10,000 Vinyasas

Tag: food

A Tale of Bacon, and the Bankruptcy of the Nutrition Establishment

by on Aug.11, 2012, under Body Health, Cooking, food

I did something the other day that I’ve actually never done before:  I bought some bacon. Bacon has never been in my house, because I swallowed the conventional low-fat, high carb diet advice whole for years, and bacon was always something to avoid. To follow that advice, I came to accept certain concepts as gospel truth:  that eating fat would make you fat, and more specifically, that eating foods high in saturated fat would cause health problems (many), elevated trygliceride levels and eventually heart disease, that all calories are the same and that weight could be lost by adopting a calorie-restricted diet and exercise.

I know now that none of those things are true.

I won’t go into all the references I’ve read discussing the science of nutrition and the twisted road taken to reach dietary recommendations by the government, and the poorly researched studies such recommendations were based on, but they are certainly out there if you care to find them.  My conclusion, after much study, is that the conventional dietary and nutritional advice is based on bad science, political influence of the industrial food complex, and a curious reluctance to admit mistakes.  Further, I believe that the dietary and nutrition establishment, including the governmental agencies, are morally and intellectually bankrupt and have no credibility whatsoever regarding what anyone should eat. I believe that there is so much more individuality in humans physiological response to diet that it makes no sense to make blanket recommendations.

I made a three egg omelet today for lunch and had it with a side of bacon; it was delicious and I am confident that it will not hurt my body. I have a lot of catching up to do when it comes to certain foods, and today was a good start. I am not afraid of fat anymore, and I embrace animal protein, since it has certain minerals and nutrients that are not available in a vegetarian diet. Furthermore, there is an element of satiety that occurs in eating protein and fat that is not present in a high carb diet, which I believe is essential to maintaining an ideal weight.

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A Visit To Costco

by on Jul.23, 2011, under food

I admit, I patronize Costco pretty frequently. They have a decent selection of fresh fruit (berries), vegetables (mushrooms, greens), and orange juice. Also, the store across town actually sells green coffee beans at a cheap price. Once in a while, like now, they make a mistake in gauging the local taste for unusual beer and have to unload it at a hefty discount. On these trips, I usually like to amuse myself by noting what processed foodlike substances are being offered, usually shaking my head at the lengths to which the food industry (the term is deliberate) goes to add “value” to real food, by processing, packaging, etc. Having shopped at Costco for some years now, I thought I had pretty much seen the full range of this crap, but apparently I was wrong, because the other day I found the store featuring already prepared and packaged hard boiled eggs. Okay, think about this for a moment: some marketing department genius figured that there was profit to be made in selling these, because apparently, people cannot be bothered to boil and peel an egg! I pause to reflect that this is just the culmination of the entire food section of Costco, which is devoted to the principle that anything that comes whole and unprocessed can be made better by peeling, stripping, combining, slicing, dicing, canning, storing in little plastic cups, freezing, and of course, adding all kinds of salt, sugar, additives, preservatives, fillers, stabilizers, emulsifiers, and just plain garbage. At any rate, I thought up a new slogan for the place, based on the hard boiled egg incident:

Costco: Food For Lazy People

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Making Your Own Food (Some)

by on Apr.26, 2009, under Cooking, food

Here’s an interesting article on whether it makes sense to make your own food (assuming you have and are willing to spend the time). Hint: mostly, it does. I noticed that bread is specifically not mentioned, but the other items are thought-provoking. Bagels: yes. Cream cheese: no. Yogurt: yes (this is on my list to try next) Jam: mostly yes. Crackers: probably not (but why are you eating them anyway?) Granola: yes.

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The Ultimate Expression of Hot Breakfast Cereal

by on Apr.11, 2009, under Cooking, food, recipes

I posted before on the value of oatmeal. Since then, I’ve been refining and adding to my original formulation, to the point that I believe I now have the quintessential hot multigrain cereal (it’s changed so much, you can’t really call it oatmeal any more) recipe, and here it is:

A spoonful of each:
oat flakes
steel cut oats
rye flakes
amaranth
hard red winter wheat
wheat berries
ground up flax seeds
These should add up to about one-half cup for a single serving

Add to the above:
some walnuts or pecans, in pieces
sprinkle of cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
salt

Heat one cup of skim milk on the stove, taking care not to scorch. Stir the above mixture in, and keep stirring occasionally. When it reaches desired consistency, remove from heat and pour into bowl.

