Thursday, September 30, 2010

2500 Calories Plus

I've been talking more and more here and on the Facebook page about dining excess.  Not just the way we eat but in the food that is being created, glorified and shoved in our faces over and over again.

I have noticed more and more some bad decadence at work from restaurants.  They are competing, I think, to see who can make us eat the worst.

Burger King's latest is a “burger” made with 4 Whopper patties, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, marinara sauce and pesto and is coming this month to the New York City BK Whopper Bar in Times Square.

And while I know this is a gimmick, it is also real.  But why?

This 9.5" monstrosity is over 2500 calories, more than a day's worth of calories for an adult.   That alone should stop you but if it doesn't:

1. There are a hundred an forty-four grams of fat in the NY Pizza Burger.

2. There are fifty-nine grams of saturated fat in the NY Pizza Burger.

3. There are 3,780 milligrams of salt in the NY Pizza Burger (more than double the daily allowance for adults).

4. You have better ways to spend thirteen dollars.

5. You do not want to be a part of the culinary suicide that Americans are committing.

6. You want to be a role model for healthy eating.

7. Your stomach just turned at the idea of this culinary travesty.

8. You value your health, both now and in the future.

9. You do not want to participate in the methane production related to making that much meat and dairy – if in fact there is real meat and dairy used in that product.

10. You don’t have an interest in financially supporting the fast food industry’s belief that they can get rich by feeding America death-food.
I hate fast food in general, but when I see examples of garbage like this being served and idolized as food, it makes me crazy.

Do not Eat This
Tiny Green Bubble

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Can one speech make a change?

In 1992, at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, 12 year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki spoke to the delegates.  Her video, now known as "The Girl Who Silenced the World for 5 Minutes" is one of the most inspirational speeches I've ever witnessed.

Severn has been an activist for all her life. 

She continues to change the world with her work but her words, almost two decades later still inspire us to stop.  To reflect.  To CHANGE.  But can we?  Can we actually listen? And do we have the courage to act.

There is a great movie with Bill Nighy and Kelly Macdonald called "The Girl in the Cafe".  It is a love story but it gives insight into the inner-workings of the G8 Summit. In a crucial scene Gina speaks out in a situation where there is tremendous pressure to stay silent... but she can't.  You can see the discomfort in the room but in spite of that she continues to speak the simple honest words that have so much impact on those around her.  Those that have the power but are often too willing to compromise.

We should never be afraid to speak.  We cannot always change the world but we can change ourselves and how we live.  We can change our world.. and hopefully all of these individuals will become a groundswell that nothing can stand against.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tonight's Dinner: Acorn Squash Stuffed with Wild Rice Pilaf

Tonight's Dinner

Acorn squash - halved, seeded and roasted until tender
Stuffed with wild rice pilaf
Steamed broccoli
Baby greens salad with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes
topped with ginger dressing

Cut the squash in half and remove seeds, rub edges with a bit of oil so they don't stick and bake about 45 min at 400 degrees until fork tender.

In saute pan with about 2 Tbl of EarthBlance, cook chopped carrots, celery, mushrooms (optional) and 1.5 cups of wild rice blend until the veggies are soft.  Add 3 cups of vegetable stock, ground pepper and stuffing herb mix (sage is ideal) and bring to a boil.  Turn temperature to low and let simmer until rice is done.

Steam broccoli for 15 minutes.

Serve the squash filled with the rice mixture and with the broccoli on the side.  Add a green salad for a fresh addition.

Less Impact Fam(ily) Waste Notes:
Squash - no packaging
Wild Rice - from bulk bin purchased in reusable bag
Carrots - bunch in plastic packaging
Celery - rubberband
Stock - some homemade, some from veggie boullion cube w/ foil wrapper
Broccoli - no packaging
Dressing - glass jar
Salad - Bulk plastic bin
Cucumber - no packaging
Cherry tomatoes - recyclable plastic package

Friday, September 24, 2010

A Must See: Forks Over Knives

Last weekend we had the amazing opportunity to go to a screening of the documentary "Forks Over Knives" and to hear Dr. Campbell speak in person.

This movie is tremendous. 

