Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Food Safety Bill Passes


The Food Safety Bill (S 510) I wrote about in yesterday's post, passed the Senate today. It needed 50% of the "aye" votes and received 73%. It still has several steps to go before it becomes law, so if there is something you don't like about it, there is still time to let your Representative in the House know about it.

My Take

As for me, I will continue to attempt to read it through (lord help me!), but I do believe I am in support of this bill. When asked today, in the comment section of a CNN article about the passing bill, why I was in support, this is the response I gave:

...As for why I am in support of this, well, that's a really good question. I've gone back and forth for awhile, but when I sat down to actually blog about this yesterday (searching for sustenance) I finally decided I was a "yay".

The funny thing is I am in support with the same opinions as many of the commenters here who are not! Our laws and regulations are out of date and not working - too many infected foods are making it to our plates. We DO need to become more educated consumers, but in the meantime shouldn't there be some sort of protection? I fear, although reading through this small unrepresentative sample of Americans commenting here you would think otherwise, that there is still an INCREDIBLE amount of trust placed in the food industry by the public as a whole. The food industry's job is not our safety, their job is to make money for their company - those are the facts. We need an UNBIASED group to come in and regulate.
I emphasize "unbiased" because I, too, have fears that the FDA may not live up to this lofty ideal, however, does that mean we should leave NO ONE to watch our backs for this lack of trust?? I say NO. I say we demand better of the FDA. I say we make sure that they are TRANSPARENT and understand that they work for us, not for big business.

So, in short, I support it because I think it leans in the right direction. I know, however, that there is still more to be done!
Let's Get To Work!

To continue briefly on that point, I believe one of the places that work needs to be done is on Farm Bill 2012. I got to the game on this Food Safety Bill a little late and have been playing catch up, but this Farm Bill will be getting its update soon. I think it is really important to stay informed and make sure that our representatives and President know exactly how we believe this money (OUR money) should be divvied up to support farms, nutrition programs, forestry, etc. I worry that so many people are going to get caught up in the food safety argument that they might unknowingly turn a blind eye to where the money goes!

I like to pay taxes.  With them I buy civilization.  
~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
I like this quote. Let's just remember that we can control the type of civilization we live in by participating in government when it is something that we hold near and dear to our hearts. To that end, if you did not have the opportunity to check out the website OpenCongress yesterday, I think it is worth a look. It is a non-profit, non-partisan public resource run by the Participatory Politics Foundation. It is truly difficult to get unbiased information these days, even if you are reading my blog you are getting my view of things, so why not check out the primary sources? They aren't always the easiest reads out there, but isn't it better to question primary sources than second and third party interpretations?

Well, I guess without intending it, this post turned into another Take Action Tuesday post! Think about it, share it and get in on the action of the world around you!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Food Safety Day: S. 510

At around 4:00pm (EST) today, the Senate will resume talks about S. 510, more commonly known as The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act. It seems, upon hearing about this bill and what it aims to do, that it should get a very simple thumbs-up. I do not think I am speaking out of turn if I say that we can all agree that something is amiss in food safety regulation in the United States and that whatever litmus test has been used in the past by the FDA is simply not cutting the mustard anymore - it needs modernization. However, the feverish debate over the passage of this bill shows that this may not be as cut and dry as it should be. Those who are in favor of the bill seem to take a stance of, "If this is the best we can get for now, I'll take it," and those who oppose are up in arms about the dramatic effects it will have on small and local farms, saying things like, "This is the end of food as we know it."

From my perspective, at the center of the debate are two virtues that always find themselves amidst all types of turmoil of the human condition: Trust and Money. One is so subjective and personal and the other, well... selective and often discriminatory.


Let me begin with what has been often claimed to be the root of all evil: money. Whether you are talking about big agri-businesses or small local farms, one issue at the center of the debate is cost.
  • How much will it cost those subject to this regulation to bring their business up to snuff with the new hoop they have to jump through? 
  • Will they have to redesign their facilities, hire more staff or purchase different products in their production? 
Obviously, this is something that is going to be a larger burden on a smaller business. Many farmers opt not to be "certified organic" simply because of the cost, even though their product is just as organic as one with the label. This is a choice farmers knowingly make and hope that customers will understand. In terms of an FDA regulation, these same farmers will not be able to opt out of add on costs and hope for understanding... they do it or they are out of business. The evil side of money: IF they do it, they may STILL go out of business due to expense. 


The other 3,000 pound tomato in the room is trust.
  • Who is the FDA?
  • Will the FDA play buddy-buddy with old big-business pals?
  • Has this bill been designed with loopholes for the big businesses to squeeze through in the guise of small business support?
Over the years, I have learned that many of the people behind the acronym FDA were folks who seemed to have a major conflict of interest in their past. Whether they were former employees, current shareholders or just taking a sabbatical from a food industry giant, it seemed once their past was unveiled my suspicion was engaged. So I understand the lack of trust in the FDA. I decided to see if that writing was still on the wall. Upon checking out the current organization of the FDA (this is really a light-handed investigation) I decided to focus on two positions: Director of Food Safety & Nutrition, and the current Commissioner.

Michael M. Landa, J.D., Acting Director of Food Safety & Nutrition Mr. Landa has spent at least the last ten years in the FDA, and many of them focusing on food safety. It seems as though he was a lawyer before that time. I have not been able to find any specific information on the work he did as a lawyer, but on his FDA profile page it does say that he spent at least some of that time as a council for them.

Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D., Commissioner of Food & Drugs Could I biased because she spent some time here in New York? Sure. Anyway, I can't find too much to scrutinize here. She's young and she has a background in medicine. This is helpful for the "drugs" end of the title and when there are outbreaks, but hopefully she is gaining all types of on the job food experience. She also worked in bioterrorism and seems to be quite a go-getter. The fact of the matter is, I don't see any history with any big food businesses!

I am sure there are a ton of other players in the game here. I don't know enough about the food politics to even know what to worry about in terms of who could be the problem, but I feel a little bit better knowing that the coaches of this team weren't trained in some other sport.

As for the loopholes in the bill... well, the real problem is I don't know how one could fix that. It seems as though the amendment to the bill has allowed for some leeway for smaller farms, so one issue being raised is: What's to stop a bigger farm from breaking itself into smaller farms just to take advantage? I don't know - vigilance from the regulators? Educated consumers?  I mean if we make up an amendment for every single "what if" then we will never get passed go on this one.

It is not perfect. I don't think it is horrible either. I think the  new amendment with considerations for the smaller businesses was needed. I think this is a step in the right direction... I hope.

The REAL Problem 
Let's think about it this way. Every single business - big, small, local, whatever - that is in operation right now has some way of making their ends meet (that's why they are in business right now). They each have a system that is working for them to hopefully be making a profit of sorts. Some of those businesses are operating in a way that you or I may completely agree with and some may not - we can agree on that. However, where we may disagree is on which practices are "right" and which are "wrong."

