Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Eating Can Be An Adventure - Keep It Interesting, Simple, Healthy, and Fun

I have been preparing my own meals for many years. Like most people, I suppose, I would fix only familiar dishes.

That has changed. For health benefits, I began eating more fruits and vegetables, including some that were unfamiliar. I tried many foods that were new to me, for example, whole grains, and various types of beans, seeds and nuts. Many of those became favorites.

I began to more often use unfamiliar ways to prepare food. A few of my favorites are pesto (pureed greens and oil), raw foods that are normally eaten cooked, and unusual combinations such as bread with peanut butter, covered with pizza sauce. Eating became more interesting, more enjoyable, and more of an adventure.

The circumstances of my life encouraged a varied diet. Making do with a small amount of money gave me a liking for oatmeal, beans, and other very low-cost foods. Growing up on a farm and having a garden each year provided new fruits and vegetables to try and enjoy. Having been raised to 'waste not, want not', helped me not to pass up unusual foods: gifts such as my sister's 'beans 'n' greens', the landlord's pierogies, a neighbor's gift of venison, and my son's homemade deer jerky. Some of those unfamiliar foods were not enjoyed at first because they were so unfamiliar and were unrecognized as a 'goody'. For me, that recognition is typically made gradually by many small trials. But it seems that the more often I attempt to enjoy an unfamiliar food, the more success I will have.

The process of trying new foods and having them become enjoyed fare, turns eating into an adventure. Eating becomes more interesting and more enjoyed. Meals become more than a time to enjoy what I have enjoyed before. Awareness is heightened by experiencing the unfamiliar. There is anticipation of discovery of a new enjoyment. Meals become pay-off times of previous experimentation efforts. The food is more appreciated for having creative effort invested in it. Perhaps I have gained a health benefit, saved some prep time, saved money that can be used for some other purpose, and have added to my repertoire of pleasure.

A cookbook will give you ideas about what new foods to try. A recipe book about a particular ethnic food or some other unfamiliar category of food would be particularly helpful. Buy one or get one from the library. Some ethnic categories are Middle Eastern, Southeast Asian, African, soul food, Southern, and Mexican. Other categories are health food, quick and easy recipes, weight loss diets, vegetarian recipes, and using food from the garden. You might even enjoy some obscure categories such as pioneer/early American food, Native American food, wild food, early European food, food from storage, and low cost food. I particularly like quick and easy recipe books.

If you need help becoming comfortable with trying new foods, try small changes:

- Eat breakfast foods at lunch or supper. Or try a vegetable at breakfast. If you normally have a sandwich at bedtime, have a salad instead.

- Try different brands from the ones you normally use.

- Leave out one or more ingredients from your standard recipes. Or change the proportions - a little more of this or a little less of that.

- Substitute a similar ingredient for a usual ingredient, for instance, orange juice concentrate or lemon juice instead of vinegar on a salad.

- It may help to eat smaller portions but include a greater number of foods at each meal. That may help you develop a liking for variety.

- Try unusual combinations such as cooked chicken and raw fruit cut in small pieces and mixed together...or pizza sauce on a peanut butter open-face sandwich...or a teaspoon of honey or pancake syrup on a dark green, leafy salad.

Salads are great to experiment with. Use another type of greens instead of or in addition to the standard iceberg lettuce. Add various amounts and combinations of any vegetables that you enjoy. The vegetables can be proportioned to subdue or enhance particular flavors - use less basil to lessen its pungent flavor, use more carrot to boost its flavor and texture. Add ingredients that are not normally thought of as salad ingredients such as nuts, peanuts, coconut, cereal, raisins, whole wheat flour, baked beans, sugar, and fruit. Try something different for a dressing such as plain oil, pasta sauce, or peanut butter softened with oil.

Use small quantities of an untested food to begin with until you know how well your body deals with it. The body will adapt to some foods over a period of weeks or months but results vary from food to food and, I suppose, from individual to individual. A couple of years ago eating one spear of raw asparagus was more than I could tolerate. Now I can cut up two ounces of raw asparagus and add it to a salad without any problem. Any food has limits; it's just that raw foods tend to have more immediate penalties for exceeding the limits.