It focuses on the very real and clinically proven health benefits of eating a plant-based diet.  The movie came out of the work of Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a nutritional scientist from Cornell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, a top surgeon and head of the Breast Cancer Task Force at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. 

What is amazing about this movie - and what elicited gasps throughout from the audience - is the factual proof and connections between eating animal-based food and the major health implications they cause. 

We are not talking anecdotal results, but rather proven by huge research studies, under the care of the most respected and top ranking doctors and scientists, that issues like cancer, heart disease and diabetes can be stopped and EVEN REVERSED just by switching to a plant-based diet.

This is not a movie that is showing you images of animal conditions or factory farming, although there is a bit of that, but rather it focuses on people and their evolving health and lifestyle. 

For many, if not most people, in this country this is a huge concern.  Their health and the health of their children are at risk from the way they are eating now.  There is a lot of crappy but cheap and available food shoved at you every second of every day no matter where you go.  This movie shows the connections to how this is hurting us.

Dr. Campbell spoke and answered questions after the movie.  This man is in his 80s and still runs and is 110% there mentally. 

He spoke to how the issue is NOT the way factory farming is done that creates the issues, because their studies were done with grass-fed animals (factory farming conditions just makes it even worse). That you can essentially "turn-on" and "turn-off" cancer production by eliminating meat, eggs, and especially dairy.   That we could reduce our country's health costs by 75%-80% just by making this change.

While we switched to a vegan lifestyle for animal compassion reasons, health and environmental concerns - and benefits - were also in our minds.   There is heart disease and cancer in our family backgrounds.  I don't want to eat myself into a heart attack at 50-something, you know?

It was interesting to see how influenced people were by the movie.  You could really tell that they were impacted by the message.  I hope they were inspired to go home and really think about making a change in their lives, for their lives.

Their are screenings currently being held around the country.  You can go to the site to see if there is one in your area or how to have a showing in your area.   The movie is coming out in March 2011.  I've very excited and hopeful to see a wave of people taking control of their health and wanting to make this positive change.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Messages from MUTTS

I love the MUTTS comic strip and it's creator, Patrick McDonnell.  He mixes in fun and humor with important messages about animal welfare and issues.

I appreciate that he uses his talent and influence to tirelessly work on behalf of the animals.  He is an inspiration to me.

According to the site:
McDonnell's website, muttscomics.com, promotes his animal and earth friendly philosophy. Consistent with McDonnell's concern for the environment, all of the MUTTS books are printed on recycled paper. He and his wife Karen O'Connell are vegetarian and happily reside with their formerly feral cat MeeMow.

Thank you, Patrick for the work you do.  Your strip always makes me think... and smile.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Stress Over Dinner for Guests

I think at some point and time, we realize that we have to invite people over for dinner.  Maybe for a slightly fancier dinner than just grabbing a pizza or layout out some chips and salsa.  We want to impress but we don't want to stress ourselves out so much that we miss out on the whole point of having our friends over... we want to enjoy their company.

I'm going to let you in on my favorite "company" dinner. Risotto.

Risotto is the perfect meal for when you are having guests over.  You can easily make a large batch.  It's easy to make and you can flavor it in a number of different ways.  You can prepare it bit ahead and keep it warm on the stove.  And by pairing it up with a steamed or grilled vegetable and maybe a salad, you have a beautifully presented meal.

Risotto even sounds a bit fussy and fancy but, here's a secret... it's just rice!  Okay, it's really creamy tasting and amazing rice but it's not very complicated and you can't really mess it up.  Plus it can be very inexpensive to make, which let's you have friends over more often.  

Depending on how many people you are planning to have over and what you are pairing with it, this recipe will easily serve 4 - 6 dinner portions. 

What you need is Risotto rice, a medium yellow onion, stock (homemade!!!), about 2 Tbls of olive oil, white wine and salt and pepper.  You can add any combination of other ingredients such as saffron, mushrooms, peas, asparagus whatever you want, really.

Risotto takes a bit of time but it's not complicated.  The slow cooking and slow additions of the broth are what creates the creamy texture with almost zero fat.  You don't need to add anything such as butter or cheese to accomplish the richness that risotto is known for.