This bill is trying not to determine what is "right" or "wrong," but instead what is safe, but they have to find a way to regulate it. The real problem is uniform measurement/regulation/assessment. I see this problem in education all the time: someone has to decide what to asses, how to asses it and then determine what the consequences are. It is an impossible task to get all parties to agree on what is fair. The food industry is as diverse as the United States' student population and every group has their advocates. I understand this disagreement, but isn't it obvious that our current assessment is failing us?

I think I am leaning toward the "yays", hoping that those farmers in my Farmers Market can make it through, especially those who have bakeries on their premises. However, I will be watching this debate... perhaps amidst the furious comments, name calling and dismissal of opposing opinions a diamond in the rough, a person with the perfect solution will emerge!

Some Further Reading About S. 510 (make sure to check out the comments to feel the full fervor of the debate!):

Are you interested in taking action when it comes to your food? If so, here is some further reading for you!
UPDATE: Food Safety Bill Passes Senate

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Garlic and Spinach Chicken

"A stroke of genius," says my husband, "a sheer stroke of genius!"
As we found ourselves facing an anemic selection of meats in our grocery store (there was only a couple of cuts of chicken and a bunch of turkeys), I was disheartened. My husband, however, came up with some inspiration, "Why don't we try to make the La Isla chicken with the spinach tonight?" La Isla is one of our favorite restaurants that we go to once in a blue moon because it is in Hoboken, New Jersey and we don't ever really have any other reason to go there except for food. It is a small cafeteria style Cuban restaurant and we could have walked right by it on the street if my mother hadn't introduced us to it so many years ago! It has been awhile since our last visit, so I wasn't sure I would have any way at all of wiping the cobwebs from my brain to access the flavor memories required to put this together. After looking back at the options before me, I said, "I can try..."

When we arrived home my husband was about ready to plant himself in front of the XBox to continue with his day's Halo: Reach daily challenge (I so wish I was making this up! However, since I am currently engaged in daily blogging challenges I suppose I should not be the first to throw stones...). As I saw him enter the living room I thought I would try something different, "Hey! I thought you were going to help out with this. This dinner was your idea - do you have any clue how to do this?" He was caught off guard, said he had no idea, but thought it had something to do with butter and garlic. I told him he was off the hook and that he should get out of my way, but it was too late: he was invested and now he was going to help.

It is for this reason that my husband should get about 80% of the credit for this dinner and recipe that follows. His taste memory helped us determine exactly what to put in and how to tweak as we went along. (It should also be noted that he did some real serious garlic work and would like the world to know that peeling garlic cloves is the most annoying and arduous kitchen task ever!) His pride as he ate his meal was palpable and I am so happy for him.

Cilantro & Lime Rice


    • 3 cups white rice
    • 3-4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
    • juice of 1 lime
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • salt


  1.  Put the washed rice in the rice maker.
  2. Add olive oil, cilantro, lime juice and salt to the rice. Stir.
  3. Add enough water to cover the rice (use the measurement tool in your rice maker).
  4. Cook the rice - do not peek.

While the rice is cooking, you can prepare the chicken.

Garlic & Spinach Chicken



  1. Begin sauteing the garlic in a pan large enough to eventually hold all four cutlets and the spinach with about 1 tbs of the Earth Balance to begin with.
  2. In a separate pan, begin cooking the cutlets (seasoned with some salt). We used a grill pan.
  3. As the chicken continues to cook, gradually add the rest of the Earth Balance to the garlic, to create a buttery-garlic sauce. Bring it up to a simmer.
  4. Flip the chicken cutlets over.
  5. Add the spinach to the buttery-garlic sauce. Stir to ensure all of the leaves are covered in the sauce. Cover the pan and lower the heat.
  6. When the spinach has wilted (no more than two minutes), add the chicken to the pan, placing the spinach on top of the cutlets. If necessary, add more Earth Balance to the pan to ensure you have a bit of a sauce left in the pan (the spinach has a tendency to be a sauce-sucker!).
  7. Cook for at least two minutes in the sauce and then serve.

Tonight's dinner was delicious. It came close to our La Isla experience, it was our first experiment with our new Earth Balance buttery spread, but most importantly it gave my husband a feeling of pride. I can't believe I almost let him off the hook and missed sharing that great joy with him.

Food shares so many gifts with us... how delicious and serendipitous!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Remembering that Animals Aren't Human

If you watch enough Disney animated films and live with pets that are, inarguably, a part of your family, then you are probably a lot like me, suffering from a major case of anthropomorphism. Anthropomorphism is the term given to the act of giving human attributes and/or characteristics to animals (or any non-human entities such as plants, deities, etc.). I know I can't help it, I truly believe at times that my dog is being spiteful, or that the hungry birds outside are actually happy when I put out extra seed on my windowsill. 

I grew up adoring The Muppets (furry creatures that walked, talked, sang and did everything I did), and while I visited zoos and farms, and have lived right next to a nature preserve, in all my observation of animals in the wild, or in their natural habitat I would say that those times could probably be described as pseudo-wild, at best. The "wild" animals that I have learned about in my environment are those who have adapted to the herd of cars, have traversed asphalt to gain access to their major food sources: the discarded scraps of their human neighbors. They live with us, they live near us and live off of us... why wouldn't I begin to think that they live like us?

I am playing my role a bit too obtusely, because I know, in my heart of hearts that this is not exactly true and, to be honest, the more and more that I continue my search for sustenance, the more I see and feel the great divide. When, at the beginning of the month, I read a blog about sustainability as a very, very old idea in ..:recycled minds:..: Wade Davis on Sustainability and the Environment , the idea stuck with me. Throughout this month, I have often thought back to the ancient civilizations Mr. Davis spoke about in his talk and then, after watching The Cove, it occurred to me that we should not only learn from ancient civilizations, but also from animals. Animals can teach us to be kinder to our Earth because they are so "un-human." 

So I am learning. 

Then, last night, an article on the Internet caught my eye about animal cruelty. It was especially surprising when I caught the intro:
What's this? Joel Salatin, the most famous organic farmer in America, star of Food, Inc, the Academy Award- nominated polemic against factory farming, is being investigated for animal cruelty? (Full article: Organic crusader shares radical ideas)
How could this be? Joel Salatin was the perceived golden child of the farming community, was he not?! So I read on and found out that he still is. Animal control informed Mr. Salatin that he had a "people problem" - people who, like me, thought about animals in human ways. I am not sure if it was merely the tone of the article, or the tone of Joel Salatin, but it seems that the farmer was all too understanding of this misunderstanding. In fact, he even seems to turn it into a teachable moment, with a touch of humor. After noting that the misunderstanding is from misplaced anthropomorphism, the article continues:

The logical extension of that is the view that animals should not be killed for food. "Those people, they say 'Come on, isn't that really a barbaric act, haven't we evolved past eating animals to a new place of cosmic nirvana'.
"The truth is, everything is eating and being eaten. If you don't believe it, go lie naked in your flower bed for three days and see what gets eaten." (Full article: Organic crusader shares radical ideas)
And, as I read this last statement, I was reminded, once again, that animals aren't human. At it gave me pause. I find myself in a state of disequilibrium on the precipice of truly learning something new. (Disequilibrium, as defined by Piaget in educational psychology: When a child experiences a new event, disequilibrium sets in until he is able to assimilate and accommodate the new information and thus attain equilibrium.) That is literally one of my favorite states to be in... it is very exciting.

