring.

It makes me wonder, would it be safe to live on the coast? Go to the beach? What about walking in the rain?

Life as we know is it going to change. Just as we now bring our own shopping bags as we grocery shop, we’ll need to add a Geiger counter. Hope they make a purse size.

The worlds scientists say it is OK to eat Pacific seafood. Is this to avoid mass panic? Is the issue being glossed over because there isn’t anything anyone can do? What will the future be like in 10 years?

So many questions without answers.

Geiger-Müller radiation detector.

Geiger-Müller radiation detector. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What happens when the safe drinking water supply to a city like Tokyo is contaminated with radiation? Where and how does an entire country get relocated?

#6550 Iodine-131 found in ground water

#6550 Iodine-131 found in ground water (Photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle)

Should we just go on about living as if nothing is happening? What do we do? What will you do?

Imagine future generations saying things like, “Can you believe they used to eat these things?”

All I can say, is I’m glad to have had the chance to eat seafood and enjoy it tremendously. I’ll miss it terribly. Thanks for all the fish!

In My Kitchen October 2013

Last week we were swimming at the lake, today we are wearing light sweaters and sipping hot tea.

Ahh! Welcome Autumn!

After canning my rear end off last month, its nice to look at something other than mason jars and canning pots. I’m quite sure we will enjoy these things come cooler months.

I got to pull some of my china and other “stuff” out of storage and put into use this lovely oil dispenser. Pottery Oil Can

I really like this one. It was hand-made by an artist in Boca Raton, FL. I adore using well made pottery.

Pumpkins and squash fill my counters. Ready to eat this season.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

These various squash found their way into my basket while shopping this weekend.

I love roasting squash and serving it with butter, salt and fresh pepper. Yum.

Yesterday I made Butternut Squash Soup for lunch with Grilled Cheese and Tomato Sandwiches pressed on the Panini press.

We have a lovely pumpkin and fall squash display on the front step.

Stacked Pumpkins on the step

Stacked Pumpkins on the step

I topped one with moss and succulents for accent;

Pumpkin with Moss and Succulents

Pumpkin with Moss and Succulents

we are progressively eating our way through the rest!

While this October edition of In My Kitchen was due a good while back, I’ve been quite busy working on a few things.

For one, I studied my butt off to take the certifying exam for “Certified Dietary Manager” or CDM. I’ve been cramming medical nutritional therapies and medical codes into my head and now that I’ve passed the exam I have more free time to blog.

In My Kitchen now are 6 molds of goat cheese draining,

Goat Cheese Draining

Goat Cheese Draining

2 bread loaves rising, lobster tails, stone crab claws and Mimosa’s for lunch because today is my birthday!

And it’s time to start working on November’s In My Kitchen! Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial, Hosts this wonderful gathering each month. Visit and join in!