To develop a liking for a new food, eat it at the beginning of a meal when you are most hungry. Being hungry greatly improves ones ability to appreciate the taste of a food. Eat only a small amount of the new food at each sitting. For some foods, a tiny bite, just enough to sense its flavor, is enough to handle at first. Don't give up easily on a food that at first seems too strange to be enjoyed. Some foods will require dozens of 'get acquainted' trials.

Other strategies for liking new foods:

- Read about nutrition and health to know the benefits of a changed diet.

- Make a decision to increase the pleasure in your life. Your success in enjoying new foods will encourage you to try other kinds of new pleasures.

Have reasons in mind to try unusual foods:

- to be able to enjoy healthy foods.

- to enjoy low-prep-time foods.

- to use what you can grow in your garden.

- for the satisfaction of acquiring new pleasures.

- to increase your enjoyment of eating.

Know why liking new foods is difficult. This is the know-your-enemy principle. It seems to help me. People have an instinctive protection against eating toxic foods. Nature has provided you with mistrust for new, unfamiliar food. If the food is enough different from what you are used to, it will not be immediately liked. This is a necessary instinct that keeps you from poisoning yourself by eating the wrong mushroom, for example. Evolution along with chemistry eliminated the gulp-down-anything individuals from our gene pool. The little-by-little taste-developers survived.

If it's the sugar, salt and spices you depend upon to enjoy food, other flavors will go unappreciated. To help your fondness for new foods come easier, ease up on spices, salt, and sugar. That encourages your taste to appreciate a greater variety of flavors. You then can more appreciate the sweetness of cherry tomatoes, the sweetness of fresh fruit, and the sweetness of sweet potatoes, for example. You can enjoy the mild flavor of raw chestnuts, the richness of nuts, and the subtle starchiness of cereal grains. Your palate will be more adept at experiencing the pleasures of subtle flavors. A great many foods that previously seemed mostly tasteless, can then be enjoyed for their unique flavors.

Your enjoyment of strong tasting food will also be helped by reducing sugar and salt use. You will be switching from depending on saltiness and sweetness to getting pleasure from a greater variety of flavors.

Finding new foods:

- Browse at a health food store, a farmers market or an ethnic food festival.

- Take the time to look at all the items at a local supermarket.

- Browse at local ethnic food markets: Middle Eastern or Greek, for example.

- Try raw foods, whole grains and other unprocessed foods. Typically, they have more texture and flavor. These foods are higher in fiber and so produce more intestinal gas. Limit portion size to reduce gas production. Load up when gas will not be a problem. I allow myself to pig-out at a before bedtime meal. If the meal is low in calories, that large meal doesn't keep me from having a good night's sleep.

- Do your own cooking. Restaurants have menus that appeal to a majority of people, not to people wanting something different. Even the person who cooks for their own family may be unlikely to prepare other than familiar and popular food.

- Have a garden, if you have the time and space. Every year I can try out new recipes and a new vegetable or two. Otherwise, take advantage of the variety the large supermarkets offer.

Fun Facts about Ice Cream

To this day, the history of ice cream remains a mystery. However, many say that the first ice cream is credited to Emperor Nero of Rome. It was a mixture of snow, nectar, fruit pulp, and honey. Others proclaim that Marco Polo, a 13th century adventurer, brought ice cream to Europe from the Far East. However, regardless of where it came from, today's average American consumes 23.2 quarts of ice cream per year, with the first ice cream parlor in America opening in 1776 in New York City.

So, which countries like ice cream the most? The United States, New Zealand, Denmark, and Australia top the list. The favorite flavor is the classic vanilla. Then comes chocolate, strawberry, neapolitan, and chocolate chip.

How do these line up with your own list of favorites?

The most popular topping for ice cream ---- chocolate syrup. Who would of thought ; )

Around 13% of men and 8% of women will admit to licking the bowl clean after eating ice cream.

Biggest ice cream sundae - 12 ft tall! This one was made with 4,667 gallons of ice cream in California in 1985.

The average single-scoop ice cream cone takes 50 licks to finish. Try it out with the following recipe.

Quick Strawberry Parfait:


1 quart of strawberry ice cream

1 pint of whipped cream


Mix the strawberry ice cream with the whipped cream at serving time. Serve in a glass of your choice and top with whipped cream, with a strawberry on top. (Feel free to top your parfait with other fruits as well.)

