Saturday, October 2, 2010

Smoky Skewers

So remember how I pretty much didn't post at all in the month of September? Yeah, way cool. But, I was in fact cooking and baking. A lot. The problem I've found with cooking for big dinners is that I often get so caught up in a cooking frenzy that I don't stop to take pictures for fear of not having dinner ready by the time guests arrive. Plus, if I'm still cooking/prepping while the guests are there, I tend to get funny looks as I'm posing my food for pretty pictures. Who does that?

I had two birthday dinners to prepare this month: my mama and my husband. Mom's was earlier this month and I worked towards a goal of a lower-carb meal. Somehow in my searching, I settled on skewers [which, by the way, is a really fun word to say]. And used this recipe for Grilled Shrimp and Sausage Skewers with Smoky Paprika Glaze. The prep and cooking process was pretty simple. I made the glaze, chopped up various sausages and veggies and slathered up my skewers to marinate for a few hours before cooking. My kitchen smelled like a smokehouse. I used turkey Kielbasa for this recipe. The flavor is fantastic over a grill and much more exciting than standard link sausage. And if you don't like the higher fat and calories of regular Kielbasa, turkey/chicken versions are just as tasty. I actually prefer them over the pork/beef kind.


The glaze is divine. And it's all due to this guy. I had to purchase a $5 bottle of smoked paprika. I used a few tablespoons of it but now I have this huge jar of a spice I've never even heard of. But after having this fantastic glaze, I'm on a mission to find more recipes that call for smoked paprika. If you've never had it, I encourage you to find something simple to make that calls for it because the flavor is fantastic. It's a smokey and spicy flavor. Kind of like barbecue sauce but lighter and more dignified tasting. And it turns things brilliant red. My favorite!

Behold the finished skewers.
Note: while grilling skewers, the metal handles get hot. VERY hot. Turning them with a bare hand is not recommended.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bouquet of Flours

For the husband's birthday I decided to make a strawberry cake. The recipe I chose required 3 cups of self-rising flour. As I was making my grocery list, I wanted to be sure I had self-rising flour before I did or did not buy any at the store. [We all know that this is how we end up with 3 containers of nutmeg that we rediscover every Thanksgiving]. I went to my baking cupboard to investigate.

And this is what I found:
1 and 1/2 bags of almond flour. Why did I buy that second pound?
Plastic container of all-purpose flour. Okay, I knew that was there.
1/4 full bag of all-purpose flour that didn't fit in plastic container. No real surprise.
Second 1/4 full bag of all-purpose flour. Why do I do these things? At least it was a different brand and may have been unbleached.
Box of cake flour. Would this work if I can't find my self-rising flour?
Nearly full bag at the back that I thought for sure was the self-rising flour- whole wheat flour. When did I even use this?
The 7th and final container of flour contained in my baking cupboard - self-rising flour. Victory!! 

New goal: bake more breads and other carbo-loaded foods. Possibly investigate recipes that call for whole wheat almond cake flour.

Since I don't eat many baked goods these days, I am taking requests for homemade goodies. I also anticipate flooding the office break room with baked goods until I reach a more modest level of supplies in the cupboard. Given that the cupboard also holds agave, honey and 4 different kinds of cane sugar, how they all even fit in there is a mystery in itself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

As long as it's in nugget form...

Before I close out of the entire month of September completely useless, I thought I'd share this article that my sister-in-law posted on the truth about chicken nuggets. I was *this* close to sending it to some of my coworkers that I know take their kids multiple times a week to McD's for chicken nuggets, but thought better of it. For further chicken nugget entertainment, I've included a Youtube video from Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution. I remembered seeing this last season and this article reminded me of this little demonstration. Yummy.


Admittedly, it doesn’t take much to get my nutritional feathers ruffled. I’ve seen a lot of things that have made me crazy over the years and you’ve heard me harp on them—from “healthy” whole wheat donuts to artificial sweeteners, Olestra and acrylimide. I’ve sang the siren’s song about good nutrition and what I believe too, to be common sense nutrition. Why would we drink something, in the name of quenching our thirst, that looks like toilet bowl cleaner or antifreeze?

Anyway, today I stop singing and start sounding the alarm. We absolutely must stop the madness that is fast food. We absolutely must stop the madness and the obesity and the rise in degenerative diseases. We are raising an unhealthy generation because we feed this junk to our kids! PLEASE STOP!

I know there are attempts at some fast food places to do better. As Oprah says, “When you know better, you do better.” Well, today you are going to know better about chicken nuggets, because today, I am going to tell you all I know about them.

First, McDonald’s Chicken Nuggets contain 38 ingredients. Yes, THIRTY EIGHT ingredients! Some of those ingredients are things you wouldn’t give to your DOG. Some of those things, you could use to start a fire—well, almost. Tertiary butylhydroquinone (TBHQ) is a derivative of petroleum that is sprayed on the nugget or in the box that holds the nugget to keep it fresh. TBHQ is also a derivative of butane, also known as lighter fluid. It is furthermore a suspected carcinogen—cancer-causing agent.

The batter is set in shortening (hydrogenated oils) and in turn, it is cooked in partially hydrogenated oils at the restaurant. Some of the additives in there are antifoaming agents, emulsifiers, leavening agents, preservatives, fillers and binders. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Something you’d want to feed your kids?

