Sunday, February 26, 2012

Food For Thought

The way we think about our food plays an enormous role in how we choose our food. As a culture, we have become more accustomed to food being good, and less accustomed to food being good for us. Flavor outweighs nutrition in most of our choices, with few exceptions.

Flavor enhancers are so overused that foods in their natural forms seem tasteless and bland. Sugar, in its many forms, has found its way into almost everything, from the places we expect to see it (cookies, ice cream, and other sweets) to places a lot of us would be shocked to see it ("health" foods such as yogurt and bread). High fructose corn syrup is only the most common culprit. (And, while I've mentioned that, and since it's become a source of debate at least on TV commercials, I'd like to point out that the corn coalition goes on TV to try to make us think that HFCS is just like sugar, and is safe in moderation. While it is not just like sugar, and it does process in your body differently than sugar, it probably is safe in moderation. But how can one possibly moderate its consumption when it is in almost EVERYTHING we eat???? Ponder that with me, please.)

Salt is another flavor enhancer that is difficult to steer clear from, both because it's in almost everything and also because we are so used to it being in everything that foods without it lack flavor. And, like sugar, it is safe in moderation but isn't healthy in overdoses, but is extremely difficult to moderate because it is found in most store-bought and especially processed foods.

And yet another flavor enhancer is artificial sweetener. This one is probably the worst, since it actually slows your metabolism and makes you crave more food (making you burn fewer and consume more calories throughout the day and therefore making you gain weight over time), and in its many forms, has been proven again and again to cause illnesses such as cancer.,8599,1711763,00.html

And, lastly there is fat. Enough said.

So here is my challenge: Take this week to study labels. Look for added sugar in any form, and avoid it when you can. Look for added sodium and avoid it when you can. Make one meal this week that is made without anything processed. The ingredients can only come from the produce aisle or the meat counter (and not the deli meat counter!). Feel free to add your own flavor enhancers (read the labels). If you add them yourself, you can control them. And, if you can control them, you tend to use less. Less is more, and not just proverbially. Kosher salt, sea salt, black pepper are my most used flavor enhancers. A little goes a long way with these, and black pepper offers nothing bad--no calories, no harmful effects on your body, just flavor. Olive oil is the wisest fat additive. Again, a little goes a long way. And finally, if you must add a sweetener, try something natural, like honey, sugar in the raw, agave nectar, as these have a lower glycemic response (your blood sugar won't spike nor plummet as quickly, leaving you with fewer cravings and therefore more control).

Then, leave a comment for me as to how you felt about your challenge meal (be sure to tell me what you made!). Did you like it better or not as well as something processed? Did it take more time or less time or the same to prepare? How did your family respond? Are you more likely or less likely to cook like this in the future?

Good luck and have fun with it!


Monday: Onion-Smothered Pork Tenderloin, commercial bagged salad with homemade dressing, roasted potatoes

To roast the potatoes, heat oven to 450. Take a pound to a pound and a half of small red potatoes and quarter them. Put them in a medium bowl and drizzle with 1 1/2 T. olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 t. kosher salt and 3/4 t. black pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Place potatoes on a cookie sheet (line it with foil first to make clean up easier, if you wish). Bake at 450 for 10-15 minutes or until tender. Broil for 2-3 minutes or until beginning to brown (watch them closely at this stage). Be careful: these are better than french fries!

Tuesday: Garlic-Ginger Shrimp

Wednesday: Garlic Flank Steak, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Sugar Snap Peapods (make two pounds steak, and reserve half for tomorrow's wraps)

Thursday: Flank Steak Wraps, Apple Wedges

Flank Steak Wraps
Mix 2 T. tomato paste, 2 t. chili powder, a pinch of salt and a cup of salsa until well blended. Heat reserved steak (from last night) in a med pan over med heat until hot. While steak is reheating, warm up 4 tortillas in the microwave, sandwiched between paper towels, for 1 minute. Spread tomato mixture onto the tortillas, top with warm steak, shredded cheddar cheese, and shredded iceberg lettuce. Roll up, cut in half, and secure with tooth picks.

Friday and Saturday we will be eating out.

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