This recipe will fill eight glasses.

For other parfait flavors, simply use a different flavored ice cream.

Ten Facts You Did not Know about Tea

There are only three basic types of Asian tea; Green, Black and Oolong. All three come from the same tea plant Camelia sinensis. The differences between the teas result from the way the tea leaves are plucked and processed. Although there are three basic types of tea, there are over 3,000 varieties to choose from. Despite their name, herbal teas are not tea at all because they do not come from the tea plant, but from herb and spice plants.

In recent Dutch studies it was found that men who drink black tea which contains catechins are fifty percent less likely to die of ischemic heart disease. This occurs when our arteries become clogged and are unable to work as they should because of them becoming narrow.

We now know that drinking a half to two cups of tea per day may promote fertility by inhibiting abnormalities in our chromosomes. In a recent test 250 women drank as little as half a cup of tea per day and their pregnancy rates were double those who did not.

A remedy for puffy eyes is to lie in a horizontal position and place either a tea compress or wet teabag over both eyes and leave for about 20 minutes. The puffiness around the eyes will amazingly vanish and your eyes will look and feel brand new.

One way to rid your refrigerator of unpleasant smells is to place one or two used tea bags somewhere within the fridge. The next day any bad smell will be gone!

A substance called Tannic acid which naturally occurs in tea is said to help in the battle against warts. Apply a wet tea bag to the infected area for about 15 minutes three times daily and the wart will slowly begin to shrink until it eventually disappears.

It is known that men in Asian countries who consume green tea have very low instances of prostate cancer. Many prominent researchers are convinced that this is due to green tea containing many powerful antioxidants and preventative anti-cancer agents.

In recent Australian studies CSIRO scientists found that the occurrence of skin cancer in laboratory mice was greatly reduced when they were given black tea. It is thought that polyphenols which are very strong antioxidants and are contained in the tea are the most likely reason for this phenomenon.

The costliest teabag ever was created for the 75'th anniversary of the PG TIPS tea company. The bag was filled with two hundred and eighty diamonds and expensive limited edition tea leaves. The tea bag cost 7,500 pounds and would be auctioned in aid of a Children's hospital in Great Britain.

Contrary to what one might expect, Turkey is a land of tea drinkers. Turks drink more tea per head than any other nation, even more than the British and they are now the world's biggest tea drinkers. The total annual consumption of tea in Turkey is approximately 120 thousand tons whereas that of coffee is only 8 thousand tons.

Wine Tasting Party

Do you have to be a sommelier to know something about wine? Well, if you want to tout yourself as an expert, perhaps but if you just want to enjoy a good glass of wine, go with your gut - or rather your mouth - and enjoy what tastes good to you. So, why not host a wine tasting party? Now before you hit the panic button, get uptight and claim to know nothing about wine, stop! We aren't proposing you sit around discussing bouquet and barrel fermenting. We want you to have a little fun.

You can buy wine tasting party kits from various sources on the internet and local shops. Don't want a kit? Here's what you need:
  • Guests - think about whom you know that likes and drinks wine and keep the numbers small
  •  A few bottles of wine that you think you might like - both red and white. Depending on the size of the crowd plan on 2 bottles of each type. Or for an added twist, ask your guests to each bring 2 bottles of their favorite wine. If you do this you will need them to email or phone you with the wine information ahead of time.
  • Printed wine tasting cards that list the wines you purchased with some information from the bottle
  • Pencils in case guests want to make notes about their favorites
  • Wine glasses. We recommend 2 per person. One for tasting and one for later
  • Plain saltine or oyster crackers for guests to cleanse their palates
  • Still (plain) water for rinsing
  • Some good music, good conversationalists and a sense of fun!
If you want to add an extra flare to the party, why not serve a variety of champagnes instead. Have friends bring cava, prosecco, sparkling wine and champagne instead of a red or white wine.

At the end of the event, serve some crackers/bread, cheese and fruit or some other small/light appetizers and offer each guest a glass of his/her favorite wine. Wine charms are a fun thing to introduce at this point. Each person can pick her/her own and attach to the glass. Put on some music and enjoy the company. However, above all things, drink and serve responsibly!