What I know:

  • Animals are not human
  • Animal behavior is quite distinct from human beings
  • Humans do have the responsibility of treating animals under their care humanely
  • Many animals raised for food in this country (and probably the world) are not treated humanely
Where my disequilibrium lies (I realize some of these questions can not be answered):

  • Is it inhumane to eat animals that are raised humanely?
  • Is it inhumane to keep pets when there is no one home for most of the day due to work obligations? (My husband and I have spoken about this one a lot.)
  • Can beagles be spiteful? (hee... hee... I still suspect this after living with two!)
  • What kind of emotions do animals feel?
  • Do dolphins experience joy when they surf?
  • Will I ever have a turkey-less Thanksgiving?
As in all aspect of life, there are always more questions than answers. My search continues and my learning curve is steep.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Transforming Traditions

Since Thanksgiving of 2006 I picked up where my mother left off and, as her former sous-chef, continued to prepare a Thanksgiving feast just as she did for the family that survived her. The meal is simple and has an expected menu year after year. Our feast includes, but is not limited to:
  • Roasted Turkey
  • Stuffing (it is really dressing, since I don't stuff the bird, but over the years we have all become accustomed to calling it "stuffing")
  • Stuffed Mushrooms
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Broccoli
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Yams
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Giblet gravy
Having worked alongside my mother for most of the 29 Thanksgivings I shared with her, I picked up most of the recipes, or at least where to find them when my time came. When Thanksgiving 2006 arrived, engorged with emotion, I was terrified I would not be able to deliver. Luckily, all went well, and due to that, the tradition has stayed alive and I am amidst preparations for another Thanksgiving with a menu I have practiced and refined over the last four years.

However, this year is different. As I looked down my list of items to prepare for my family, I realized that as fabulous as this may all turn out to be there are only two-three items I can realistically eat this year. You see, with my gluten and dairy sensitivities I can only eat the broccoli and cranberry sauce as they are currently prepared and maybe the turkey if I do something about the butter that I use in its preparation. I knew I would have to sacrifice some of my holiday treats due to my new dietary restrictions, but looking at it on paper, item by item, recipe by recipe, this was a lot more than I had accounted for!

It is an intriguing predicament to be stuck in. I have been very good about changing my habits thus far in order to follow that which has helped my health in ways I never would have imagined before, but this meal is different. This meal is about so much more than just food. This tradition is something I shared with my parents, both of whom are gone. I felt blessed in 2006 when I realized that I could somehow still capture the essence of those memories through my own abilities in the kitchen. I have felt that this meal, this ritual, this ceremony of sorts was a day to keep my family alive. I know it is silly and yet I know, now, for the first time as I write this, that this has been the reason I could not change Thanksgiving in my home.

And now I have to not for anyone else, but for me. Unfortunately, it seems I could not come to this realization any earlier than Thanksgiving Eve.

So the question arises: What will I do for myself this Thanksgiving? As it occurred to me a little earlier today, I have had this thought bouncing around in my head for a couple of hours (it was actually more like, "What the heck am I going to eat on Thursday?!"). Here are some things I think I will do:

Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes
Now, I am not suggesting that I serve this to everyone (there seriously might be a coup!), but after all the potatoes are boiled, I will set aside a serving for myself and prepare them without the butter and milk. It is simple enough (I got this from Lidia's Italian American Kitchen):
  1. Drain the potatoes, saving some of the liquid.
  2. Put potatoes in a dry pot and heat to ensure any liquid evaporates.
  3. Add the olive oil. (About 1 tablespoon per large potato.)
  4. Mash and mix until almost smooth.
  5. Add potato water to moisten.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Reheat if necessary.
  8. Transfer to a large bowl, drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the top.
I bought a bunch of beets on my last trip to the Farmer's Market because they are just about my favorite things out there. I am tossing and turning between two different recipes in my Jack Bishop cookbook - either Roasted beet salad with Sherry Vinegar or Roasted beet salad with lemon and olives. Ooooo I don't know... they both make my mouth water! Whichever one I go with though, I am definitely roasting those beets. If you haven't done this before, it is a ridiculously easy thing to do.
  1. Preheat oven to 400º.
  2. Trim all but the last inch of the stem off the beets. Wash your beets really well (I use  my super awesome OXO veggie brush that my brother got me for my birthday) and cut off any dangling roots.
  3. Wrap the beets in aluminum foil. Place them in the oven and roast until a skewer goes right through them (about an hour).
  4. Remove the beets from the oven, open the foil and let them cool. Use a paper towel to rub the skin off of the warm beets (I am always amazed at how it just comes right off!).
Other Greens
I know I will have green beans left over after preparing the green bean casserole (I bought extra) and I also bought some frozen spinach (I haven't had frozen spinach in nearly a year!), so I might make those so I can veggie myself to death.

I recently bought Glutino gluten free and dairy free bread crumbs. Glutino is a company that has always come highly recommended, so I thought, "Let me grab this and try it out!" I haven't had the opportunity to open it up yet, but when I was trying make room in my cabinet this week, I noticed a recipe for stuffing on the back of the bread crumbs. I might try this one, although it has sausage in it and I haven't had much luck with sausage lately (I can't seem to find one that my tummy likes!). I noticed, after a quick web search, that I am not the only one that is considering this particular gluten free Thanksgiving option.

That's all I've come up with for now, but this day isn't through! It is funny, now, at the end of this post, I am excited about the idea of doing something new this Thanksgiving... I guess this really is a transformation of sorts.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

5 Habits To Becoming A Healthier Eater

We all want to eat healthier, be healthier and most of all feel healthier as soon as humanly possible. This is a fantastic goal to have, however there are so many things to do to get there that sometimes it seems impossible to figure out where to begin. What I am learning more than anything is that this is a process, so beginning anywhere is a step in the right direction!

Here are five things that I have learned are truly important habits to cultivate on my path to supreme health and wellness:

1. Hydrate Properly 

According to WaterInfo.org, "The human body is more than 60 percent water. Blood is 92 percent water, the brain and muscles are 75 percent water, and bones are about 22 percent water."If we don't do our part to keep up these water levels, our body simply will not operate correctly. The best way to do this? Consume WATER.

You can consume water by drinking it or eating it. Fruits, vegetables and even meats (just like us!) contain water. Keep in mind the more you cook something, the greater the chance you are cooking the water out, but for the most part, if what you are eating was actually alive at some point in its existence, you will be getting some water out of it.