Add in whatever sweetener you prefer (honey, maple syrup, agave are suggested), and whatever fresh or frozen berries you prefer.

Yield: one hearty serving

Notes: this is, by far, the best breakfast cereal I’ve ever had. I almost want to make a double portion, it’s so good. Once you get the hang of it, it really takes very little time to make; the most time you’ll spend is assembling the ingredients. Buy these in bulk and you’ll not have to worry about it for quite awhile.

I am quite aware that the reason that recipes like this are so, well, unusual is that the industrial food system has taken over and tyrannized our ideas of what “food” is to the point that making something like this is considered odd…

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An Examination of the Side of the Box…

by on Apr.03, 2009, under food

A couple of days ago, I received a sample of a General Mills product, Total Cranberry Crunch. Let’s have a look at it, shall we? On the front of the box in big yellow letters screams the words (with the word “with” on top in verrrry small letters) Whole Grain, with a little yellow wheat stalk next to it. Next to the word Total is the phrase “100% Nutrition.” Oh, and there’s an almost invisible asterisk beside it; looking down at the bottom, the asterisk refers us to the phrase “100% Daily Value of 11 Vitamins and Minerals.” On top of the box is another whole grain symbol with the words “Whole Grain 16g or more per serving.” This brings us to the side of the box, where we learn that that the ingredients in this “whole grain” cereal are thus: Whole grain wheat, sugar, dried cranberries, corn syrup, whole grain oats, crisp oats (rice flour, whole grain oats, sugar, malt extract, salt, BHT preservative), glycerin, brown sugar, toasted oats (whole grain oats, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil, honey, brown sugar molasses), salt, wheat bits(?)(whole grain wheat, corn starch, corn flour, sugar, salt, trisodium phosphate, baking soda, color added), honey, brown sugar syrup, natural and artificial flavor, cinnamon, color added, BHT added to preserve freshness…..whew!

Well, I think you can see why I’m not thrilled with this incredibly poor example of what people think of as food these days. Heavy on the sugar and salt, surrounded by preservatives and other chemicals, some of which I have no idea what purpose they might serve (but it’s not good health), and larded with misleading health claims on the box, this stuff is just not fit for human consumption, in my opinion. What’s worse, it takes basic foodstuffs that are healthful (grains) and by the time the “processing” is finished, we have a major contributor to obesity, diabetes and probably cancer as well. It’s clear to me, at least, that the industrial food system has outlived its usefulness and deserves to be resoundingly rejected at every opportunity.

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The Type of Cook You Are…

by on Mar.25, 2009, under Cooking, food

…determines how healthy your cooking is. Interesting findings present in this New York Times article. Here’s an excerpt on the five types of cooks:

“Giving” cooks (22 percent) are enthusiastic about cooking and specialize in comfort food, particularly home-baked goodies.

“Methodical” cooks (18 percent) rely heavily on recipes, so their cooking is strongly influenced by the cookbook they use.

“Competitive” cooks (13 percent) think less about health and more on making the most impressive dish possible.

“Healthy” cooks (20 percent) often serve fish and use fresh ingredients, but taste isn’t the primary goal.

“Innovative” cooks (19 percent) like to experiment with different ingredients, cooking methods and cuisines, a process that tends to lead to more healthful cooking.

It’s further interesting to note that, although giving cooks think they are cooking healthy food, they are the least healthy of all types. Food for thought (sorry, that just came out).

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Kitchen Hints From The New York Times

by on Jan.08, 2009, under Cooking, food

This article has a number of interesting cooking hints, beginning with making your own bread crumbs, chicken stock and other items. Note that some of the suggestions directly conflict with storing food and accoutrements in the case of “disruption of service,” but taking it for what it’s worth…here it is:

Fresh Start for a New Year? Let’s Begin in the Kitchen

PERHAPS, like me, you have this romantic notion of shopping daily — maybe even a mental vision of yourself making the rounds, wicker basket in hand, of your little Shropshire or Provençal or Tuscan village. The reality, of course, is that few of us provision our kitchens or cook exclusively with ultra-fresh ingredients, especially in winter, when there simply are no ultra-fresh ingredients.