The nuggets themselves contain 53% chicken. You wanna know what that 53% chicken is? I promise you it isn’t nice white chicken breasts! If you find those nuggets spongy and watery it’s because the chicken meat and skin is ground into a slurry, binders and fillers are added, plus lots of water, then formed into neat little nuggets.

I don’t know about you, but I’m ILL. Why do we manufacture stuff like this and then call it food? Where’s the value in it?

Please, for the children’s sake and for your own health’s sake, let’s stop this craziness with the food. It’s time to get back to basics and only eat food that is 100% identifiable. If you don’t know exactly what went into what you’re eating, you’re making a mistake. Our bodies do not need to contend with more pollution than what is already in our environment.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to Eat Pasta

Oh my gracious I love me some Italian food. Whenever I set foot in good Italian restaurants, the quarter of my genetic code that is Italian immediately bursts into operatic song while I scour the room for an accordion and Frank Sinatra. Being [partially] Italian gives me this inexplicable need to make my own pasta, attempt to toss pizza dough with my fists, and eat very large amounts of cheese. True story: my 4-year-old nephew likes to sneak the Parmesan cheese shaker out of the fridge and pop open the pour spout for a snack. I'm so proud. Being Italian also give me, what I would like to consider, a refined palette for Italian food.

The problem with Italian food is it can be unhealthy, but apparently only for Americans. America has a 30% obesity rate whereas Italy is 8%. Unfair? Extremely. I expect this is due to Americans having a myriad of other crap in our diets that Italians don't. That, and the fact that Americans don't really cook true Italian food. Not that I've ever been to Italy to truly experience this, but I'd like to think my genetics give me an inherent ability to sniff out the frauds. That and I've been to Little Italy. Does that count? 

It goes without saying that Italian food, with its sausages and oils and cheeses isn't standard fare for the healthy-minded individual. I came across this article that I think puts some reasonable ground rules down on how to indulge in pasta while still being sensible.

A Carb Lover's Guide: 3 Essntial Rules for Eating Pasta
posted on Eat Like Me 

We eat pasta about once or twice a week in our house. I love pasta for it's taste, it's quickness to cook and it's versatility in many different dishes. I often get asked why I don't eat whole grain pasta very often -- read on and I'll tell you why... The number one reason I don't eat whole grain pasta is because I prefer the taste of regular semolina and the second reason is because I don't have to. When I say "I don't have to" I am not singling myself (the dietitian) out. Let's talk about pasta - the good, the bad and the reason why you may not have to force yourself to eat whole grain if you don't want to.

THE GOOD: Pasta is a grain and grains are an important part of our everyday diet. Half of the grains you eat should be whole grains because whole grains add more fiber to the diet in addition to naturally occurring vitamins and minerals. Grains contribute carbohydrate to our diet and carbohydrate supplies our brain with energy throughout the day. If we don't eat carbohydrates we start to feel sluggish while at the same time our concentration and focus diminishes. For this reason it is important to meet your needs for grains each day. It is best to spread the grains out evenly over your three meals and it is especially helpful if your grains are whole grains because these digest more slowly and therefore release the carbohydrate over a longer period of time keeping you satiated and energized for longer.

THE BAD: Most people need about 6 ounce equivalents of grain each day - this is an amount that can easily be exceeded without proper portion control and it's especially easy when eating pasta. An ounce-equivalent of pasta is 1/2 cup cooked.  That is a TINY serving. If I had to guess I would say the average person takes about 2-3 cups of pasta when they serve themselves (4-6 ounce equivalents). If you order pasta at a restaurant you are likely being served around 4 cups which is 8 ounces equivalents. This is just one meal and you are already at or above your daily allowance for grains...uh oh. Not only are you eating a day's worth of grain in just one meal, you are also overloading your body with carbohydrate. Grains breakdown into simple sugars and that is how they provide energy, but too much sugar in your bloodstream at once is not good. Your body only needs a certain amount at one time and any excess has to be cleared (with insulin) and put into storage (adipose tissue aka fat). This happens when you eat a big pasta meal and it's not good because you have consumed several hundred calories yet you are going to feel hungry in a couple of hours because your body reacted strongly to this load you put in and worked to clear all the glucose away in order to keep your blood sugar levels in normal range.


     The first rule when eating pasta is...PORTION CONTROL!
     The second rule is...PAIR WITH PROTEIN.
     The third rule is...FORTIFY WITH FIBER.

The first rule should be of no surprise - you just read how easy it is to eat a day's worth of grain in one pasta dish so scale back the number of scoops you take. Start small (1-1.5 cups) and eat slowly. If you are still hungry (which you won't be if you follow rule #2 and rule #3), you can take another small portion (1/2 cup) 20 minutes later.

Pair your pasta with protein (meat or beans) and fortify it with fiber (vegetables) so that it becomes a more filling meal that digests more slowly. When the meal digests more slowly, you avoid the rapid rise in blood sugar and resulting overzealous insulin response. The meal will  break down over time leaving you feeling full and energized for several hours after you eat it. Protein can be chicken, beef or beans and fiber can be vegetables cooked into the dish or consumed as a salad on the side. Fiber can also come from whole grain pasta but you should not east more pasta to get more fiber...the portion control rule is still in effect. Since I pretty much always have the protein and vegetables as a part of my pasta dish, I have not taken to eating the whole grain pasta. The majority of my other grains are whole and so this is one thing I choose to go white on.

Pasta is not the enemy - it can be your good friend if you learn how to eat it right!