Low Fat Fallacy

I guess we all know that obesity is at epidemic levels. It's drummed into us from all angles. Isn't it strange that we have the biggest range of low-fat foods available but we keep getting fatter?

Isn't somebody going to stand up and say "It hasn't worked"?

In the 70's and 80's we were told that fat was the enemy, and carbohydrates were good. The USDA Healthy Food Pyramid had carbs as the base (6-11 servings per day). There was however, little mention of the quality of these carbohydrates.

Manufacturers were quick to respond, and began bringing out "Low Fat", "Fat-Free", and "Lite" versions of various food products. These are generally the biggest selling items, and have resulted in lot's of clever marketing tactics - in fact anything to make the consumer feel guilty, and look for the "Fat-Free" option.

Milk - Is Whole Milk Really That Bad?

Most of our modern milk undergoes the process of homogenisation. This process forces the fat globules into an atomiser (i.e. tiny holes) that will form tiny particles. These particles are then evenly dispersed throughout the milk, giving the milk a uniform appearance. Most of our low fat, trim, super-trim milks are created using this process.

However, recent research has shown that structural changes do occur in the homogenisation process. In unhomogenised milk, an enzyme called xanthine oxidase would pass throught the digestive system, and be secreted harmlessly through the bowel. The homogenisation process allows this enzyme to enter the bloodstream.

Some researchers are saying the enzyme attacks the issues of our heart and arteries, encouranging an increase in cholesterol levels!

Low Fat Hasn't Worked

The evidence of the last twenty years, is showing us that just choosing a low-fat version of a food is not helping us lose weight. In fact, we need to question, the processes that go on to make certain foods "low fat".

Many blame a high amount of refined carbohydrates (white flours, sugars) as having an impact on our weight problem.

Why Are We So Fat?

More and more evidence is showing that we eat too much, and exercise too little. Our lifestyles are very sedentary, and portion size has increased. The US Center for Disease Control (CDC) has concluded that "we eat a lot - a whole lot more than we used to, and most of the increase comes from refined carbohydrates (sugar)."

In the 1970's the average person ate 136 pounds of flour and cereal products per year and now it's up to 200 pounds. The increase is almost all from processed, white flour, high sugar foods. In addition, everything has been super-sized. Example: 1955 McDonald's French fries - 2.4 ounces, 210 calories. 2004 Super size Fries - 7 ounces, 610 calories.

What's The Answer?

Don't get too hung up complex nutrient ratios told to you by the latest diet book. You need to find what works for you and your body. It's a process of trial and error. Start with a diet, then keep working at it until you find what is best for you and your health.

Try to eat whole unprocessed food where possible, and eat little and often to regulate your energy levels. Go easy on all the refined foods - it's hard - because everywhere you go - most of the food is made from cheap refined flours and base products.

Top 15 Food Quotations

  1. Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely only on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life." --Georges Blanc
  2. I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage." --Erma Bombeck
  3. As with most fine things, chocolate has its season. There is a simple memory aid that you can use to determine whether it is the correct time to order chocolate dishes: any month whose name contains the ldtter A, E, or U is the proper time for chocolate." --Sandra Boynton
  4. Noncooks think it's silly to invest two hours' work in two minutes enjoyment; but if cooking is evanescent, so is the ballet." --Julia Child
  5. Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation." --Ben Franklin
  6. I prefer butter to margarine, because I trust cows more than I trust chemists." --Joan Dye Gussow
  7. My mother's menu consisted of two choices: Take it or leave it." --Buddy Hackett
  8. Show me another pleasure like dinner which comes every day and lasts an hour." --Charles Maurice de Talleyrand
  9. An onion can make people cry, but there has never been a vegetable invented to make them laugh." --Will Rogers
  10. The two biggest sellers in bookstores are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it." --Andy Rooney
  11. Oysters are more beautiful than any religion....There's nothing in Christianity or Buddhism that quite matches the sympathetic unselfishness of an oyster." --Saki
  12. Why, then the world's mine oyster, Which I with sword will open." --William Shakespeare
  13. So in our pride we ordered for breakfast, an omelet, toast and coffee and what has just arrived is a tomato salad with onions, a dish of pickles, a big slice of watermelon and two bottles of cream soda." --John Steinbeck
  14. Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity." --Voltaire
  15. Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what's for lunch." --Orson Welles