But if your goal is to cook and cook quickly, to get a satisfying and enjoyable variety of real food on the table as often as possible, a well-stocked pantry and fridge can sustain you. Replenished weekly or even less frequently, with an occasional stop for fresh vegetables, meat, fish and dairy, they are the core supply houses for the home cook.

While you’re stocking up, you might clear out a bit of the detritus that’s cluttering your shelves. Some of these things take up more space than they’re worth, while others are so much better in their real forms that the difference is laughable. Sadly, some remain in common usage even among good cooks. My point here is not to criminalize their use, but to point out how easily and successfully we can substitute for them, in every case with better results.

Here, then, is my little list of items you might spurn, along with some essential pantry and long-keeping refrigerator items you might consider. Note that I’m not including the ultra-obvious, things that are more or less ubiquitous in the contemporary American pantry, like potatoes, eggs and honey.

OUT Packaged bread crumbs or croutons.

IN Take crumbs, cubes or slices of bread, and either toast evenly in a low oven until dry and lightly browned, tossing occasionally; or cook in olive oil until brown and crisp, stirring frequently. The first keep a long time, and are multipurpose; the second are best used quickly, and are incomparably delicious.

OUT Bouillon cubes or powder, or canned stock.

IN Simmer a carrot, a celery stalk and half an onion in a couple of cups of water for 10 minutes and you’re better off; if you have any chicken scraps, even a half-hour of cooking with those same vegetables will give you something 10 times better than any canned stock.

OUT Aerosol oil. At about $12 a pint, twice as expensive as halfway decent extra virgin olive oil, which spray oil most decidedly is not; and it contains additives.

IN Get some good olive oil and a hand-pumped sprayer or even simpler, a brush. Simplest: your fingers.

OUT Bottled salad dressing and marinades. The biggest rip-offs imaginable.

IN Take good oil and vinegar or lemon juice, and combine them with salt, pepper, maybe a little Dijon, in a proportion of about three parts oil to one of vinegar. Customize from there, because you may like more vinegar or less, and you undoubtedly will want a little shallot, or balsamic vinegar, or honey, or garlic, or tarragon, or soy sauce. …

OUT Bottled lemon juice.

IN Lemons. Try buying six at a time, then experiment; I never put lemon on something and regret it. (Scramble a couple of eggs in chicken stock, then finish with a lot of lemon, black pepper and dill; call this egg-lemon soup, or avgolemono.) Don’t forget the zest: you can grate it and add it to many pan sauces, or hummus and other purées. And don’t worry about reamers, squeezers or any of that junk; squeeze from one hand into the other and let your fingers filter out the pips.

OUT Spices older than a year: smell before using; if you get a whiff of dust or must before you smell the spice, toss it. I find it easier to clean house once a year and buy new ones.

IN Fresh spices. Almost all spices are worth having. But some that you might think about using more frequently include cardamom (try a tiny bit in your next coffee cake, apple cake, spice cake or rice pilaf); ground cumin (a better starting place in chili — in fact, in many bean dishes — than chili powder); fennel seeds (these will give a Provençal flavor to any tomato sauce or soup; grind them first, or not); an assortment of dried chilies (I store them all together, because dried chipotles make the rest of them slightly smoky); fresh — or at least dried — ginger, which is lovely grated over most vegetables; pimentón, the smoked Spanish red pepper that is insanely popular in restaurants but still barely making inroads among home cooks; and good curry powder.

OUT Dried parsley and basil. They’re worthless.

IN Fresh parsley, which keeps at least a week in the refrigerator. (Try your favorite summer pesto recipe with parsley in place of basil, or simply purée some parsley with a little oil, water, salt and a whisper of garlic. Or add a chopped handful to any salad or almost anything else.) And dried tarragon, rosemary and dill, all of which I use all winter; mix a teaspoon or so of tarragon or rosemary — not more, they’re strong — with olive oil or melted butter and brush on roasted or broiled chicken while it cooks, or add a pinch to vinaigrette. Dill is also good with chicken; on plain broiled fish, with lemon; or in many simple soups.