Begin by chopping the onion into small, not quite minced pieces.   In a wide and deep pan, saute this in the olive oil about 7 minutes until the onions are soft.  Add 2 Cups of the risotto rice to the pan and cook that until the rice is a bit translucent with a white dot in the center, about another 5 or so minutes.  Add a 1/2 Cup of white wine to the rice and the onions and let it absorb into the rice.

While your onions are cooking have the stock warming over low heat in another pot.  I like to have about 8 cups on hand. You are going to be adding the stock to the rice about a 1/2 cup (or a good ladle-ful) at a time, slowing letting the rice absorb the liquid each time before adding more.  Stir the rice a bit after each addition and make sure to scrape along the bottom of the pan.

Once the rice has absorbed all of the stock and is completely soft, usually this takes about 30 - 40 minutes, add in any additions.  If you are adding in mushrooms or a vegetable I would recommend cooking them separately and stirring them into the cooked risotto.

And that's it!  Plate and serve.  Here is our dinner from the other night - risotto and steamed broccoli.

And here is a fancy dinner out - mushroom risotto served with grilled asparagus.

Even if you are not having people over, make the same amount. Risotto stores well and is even better the next day.   You can reheat it or you can even form the chilled risotto into small discs and fry them to serve on the top of or on the side of some tender raw or cooked greens.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Friends Don't Let Friends: Eat Canned Beans

Sorry it's been a while since I posted a recipe.  It's not like we haven't been eating!  It's just been so hot out that I don't want to cook a lot.  But now we're back. And what I'm making today is something simple and basic but often overlooked - beans from scratch.

In the title I say not to eat canned beans.  There really isn't anything wrong with canned beans. They're convenient and perfect for adding some substantial weight to a meal. But making beans from dried does give you the opportunity to buy in bulk for much cheaper than canned, the flavor is better and you can control the amount of sodium you are getting.

Making beans, any kind really, rehydrated from dried is very simple, it just needs a bit of advanced planning.   You can do this faster with a quick cook method (boiling for 2 hours and then draining and then cooking as noted) but I prefer to do a cold water soak for at least 8+ hours.  I just throw the beans, about 1 - 2 cups of dried, in a pot or bowl with plenty of water in the morning, to cook that night, or the night before.  Then the largest part of the work is done with little effort on my part.

Once you've let your dried beans soak, strain out the water and give them a rinse.  This rinses away much of the sugars, which can cause gas in some people.

Now this is how I cook black beans but you can use the same method for other beans, just vary the flavors to go with the dish you are making.  I like to use a medium yellow onion, chopped, a few cloves of garlic minced or grated, and sometimes I'll even throw in a poblano pepper or jalapeno.  Again, go with the flavors you want for your end result.   I also grind some fresh pepper and add in whole cumin seeds.  I don't add any salt because this can keep the beans from absorbing the water by toughening their skins.

Just saute the onions, garlic, pepper and spices in olive oil for about 6 - 7 minutes, enough to sweat them and get them a bit browned.

While these are cooking I add in more seasonings so the onions absorb the flavors.  My favorites to add are Liquid Smoke (so good!), a few drops of toasted sesame oil, a few spritzes of Braggs, a splash or two of Tabasco and some ground cumin.

You can cook your beans in water but I prefer to use stock (you are making your own stock right?!?) as it adds so much richness and depth to the beans.  You'll need enough liquid to cover the beans.  You can supplement with water and even add in a veggie bullion cube too.

Add the beans, onions etc., to the pot and cook on low for about an hour.  The cooking time is very flexible.  You can turn up the heat (make sure they don't boil over) and cook them a bit faster, or let them simmer for a while, which is what I prefer. I like them to take plenty of time to absorb the flavors and cook down a bit.   Test a bean or two. They should be softened but still with some firmness.  Of course, if you like them really soft and mushy, just let them cook longer.

Once the beans are cooked you can serve them over rice, to top a salad, use in tacos or burritos or even cool and make in to burgers. Add your salt at the end and even a squeeze of lime juice.

One last note, save your bean soaking water.  You don't want to cook with it but you can use it to water your plants.  It's very nutrient rich.

Happy Bean Eating!