There is plenty advice all over the Internet concerning how much water one should drink in a day, but I learned of one approach that made sense to me because it was not a one-size-fits-all approach. It was based on weight - you should consume half of your body weight in ounces. In other words, I weigh about 150lbs right now, so, dividing that by 2 gives me 75. Therefore, I should consume about 75 ounces of water per day (that's drinking + eating!!).

Here is the bad news: caffeine is a diuretic. According to the WellnessBreakRadio.com podcast for every cup of a caffeinated beverage you drink, you must drink TWO cups of water, just to make up for the lost water. I thought this was a very good rule of thumb as I am always left thirsty after drinking caffeinated beverages.
(Beginning to see how vital water is? You don't even know the half of it! Here's another post about how precious water really is.)

2. Eat Your Veggies

Forget Skittles - this is where you can really "taste the rainbow"! As soon as I stopped thinking of vegetables as an afterthought, and, instead, started thinking about vegetables first I felt a complete shift in the types of meals I was preparing and eating. I wanted to try different things, different colors, different textures in my meals.

Of course, having a weekly Farmer's Market helps with creativity - you cook what is available, even if you never tried it before - but even if that is not a possibility, try experimenting on your own. If you don't know where to start, maybe just go for colors - pick a color palate for your dinner plate. Once you've selected your color and then your vegetable, there are a number of resources on the Internet to help you with finding recipes
  • Food.com is one of my favorites, with recipes being shared from people just like you and me from all over the Internet
  • Foodista is also quite expansive, aiming to be the largest food encyclopedia on the Internet, or 
  • if you want a virtual recipe search engine, try SuperCook  where you type in the ingredients you have and it will spit back recipes from all over the Internet that can be made with them. 
If, on the other hand, you prefer a cookbook, then I highly recommend the one that showed me the path to yummy vegetable preparation and consumption, my veggie bible,  Jack Bishop's Vegetables Every Day.(Here are two posts filled with my über-joy after finding Jack Bishop's book: Searching for Sustenance: Jack Bishop is my New Hero! and Searching for Sustenance: From Pod to Plate).

3. Watch Out for Bad Oil!

This is another tip I picked up from WellnessBreakRadio.com from one of their guests: buy oil in dark glass bottles or containers that do not allow the light to permeate them. Essentially, Olive Oil and Extra Virgin Olive Oils are touted as having multiple health benefits because they are live oils. They are not supposed to be exposed to light. While you may know this, and you may keep your oil stored in a cupboard like I do, what about all those hours, days, weeks on the grocery store shelves under the fluorescent lighting? It is a simple enough fix, the next time you need oil, just look for a different package - they are there (oil in a tin, for example).

4. Think Raw

Hopefully, since my first tip,  this idea has already started to creep into your mind. The Raw Diet movement is gaining momentum all of the time and while I think it is unlikely that I will convert to a completely raw diet, the benefits of eating raw can not be denied. The fruits and vegetables of this earth are packed with the vitamins and minerals our bodies crave. Left alone and eaten raw we can consume these benefits in their purest and most potent state.

One of the reasons we cook things is so that we can ensure that all bacteria is killed. We know that works, however, the cooking also kills off some of the benefits as well. I am no fan of bacteria, and I do like the richness of flavor that cooking often brings, but one habit I have begun to cultivate is thinking  more about where I can fit raw into my daily eating schedule - more fruits, salads, snacks, et. cetera. Once you make something a focus of thought, action isn't too far behind. So start thinking about it -  
  • How can you eat raw? Full time, one meal, snacks and sides only?
  • What are you willing to eat raw? Fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.  
  • Where will you fit it into your eating? I try to get three fruits a day (I keep forgetting this one, so I am lucky if I get two). I make my own trail mix as a snack. Also, I am trying to make salads with every dinner.
5. Read Labels

Food shopping is filled with reading. You are reading your circular, you are reading the price tags, you are reading your coupons... well, I am here to add to your reading list, if you haven't started doing this already: start reading your labels. If you are a beginner, I recommend you just start taking a mental inventory of certain ingredients and nutritional facts:
Once you see how much of this you are consuming, you can decide, for your own health, which foods need to go and which you can keep (in moderation).

If you have passed this beginning level of label reading, then perhaps it is time you start looking for organic and certified humane products. I recently wrote a post about my own experience with these labels and how even they, too, need to be read carefully in Searching for Sustenance: Greenwashing - Am I a Victim?.

Pick one of these five habits to start to cultivate today. Some are easier than others, but over the next couple of weeks you should at least have tried out all five. Good luck, welcome to the journey, I hope your search for sustenance brings you to a healthier tomorrow!

Meatless Monday #4: Burger Wars

This is not my greatest day in healthy eating, or living, but it is a meatless Monday, so I must blog of the experience.

It began late. I didn't wake up until something like 12;20pm, maybe 12:30pm, I'm not sure, but I know I was upset with the time. This is Thanksgiving week - I don't really have time to waste like this. I had to take my medicine, get something to eat and start getting my world spinning on its axis again. 

Breakfast Brunch

This is where you say, "Oh no Nicole, you didn't." I heated up leftover vegetable fried rice. Yes. I did. This is not the breakfast of champions, nor the leisurely brunch one shares with friends over a couple of mimosas, but this is what I ate today.

After this triumphant failure I wanted to plan a diner that was meatless, but also something that would make my husband happy. He has been a trooper going through three meatless Mondays so far and I thought it would be nice if I could make one of his favorites in appreciation.

But first, I was distracted by Zombieland on my TV. I thought I could put it on in the background and get some chores done. I was wrong.


My husband loves burgers. In fact, when we first started dating I was sure he had no idea how to order anything else in a restaurant! He is also an excellent burger-maker, his hamburgers are delicious. When we started to try eating more fish, I found a recipe for salmon burgers. He loves salmon burgers now. When we first decided to try turkey in a form other than whole bird or sandwich cold cut, I made turkey burgers for him - he loved those, too. It was based in this tradition that I decided to make bean burgers with oven fries for dinner tonight.

As soon as I finished my fabulous brunch, I started looking for the perfect recipe to surprise my love with. I finally settled on a black bean burger recipe from Food.com (I told you this was one of my favorites!) posted by Billy Zac.


    • 2 cups black beans
    • 1 medium onions, quartered
    • 1/2 cup rolled oats, preferably not instant
    • 1 tablespoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon cumin
    • 1 tablespoon salt ( or to taste)
    • 1 tablespoon black pepper
    • 1 eggs
    • liquid ( from cooked beans or stock, you probably won't need this)


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the beans, onion, oats, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, and egg in a food processor. Pulse until chunky, but not pureed. The mixture should be moist, but not sticky. Add a little liquid if needed.
  3. Grease a baking sheet.
  4. Use your hands, a spoon, or an ice-cream scoop to make patties. Drop these onto the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the bottoms are nicely colored and lift easily from the baking sheet. Flip and bake for 15 more.
  6. You can also broil these burgers, or cook them in a hot cast iron skillet, or on the grill. They cook a lot faster using these other methods, so just be sure to keep an eye on them.
I had all of the ingredients for this recipe, including gluten-free rolled oats from Bob's Red Mill, so, as soon as Zombieland was over, I dug out my large food processor (I usually just use my mini one for day to day stuff, but this obviously wasn't all going to fit!), and got to work. I started the potatoes first, though, because they take a little longer.
Here is the recipe for the Oven Fries, as well as I remember it, from Jack Bishop.