OUT Canned beans (except in emergencies).

IN Dried beans. More economical, better tasting, space saving and available in far more varieties. Cook a pound once a week and you’ll always have them around (you can freeze small amounts in their cooking liquid, or water, indefinitely). If you’re not sold, try this: soak and cook a pound of white beans. Take some and finish with fresh chopped sage, garlic and good olive oil. Purée another cup or so with a boiled potato and lots of garlic. Mix some with a bit of cooking liquid, and add a can of tomatoes; some chopped celery, carrots and onions; cooked pasta; and cheese and call it pasta fagiole or minestrone. If there are any left, mix them with a can of olive-oil-packed tuna or sardines. And that’s just white beans.

OUT Imitation vanilla.

IN Vanilla beans. They’re expensive, but they keep. (If you look online you can find bargains in bulk, which is why I have 25 in my refrigerator.) If you slice a pod in half and simmer it with some leftover rice and any kind of milk (dairy, coconut, almond…), you’ll never go back to extract.

OUT Grated imitation “Parmesan” (beware the green cylinder, or any other pre-grated cheese for that matter).

IN Real Parmigiano-Reggiano. Wrapped well, it keeps for a year (scrape mold off if necessary). Grated over anything, there is no more magical ingredient. Think about pasta with butter and Parmesan (does your mouth water?). But also think about any egg dish, with Parmesan; anything sautéed with a coating of bread crumbs and Parmesan; or asparagus, broccoli, spinach or any other cooked vegetable, topped with Parmesan (and maybe some bread crumbs) and run under the broiler; how great. Save the rinds to throw in pots of sauce, soup, tomato-y stew or risotto.

OUT Canned peas (and most other canned vegetables, come to think of it).

IN Frozen peas. Especially if you have little kids and make pasta or rice with peas (and Parmesan!); not bad. Or purée with a little lemon juice and salt for a nice spread or dip. In fact, many frozen vegetables are better than you might think.

OUT Tomato paste in a can.

IN Tomato paste in a tube. You rarely need more than two tablespoons so you feel guilty opening a can; this solves that problem. Stir some into vegetables sautéed in olive oil, for example, then add water for fast soup. Or add a bit to almost any vegetable as it cooks in olive oil and garlic — especially cabbage, dark greens, carrots or cauliflower.

OUT Premade pie crusts. O.K., these are a real convenience, but almost all use inferior fats. I’d rather make a “pie” or quiche with no crust than use these.

IN Crumble graham crackers with melted butter and press into a pan. But really — if you put a pinch of salt, a cup of flour, a stick of very cold, cut-up butter in a food processor, then blend with a touch of water until it almost comes together — you have a dough you can refrigerate or freeze and roll out whenever you want, in five minutes.

OUT Cheap balsamic or flavored vinegars.

IN Sherry vinegar. More acidic and more genuine than all but the most expensive balsamic. Try a salad of salted cabbage (shred, then toss with a couple of tablespoons of salt in a colander for an hour or two, then rinse and drain), tossed with plenty of black pepper, a little olive oil and enough sherry vinegar to make the whole thing sharp.

OUT Minute Rice or boil-in-a-bag grains.

IN Genuine grains. Critical; as many different types as you have space for. Short grain rice — for risotto, paella, just good cooked rice — of course. Barley, pearled or not; a super rice alternative, with any kind of gravy, reduction sauce, pan drippings, what have you. Ground corn for polenta, grits, cornbread or thickener (whisk some — not much — into a soup and see what happens). Quinoa — people can’t believe how flavorful this is until they try it. Bulgur, which is ready in maybe 10 minutes (it requires only steeping), and everyone likes. If you’re in doubt about how to cook any of these, combine them with abundant salted water and cook as you would pasta, then drain when tender; you can’t go far wrong.

OUT “Pancake” syrup, which is more akin to Coke than to the real thing.

IN Real maple syrup, an indigenous gift from nature and the north country.