    •  3-4 potatoes
    • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
    • salt 


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Place a deep rimmed baking pan in the oven.
  3. While waiting for the oven to heat up, cut the potatoes into four wedges and then cut the wedges in half.
  4. Put the potatoes with 2 of the tablespoons of oil in a large bowl, along with salt (I also add pepper). Mix with your hands ensuring that all of the wedges get coated with the oil.
  5. When the oven has heated up, brush the remaining tablespoon of oil in the heated baking pan and put the potatoes in the pan ensuring that every wedge touches the pan (Most times I need more than one baking pan!)/ Bake for 25 minutes.
  6. After the 25 minutes, using tongs, flip each of the wedges over and bake for 25 more minutes.
  7. Serve immediately. Add more salt to taste, if necessary.
 At around 4:15, the potatoes were in the oven, the bean burgers were ready to become patties and it occurred to me: this would be perfect if my husband could have his burgers on buns! I knew his classes were over and he would be on his way home and there would be no time for me to go get them, but I thought that I could leak a little bit of the surprise in order to make this his favorite meatless Monday ever!
I called him on his phone. After the niceties of our greeting, I said, "I am making you burgers. You might want to pick up buns to eat them on," I was smiling ear to ear, so excited, nearly giddy.
"What? Burgers...today?" i took the skepticism in his voice as a sign that he thought I forgot meatless Monday and he wasn't quite sure if he wanted to be the one to remind me!
Still smiling, almost laughing, I responded, "Don't worry! Their meatless -"
"No, no, no, no! I don't want them. I don't want fake meat burgers. I don't care if you make a whole bowl of vegetables, but I am not eating that!"
Smile gone. Heart broken. "...but they're already made. They are not 'fake meat'. I made them!"
He wasn't happy. Any other Monday, I pretty much brace myself for that, but today I had thought this meal was for him! I was so shocked. 
Either way, he is still awesome, and he arrived home with his burger buns. He wanted to see these burgers and grumbled something about them when he opened the oven. 
In the end, he liked them. They were a bit too spicy for both of us, but otherwise OK. There was a review of the recipe that recommended cutting the spices down, but I thought, "My husband likes spicy, this person can't handle spice." Whether they could handle spice or not, they were right.
That's another meatless Monday in the books. Perhaps not my proudest one, but successful all the same. One more to go for my official challenge, but perhaps even more in my future to come (as long as I don't try so hard to please my husband - that seemed to backfire in a big way!!) 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Diversifying The Menu

In a quiet moment today (I think there might have been two all day, since this one now), I was thinking about, you guessed it: food. I was thinking about tomorrow being meatless Monday and, therefore, being something I need to think about and plan for. Then my mind drifted... What am I doing the rest of the week? I, personally, could probably go mostly meatless, but my husband will ask almost every night, "But what meat are we having with that?" and I would have to say at least 8 times out of 10 my answer is, "Chicken."

We didn't start out this way. We discovered not too long ago that we actually love fish and so I started experimenting with all types of fish. Red meat, in the form of burgers, steaks, london broils have also been a part of our fare. We, on occasion, would even have pork in the form of a sausage dish. However, as of late, it just seems like everything, except on Monday tastes just like chicken.

I don't like this at all. I was not raised this way and I don't think this can be healthy. Here are some of the things that I think happened:

Fish Fear

Our newly developed love of fish slowly transformed into a fear of fish the more and more we learned about fish farms. I, being a slave to convenience, was shopping for large packages of fish from CostCo to then use throughout the weeks that followed my shopping trip. We had salmon, Ahai Tuna steaks, flounder and scallops - but as I started to learn about all of the toxins in the fish from fish farms I thought, "I need to stop buying fish from CostCo." A reasonable and rational thought, but I have yet to find a replacement.

Where's the (Grass-Fed) Beef?

Beef is something that I often bought in my grocery store, on sale, paying less attention to the cut of meat than to the price. As I began to learn more about beef I decided, and my husband agreed, that we should be eating grass-fed beef. This would now mean shifting my view from price to label and looking for the grass-fed beef, which, not surprisingly, is not sold in my grocery store (not that I have found yet anyway).

Previous Experiences

I never really was that crazy about pork on a day to day basis. I also never acquired a taste for lamb. These two meats simply never even crept into my mind when thinking about meals I would cook.  I would never have a problem eating it somewhere else if someone made it, but neither would be my first choice.


Doesn't indolence sound better than laziness? It doesn't matter if it does though, because THEY ARE THE SAME THING! I know how to cook chicken a ton of different ways. I understand the flavor of chicken and can imagine how other flavors will blend with it - not just in terms of its preparation, but also in thinking about what dishes to serve with it. I don't have this same feel for other meats. I could find out, but (enter laziness voice here:) why bother when I already know about chicken??

I never really had a reason for that before... but I think now I finally do. I will bother to learn about other meats because if my husband is going to insist that there must be meat every single night, then I will go completely mad and probably grow a comb (red thingy) on my head if I keep making just  chicken!!

So here is what I am thinking: This is only going to work if I really make up some sort of schedule of things. Also I am not going to worry about it this week - this week is all about growing a wattle since it is TURKEY TURKEY TURKEY on the brain. However, when my wattle recedes, and life goes close to back on track I want to diversify my weekly dinner menu. Since I am such a fan of alliteration, I am trying to come up with some cool sounding days that I can remember. Here is what I am thinking about:
  • Meatless Mondays With all the meat-thought I am putting into my entire week, I am truly hoping I can convince my husband to keep the meatless Mondays alive for more than just November.
  • Turkey Tuesdays I think a lot of different things can be done with turkey, so I don't think it is too nuts to give it its own day, but, honestly, this came to me because of the alliteration.
  • Wilbur Wednesdays Is this too cruel? I was thinking Wednesdays could be my days devoted to pork. 
  • Thrilling Thursday This could be the most EXCITING day of the week! Or the most mundane, depending on my mood that week. Maybe we'll try smething completely new or maybe I shock my husband to the core with some exotic chicken dish (hee hee). He'll never know what's coming!
  • Fishy Fridays The alliteration works and this works out great for when Lent comes around (we're Roman Catholic). If I get this going I won't ever be stuck saying, "Oh NO! I forgot it was Friday! I made CHICKEN!" (chuckle, chuckle... I said, "chicken" furthering the thought that I ONLY cook chicken).
  • Cattle-day Saturday This day can be devoted to red meat. 
  • Super Salad Sunday I love this idea and I just know, in my gut, that my husband will veto this one. However, I hope I am wrong, because salads can be fun! And, yes, dear husband, even they can have meat in them (rolling my eyes).
So what do you think? Have I missed some truly inspired menu opportunity? Is anyone else out there doing something similar?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Closed for the Winter

An Odd Post On An (So Far) Odd Day

I woke up today knowing that November, 20, 2010 was an important day: the last day of my über local farmer's market. I had to get there to scrape up what I could, especially since Thanksgiving is this week. Simple enough, I've made it there most other weeks, but today was going to be different.