YOU SHOULD ALSO STOCK:

REAL BACON OR PROSCIUTTO Or other traditionally smoked or cured meat of some kind. If you have a quarter pound of prosciutto in the house at all times you can make almost anything — simple cooked grains, beans, vegetables, tomato sauces, soups — taste better. And, tightly wrapped, it’ll keep for weeks in the fridge or months in the freezer.

FISH SAUCE You have soy sauce, presumably; this is different, stronger, cruder (or should I say “less refined”?) in a way — and absolutely delicious. Use sparingly, but use; start by sprinkling a little over plain steamed vegetables, along with a lot of black pepper.

CANNED COCONUT MILK Try this: cook some onions in oil with curry powder; stir in coconut milk; poach chicken, fish, tofu, or even meat in that. Serve over rice.

MISO PASTE Never goes bad, as far as I can tell, and its flavor is incomparable. Whisk into boiling water for real soup in three minutes; thin a bit (with sake if you have it), and smear on meat or fish that’s almost done broiling; add a spoonful to vinaigrette. Etc.

CAPERS, GOOD OLIVES (BUY IN BULK, NOT CANS) AND GOOD ANCHOVIES (IN OLIVE OIL, PLEASE) The combination of the three makes a powerful paste, or pasta sauce, or dip.

WALNUTS And/or other nuts, but walnuts are most basic and useful. Try a purée with garlic, oil and a little water, as a pasta sauce, or just add to salads or cooked grains.

PIGNOLI With raisins, they make any dish Sicilian.

DRIED FRUIT For snacking, in braises (braised pork with prunes is a classic winter dish), or just soaked in water (or booze) or poached for dessert. Don’t forget dried tomatoes, too.

DRIED MUSHROOMS Don’t even bother to reconstitute if you’re cooking with liquid; just toss them in.

FROZEN SHRIMP Incredibly convenient.

WINTER SQUASH AND SWEET POTATOES These store almost as well as potatoes and are more nutritious and equally interesting. A sweet potato roasted until the exterior is nearly blackened and the interior is mush is a wonderful snack. The best winter squashes (delicata, for example) have edible skins and are amazing just chunked and roasted with a little oil (and maybe some ginger or garlic). For butternut- or acorn-type squashes, poke holes through to the center with a skewer in a few places and roast in a 400 degree oven until soft. Let cool, then peel and seed.

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Making Your Own Bread

by on Dec.20, 2008, under Cooking

Of late, I have become quite dissatisfied with the quality of bread available in my local grocery store (my dissatisfaction with my local grocery store has been growing as well, but that’s another story). Primarily, when I want bread, I want whole grains, very limited sweetener, and nothing else.  Alas, the industrial food system has determined that additives and preservatives, along with a dysfunctional approach to sweeteners, has rendered commercial store bought bread unacceptable.  Just check out the ingredients list on pretty much any bread bag…you’ll see things like bleached flour, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenated oils, most of which are considered poisonous for people (at least, those trying to maintain a reasonable height to weight ratio). At any rate, making your own bread seemed a formidable task, at least until I came across a recipe which called for no kneading and very little effort.  Of course, the results were outstanding, in terms of cost, convenience, and most of all, taste and healthfulness.  Needless to say, a huge benefit to making one’s own bread is the vast control you have over the ingredients.  One can, for example, add flax seeds, wheat berries, honey, nuts of all kinds, play with the proportions of whole wheat flour and rye, add bits of cheese, or many other items. It really does open up an entirely different world, and changes one’s perspective about bread. Why put up with inferior store bought bread, when making your own is so ridiculously easy?

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First Post: The Introduction

by on Dec.19, 2008, under Uncategorized

10000 Vinyasas is my attempt to record my progress in yoga (practice and teaching), recipes I find or improvise, ideas on improving and simplifying one’s diet, food and wine in general, gardening and various other ways to ease the way down the slope of declining industrial civilization, which is assumed on this blog and not discussed. (If you’d like to explore the whys and wherefores of this, head on over to the Edge of Chaos, listed in the blogroll).

With food,my influences are Michael Pollan (The Omivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food) and Gary Taubes (Good Calories, Bad Calories).

In yoga, I’ve been studying Ashtanga, although I’ve practiced Anusara and practice Power Yoga several times a week.

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