This was going to be a long and difficult goodbye.


A week or so ago my husband informed me that he was going to partake in a Professional Development opportunity in Manhattan for a couple of Saturdays. I thought, "Great opportunity. Go for it and Lord knows we could use the money right now." Then he said, "First day is the 20th." Ugh. OK, no problem. I'll walk. That just means I need a more time for this trip.

So, I woke up, got ready, let the dogs out and was gathering my stuff to leave at around 11am. It was a little later than I wanted to get going, but I still had enough time even if it took me an hour to walk there (I figured it should take 30-40minutes).

The Issue of The Jerk

Champ, my ShiTzu, came inside and was going nuts while I was putting my shoes on. I explained, "It is not a pet-friendly market, Champ, I'm sorry. I'll be back as soon as I can. You've got to stop jumping on me!" And, yet, he did not stop. You would think I would realize it by now that this dog is my version of Lassie - when he is going nuts he really is trying to tell me something - but I simply got frustrated and said, "Alright! Enough! Where's Buffy? I really have to go now!" and took Champ with me out in the backyard.
Buffy aka "The Jerk"
As soon as we got outside Champ started spinning all around, which I mistook for Champ thinking I was going on an adventure with him. "Buffy! Let's GO! What are you doing?" and then I reached, with Champ on my ankle, the open gate... The Jerk, who has currently been running around naked (my husband nor I can find her collar with license ANYWHERE) decided she should just TAKE A STROLL around the neighborhood. I turned, apologetically, to Champ, I finally understood him, "She left us again, Nicole. We have to find her!" was all he was trying to say.

I was torn between worry and aggravation. I wanted to just be angry with her for being a jerk, but, of course, without a collar and no real idea of cars and streets, my mind raced. I ran around one corner yelling her name, thinking, "If she's having fun, will she respond to me?" then I thought, "sometimes she likes to go the other way to see the dogs in back of the house, so I went around the other corner. Then I remembered I left my back door wide open, I had no keys, no phone and was just about helpless with my stupid, stupid horrible vision! I went back home thinking, "Forget the market. This is going to take me all day. My furry baby is out having a blast, I am worried sick and I am going to have to go to the insane supermarkets before Thanksgiving!"

When I grabbed my phone I saw that Frank, from across the street had called while I was out. I called back as I was basically tripping out the door wondering, "How long ago did he call? Did he just see her? Did something happen? Why is this phone taking so long to dial? Why won't it ring??" And when I opened the door, Frank was there and so was THE JERK. Evidently she was just walking in front of my neighbor's house! She probably came out from behind the bushes where "Fat Cat" lives when I called her, but because of my stupid vision I didn't see her!
"Fat Cat" is a stray cat in my neighborhood that sometimes gets confused and thinks he owns my front step.
 The Walk

It is a one mile walk to the Farmer's Market at the Mall from my house.
Such a pretty day.
It was a beautiful day and dragging my "old-lady" shopping cart with me I thought this was the greatest thing I have done for myself all week. Since I was all caught up in the dog drama as I left, I had no time to plug myself into my iPhone to listen to a podcast or an audio book, which both have benefits of their own, but the walk with my thoughts was so much better today. Sometimes I find myself a pretty cool person to hang around with.
Me, my cart and a tree.
And FINALLY The Market

We do not have a large market, and not all of the farms were there this week, but I decided to walk around to everyone first before purchasing anything. I gathered recipes and handouts from the grownyc.org stand and then went over to my produce guy.

Only stand left that sells veggies.
I grabbed onions, potatoes, broccoli, green leaf, parsley and, of course beets (my favorite!).
Yummy, yummy, yummy!!
 Before I left, I ventured over to another farmer's/baker's stand. It is a local orchard from New Jersey. I bought a bunch of apples and some sweet treats (small pies: pumpkin, apple and apple crumb) for my Thanksgiving guests.

The Goodbyes

I spoke with a couple of the farmers and thanked them for coming out to us every week. I told them to have a great year and they wished me likewise. And I got some great news: rumor is that this market will be coming back EVEN EARLIER  next year! The first year it didn't start until September, this year, until mid July and now one Farmer said June and another said that he heard it may even be as early as MAY! Like a normal NYC Seasonal Farmer's Market!! So Exciting! So although I am heartbroken and confused about what I will be doing in the months to come (I have not yet learned about canning, preserving and the like), I left the market feeling hopeful for next year's flourishing market.
Until next year, Greenmarket!

Today's post is dedicated to Frank who, in dealing with "The Jerk", actually made my fabulous Farmer's Market trip possible. Besides being a superhero to pet owners everywhere, and in competition with me for the "I've Spent The Greatest Proportion of My Life Living In This Neighborhood"Award (although I am winning!!), Frank is also a photographer. You should check out his site!


Friday, November 19, 2010

Thinking About Eat-ucation

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for his entire life.
~Chinese Proverb
As a teacher, these words always hold a great and deep truth for me, but as an eater, I have always thought they missed one really important point: did anyone teach the man to cook the fish? The art of cooking is one people often think of when they say they want to "learn how to cook," but what of the skill of cooking? Where does one learn that?

I have often written of my own experiences with learning to cook from my family, but I am often intrigued by an even grander plan. On reading a fellow blogger's position on her blog Cooking in Stilettos, I was called back to my cause: cooking in the classroom! This is something that simply must, in my opinion, begin to take shape in our schools in a very real way.

My husband knows that when my brother and I get on the phone that I could be trapped for hours rapt in conversation. Many times we will wax philosophical on what should be taught in the schools. My brother, a former Marine (err.. um... apologies: once a Marine, ALWAYS a Marine! But I think you know what I am getting at here),  didn't hit his true learning stride until he got to the Marines - until his learning meant something to him, until he knew he would need it. He often says, "I wish school was more like that. Not that we shouldn't learn all that other stuff, but what about the stuff we can use right away and know we can use forever." I, the education expert in the family, have no argument. So, without much delay we hypothetically create our new school system where active learning  is central and I explain to my brother that "all that other stuff" can actually be taught through that. We dream big...

And yet, with feet planted solidly on the ground, I ask you Why not? 

If you watched Jaime Oliver's Food Revolution this last Spring, then you saw, with me, one way it could be done. In another blog, Life With A Possum, it is noted that Gorden Ramsey, too, has spoken up about the great importance of hands-on food learning. We can look to the state Connecticut for yet another. In episode 10: "You Are What You Eat" of My Life in Food on the Cooking Channel, the New Haven Public Schools showed their commitment to food education in their involvement in the Farm to Schools program.

The Farm to Schools program seems like a really good one because it gives students a thorough exposure to food from seed to plate and has far-reaching benefits. However, it is not the only organization and/or method for going about this. Slow Food USA did an amazing job of giving a brief overview of over 20 different programs going on all over the United States to yield these same results: students getting what I like to call a good eat-ucation!

The fact of the matter is, no matter where you go as of late, people are talking about education. The documentary Waiting for Superman has shone a light on the state of our current system and many, many people are saying they don't like what they see. I couldn't agree more. In March of 2008, Bill Gates addressed the Congress concerning education and immigration, here is an excerpt from his talk:

"As a nation, our goal should be to ensure that ultimately every job seeker, every displaced worker, and every individual in the U.S. workforce has access to the education and training they need to succeed in the knowledge economy," Gates said. "This means embracing the concept of 'lifelong learning' as part of the normal career path of American workers, so everyone in the workforce can use new technologies and meet new challenges." (quote copied from Information Week)
I know Bill Gates was not necessarily speaking about implementing cooking into the educational system when he spoke, but I simply can not think of a subject more attuned to lifelong learning than that. In a curriculum of cooking, students would be engaged in critical thinking, application of knowledge from a number of their "basic" subjects (as a math teacher I am all a-flutter with the idea of students' true comprehension of fractions given a realistic context!!) and will have to learn to think both flexibly and realistically. The potential for true, deep learning that would extend to other subject matters is one I relish in. 

There are so many reasons this makes sense, but, for some reason, there are still thousands of schools that have yet to embrace it - our nation has yet to embrace it. And so, once more, with feet planted solidly on the ground, I ask you Why not? 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

**Harry Hiatus**

All apologies for the lack of posts for the past two days. I have been listening to the audio book version of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows in preparation for my midnight viewing of the newly released movie tonight. I am almost done with the audio book and it is mere hours until the film. I found out yesterday and today that I simply can not "read" and write at the same time!

I have a couple of ideas for posts brewing, though, so I do plan to be back on my broomstick by tomorrow. Thank you for understanding this brief interruption by my geekdom, it is bound to crop up from time to time, I simply can not avoid who I am.

So, until tomorrow, by which time I will be anxiously awaiting the sequel to this film that won't arrive until this summer, I bid you adieu.
Me, in 2007, at the park with my then fiancee, reading the Deathly Hallows after getting it at midnight the night before.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Case Against Frankenfish

For years I have consumed genetically engineered foods. I was a victim of my own ignorance as I ate soy and corn filled foods that were created from the fruits of Monsanto's technological miracles. I didn't realize what was going on when I heard the news about the scientists hard at work on the crops. I thought they were doing good, I thought they were helping out the farmers... and in a way, for awhile, I guess they were. I believed they could help advance the earth with the wonder of technology.

I had forgotten one very clear lesson my father had taught me about the ocean. We were at the beach, running in and out of the waves, my father was a fierce and fearless swimmer while my mother was always terrified - I never understood it. I must have said something about it being silly to be afraid, or I must have done something reckless, I honestly don't remember what triggered it, but my father got very serious with me right away. When this man's smile went away it was analogous to the sun being ripped out of the sky. He stopped me and made me look out at the water, "Nicole, it is beautiful, it is fun, but it is powerful. You see those waves?" I nodded quietly, there was no place for my words here. "They'll take you down and take you out to sea. And they can do that to me too. It doesn't matter how big or how strong you are, nature is stronger. We should love it and enjoy it, always, but always, always respect it." His smile returned, we continued to play, but I understood. I have maintained my awe of nature since that day, especially when it comes to the ocean.

So when I was faced with technology versus nature I still maintained my awe, but thought to myself, "Daddy died before he saw how powerful we really could become with technology. Maybe he was wrong..." After a number of years of deep thought on the topic I am beginning to think, maybe, in fact, he was not. As more and more farmers have the issue of Monsanto crops on their field even though they didn't plant it, as Monsanto has to create newer and newer technologies to keep up with the new mutations of the crop it has created, I can't help but think that in this fight too nature is stronger. Perhaps it is not our place to amend life around us.

It is with this thinking that I continue to fight against the newest scientific feat against nature: Genetically Engineered Salmon, or "FrankenFish". In the United States, the company AquaBounty is currently attempting to get its GE salmon approved. Check out this picture below from an Associated Press article on this issue of AquaBounty's new creation:
AquaBounty salmon (back) versus an Atlantic salmon of the same age.
Is bigger always better? What if I told you that this fish was still not proven to be safe for human consumption? What if I told you the FDA has no intention to regulate this fish as food, but instead as a veterinary drug? What if I told you that the ultimate plan is to approve this fish and not label it? Are you OK with that? Would I need to tell you more? Well what about the issue of putting a patent on life? We saw Monsanto do it, we have seen the horrors - both environmental and economic - what could happen with AquaBounty's 14 year patent on fish? I'll tell you one thing: nothing much will happen if this fish was not  approved!

My current resurgence of rage against the fish came from another e-mail from Food & Water Watch that somehow this fight still rages on. If you are interested in more information about the GE Salmon fight from Food & Water Watch, check this link out which has all of their blog entries concerning the topic.  Here's a quick recap in an entertaining video:

So now you are ready to TAKE ACTION (I hope!!).
  • Step 1: Drop a little note to President Barack Obama about your concerns. Here is what I added in the personal note section, although, you can just send the form letter provided by Food & Water Watch if you are in a rush.
President Obama,

I beg of you to reject AquaBounty's GE salmon. This is a difficult issue to see the true future of. I feel that we are only now beginning to discover the maledictions of the GE soy and corn we have exposed ourselves and our families to over the years. Can we not take these lessons learned and apply them when it counts?

I am also concerned about the monopolization of our food industry and wonder what the ramifications of a 14 year patent on GE salmon owned by AquaBounty will be in that business. Our country strives on healthy competition - I, personally, don't think genetic engineering our food and the patenting of LIFE has helped us reach that end.

With all due respect to the extreme number of requests you must receive in a day and the issues you must balance and weigh in upon, I thank you for your time and attention to this extremely important matter.


Nicole Rivera
  • Step 2: You can drop a little note about all genetically engineered animals not coming to your dinner to your local government using this link.

The time is now, because the clock is ticking and if we sit idly by then we are letting it happen. Call this another TAKE ACTION TUESDAY if you have to, but take some action!!!

"If there is something wrong, those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action."
~Abraham Lincoln  

How to Cook an Egg... Really

I have been, once again, tormenting my husband with one of my personal curiosities. Today, when he comes home I am bound to say, as I have very often said in the past, "You know, I really don't think I have any idea how to really cook an egg." Since I am pondering this right now, I thought, perhaps, I could save him this conversation that goes no where and see, instead, if I could open up the conversation a bit to those who may actually help us out of this one!

For years all I have ever eaten in terms of eggs would be scrambled eggs, and that would only be very rarely. I have mastered the preparation of scrambled eggs (I think...) at least to the point that if I have house guests I feel safe offering them up as a morning treat. However, very recently, I have become more and more enamored with your basic sunny-side-up egg, or, as my preference states, an egg over well. It is the "over" part that often upsets me so and also stops me from ever even dreaming of making any type of attempts to make my own omelet.

Problem #1: I do not have a non-stick pan. Is this a requirement in appropriate egg-making? I do not want to use Teflon due to the toxic effects, so is there a suitable replacement that anyone out there has tried yet?

Problem #2: What do you cook an egg with? Before finding out about my dairy sensitivities I always cooked my scrambled eggs in butter and, therefore, had a very simple equation in my head: cooking eggs = butter in the pan. Then I met my husband and the first time I made him eggs he asked me what the heck I was doing. His equation was very different: cooking eggs = oil in the pan. Which do you use? Do you use something else entirely? (I tried cooking spray for a little while, but the eggs had a metallic taste which completely freaked me out.) Is this question not necessary if I have a non-stick cooking surface?

Problem #3: Is there a standard egg seasoning when cooking, or do you just leave it alone until after they are done cooking? I, personally, like to put salt AND pepper in my egg as it is cooking. My husband likes to put salt in as it is cooking and save the pepper for later. This makes me feel like there is no "standard", but I was just wondering.

Problem #4: This is not as simple as it seems it should be. A couple of years ago I saw an episode of Top Chef (I think... it was some chef reality show) where the challenge was to cook an egg. There were moans and groans from all of the contestants. I didn't know what was up, but it seemed that they all knew that if that was all they were being judged on, it wasn't going to be so simple. I was surprised, before seeing that I thought I was the only one who felt intimidated by this small little food thing!

Here is my call to any readers out there:
  • Do you actually have a recipe? 
  • Would you be so brave as to make a vlog for us so we can watch you in action? (Or at least so I can?!) 
  • Can you explain how you can guarantee that you will not break the yoke???
  • Is there really only ONE WAY to cook an egg?

I think I have the potential to make a good egg. I would like to feel no fear if a house guest asks, "Can you make me a sunny side up egg?" or, god help me, "...an egg over easy?" Of course, I will do my part and actually research this, but it would be great to hear about your experiences as well!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Meatless Monday #3: Late to Rise, but Successful by Sunset

After having a rough couple of days I finally came through the weekend, exhausted, wondering what this week might hold for me. As my head hit my pillow last night I realized and muttered, "Oh no... tomorrow is meatless Monday." My husband groaned and I thought, "Why oh, why did I have to feel so gross on Saturday morning? Why did I have to miss the farmer's market?!" I decided not to stress it until morning, figuring there wasn't much I could do about it until then anyway and went to sleep.

And sleep, I did! I did not wake up until nearly 11:20 am! It was almost lunchtime. This is not good news for someone who is on a strict schedule of medication, but I went to bed telling myself not to stress and it seemed the advice had lingered until morning. I decided to just figure out what I was going to have for breakfast. I really wanted something hot.


As I shuffled into my kitchen I started to think about my breakfast options. I first thought about eggs, but I said, "No, meatless Monday!" Plus, it usually isn't too long after an egg though that thoughts of Canadian bacon start to creep into my brain... Then I thought about my Gluten-free toaster waffles, but I decided I wanted something with a bit more substance, something really hot to warm me up on this Fall morning. I began to think of one of my old favorites: Quaker Instant Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal. I used to live on this stuff. That was exactly what I needed - but I didn't have any around and I am not even sure if it is gluten-free, so I went on a web search to help me in my craving!

That is when I found Apple Cinnamon Quinoa Breakfast! This recipe was pretty simple and exactly what I was looking for. I now have a homemade replacement for one of my old cravings using quinoa, which is a great grain to include in my diet. From what I have learned about it so far, it is a good source of protein, calcium and iron and gluten-free.
That is the actual steam coming out of the bowl!
The only change I would make to the original recipe for next time would be to not blend the apples so much. I like to have little warm apple chunks in my hot cereal, so I would probably save one slice of the apple on the side, dice it up and mixed it into the rest of the blended mix before cooking. Otherwise, this was DELICIOUS! I had a small glass of chocolate hazelnut milk and a large glass of water with my breakfast as well.


**I skipped it.**

Don't yell at me!! I had a really late breakfast which filled me up, so I was on to preparing dinner before I even started to feel hungry. Strangely, now that I am thinking about it, I don't even think I had any snacks or anything in between. I was adequately distracted today - I was listening to the audiobook version of The Deathly Hallows while cleaning up reminding myself of the fabulous story before going to see the midnight showing of the new release this week.


I didn't have much in the way of veggies around the house since I missed this week's Farmer's market, but there was one meal I thought I might have enough stuff to scrounge up to put together: Vegetarian Chili. I went back to the Internet searching through recipe after recipe to find one that may fit. Nothing fit my ingredients exactly, of course (I had even less than I realized once I got to preparations!), but I managed to put together the following, very delicious vegetarian chili:


    • 1 medium onion chopped
    • 2 bell peppers, chopped 
    • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
    • 1 28 oz. can of San Marzano tomatoes, cut up
    • 1 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1 can of red beans, rinsed and drained
    • 1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
    • 2 tablespoons of dried parsley
    • 3.5 tablespoons of Emeril's Essence: Southwest


  1. Sauté onion, peppers, and garlic in olive oil until tender.
  2. Add tomatoes, beans, herbs and spices.
  3. Bring up to a boil.
  4. Reduce to a simmer, cover and keep stirring every now and then. Cook this way for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Serve hot with rice or tortilla chips. Add shredded cheese and sour cream, if desired.

My chili with rice. My husband added sour cream to his as well.
I will definitely be making this again! My one panic, turned into a pretty cool discovery. One of the recipes that I was using as a guide called for salt, chili powder and cumin - all I had was the salt (I couldn't believe I didn't have chili powder and I was making chili!!). That is when I pulled out this Emeril seasoning I had which had, among its first five ingredients - salt, chili powder and cumin! I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best and it worked! For the original Vegetarian Chili recipe I leaned on the most, click here (it is from MizzNezz on Food.com, she is, by far, one of my favorite chefs on the site!).

Anticipated Dessert

I am about to go join my husband watching the movie Avatar on cable (as if we didn't already see it twice in the theaters!) and I did hear him sneak into the freezer. This must mean that he has had some of his ice cream. I can now no longer resist the idea of doing the same thing myself! Don't worry - this will not ruin my vegan-day, since I am stuck in dairy-free land all the ice cream I have is soy ice cream from my favorite place on Staten Island: Mazes Creamery. I think I will have some Soy Mint Chip, maybe with a gluten-free ice cream cone (YES I found ice cream cones!!). 

Well, another meatless Monday is in the books, now on to Tuesday... I wonder what it shall bring. Until then!

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