Showing posts with label food shopping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label food shopping. Show all posts

June 27, 2014

Links I like: 6/27/14

Happy Friday! Can you believe it's almost July? Even though it's raining at the moment, I'm thrilled that summer didn't wait until July 5 to arrive in Seattle. Here are some tasty links I found this week:

Fyi, I'm going to start doing nutrition Q&A columns periodically in The Seattle Times, so if you have a nutrition-related question, email it to me at It might get answered in a future column! Have a fabulous weekend!

June 9, 2014

Health halos and hypocrisy

Question: What do these two concepts have in common?
  1. Whoever can eat the most New York strip steak wins a prize!
  2. We promote the health of our stakeholders through healthy eating education.
Answer: They both come from Whole Foods.

Now, last time I checked, encouraging overeating does not fall under the umbrella of healthy eating education. Especially since Whole Foods suggests that we "eat plant-strong" as one of their Four Pillars of Healthy Eating and "go meatless as much as possible" as one of their Simple Changes for Lifelong Health.

It looks like they want to have their cake (made from organic, local, sustainably grown flour) and eat it, too.

While Whole Foods is not my primary grocery source, I do shop there for key items that I have trouble finding elsewhere. But I am well aware of, and immune to, the health halo that surrounds WF and similar grocery stores. Just as an organic, sea-salted potato chip is still a potato chip, over eating dry-aged steaks isn't a whole lot different than overeating hot dogs.

Yes, I know that Whole Foods is a business and needs to make money, but when a business (or individual) promotes itself based on certain standards while simultaneously promoting itself through actions that fly in the face of those standards, the hypocrisy irritates me. Just saying.

June 3, 2014

2 suitcases + 1 farmers market = vegetable heaven

"Oh! These are so light!" said the TSA agent as she scooted our empty suitcases onto the conveyer belt at the head of the security line.

"They won't be when we come back!" I said.

When we take quick trips to San Francisco, a farmer's market is always on our itinerary (specifically, we beeline to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market), but taking home gobs of gorgeous produce is out of the question, unless we want to carry it all day and then haul it back to the airport via BART.

This time, we were flying into SFO instead of Oakland...and we were renting a car. We knew what we had to do:

A quick web search told me that the College of San Mateo had a good Saturday farmers market, with ample parking and a good proportion of produce vendors (unlike some farmers markets). Those reports did not lie. We came back with:
  • Shelling peas
  • Artichokes
  • New potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Summer squash
  • Beets
  • Dandelion greens
  • Basil
  • Fennel
  • Radishes
  • Avocados
  • Peaches
  • Lemons
  • Juicing oranges (a 10 lb. bag)
  • Assorted other oranges
  • A pint of strawberries (which were eaten before our return)
  • One loaf kalamata olive bread
  • One loaf fig bread
  • Two scones

While the variety of oranges available was much more diverse than what you will ever see in Seattle farmers' markets (because this is not a citrus-growing state), everything else was simply a jump start on what's going on locally, since California's growing season starts earlier and lasts longer.

So I've been in veggie heaven for the last few days, arranging our purchases into a week's worth of meals. On Sunday, the menu was:
  • French green lentils with caramelized fennel and onions, and a sherry vinaigrette
  • Roasted beets, diced and tossed with toasted walnuts, goat cheese, and a walnut oil vinaigrette
  • Dandelion greens tossed with a warm mustardy vinaigrette
  • Kalamata olive bread
On Monday, we had:
  • Grilled chicken
  • Roasted new potatoes
  • Fresh basil pesto
  • Peas
  • Tossed green salad (with lettuce from our garden)

Tonight, it's leftovers, but tomorrow I'm planning to make:

I haven't decided what to do with the summer squash or artichokes yet, but, I'll be looking to my two current favorite cookbooks for inspiration: Deborah Madison's Vegetable Literacy and Dana Jacobi's The Superfoods Cookbook (that's the title of the softcover edition...the hardcover version goes under the title Good for You).

Disclaimer: I am a member of the Amazon Affiliates program, so if you purchase one of these books after linking to it from this post, there's a chance I might earn a few cents, or something.

November 20, 2013

For the love of persimmons

Earlier this year, when I won an award from the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, I (and the other award recipients) were asked to name our favorite fruit or vegetable. As they introduced each winner at the awards ceremony, they mentioned our produce pick. 

I had picked kale, because there's no secret that I love this leafy green (and that love began way before kale became trendy, thank you). No sooner had I reclaimed my seat after collecting my award, when I received a scolding text from a fellow student who was somewhere else in the audience:

I do love persimmons, but I apparently didn't have persimmons on the brain in spring, when they are not in season. Fortunately, the are in season now, and I'm getting my annual fill. Persimmons are not the most ubiquitous of fruits, and I've run into several people recently who have never tried one.

I always preach the merits of this vibrantly colored, somewhat odd-looking fruit (many newbies think it's an orange-colored heirloom tomato of some sort), but also hand down one stern warning: Be careful of which persimmon variety you buy!

There are two main varieties in stores. Fuyu, pictured above, and Hachiya. Fuyu is flat-bottomed and squatty. Hachiya is heart shaped. Fuyu can be eaten firm or soft (although they are best when at least a little bit soft). If you eat a Hachiya persimmon before it is so ripe that it's practically jellified, you will get a nasty case of cotton mouth from the astringency. (For more on that joyful experience, read this 2010 post). I think that's one reason that Hachiya persimmons are usually used for baking.

I don't buy Hachiya persimmons anymore, because I feel like I could let them ripen until they disintegrate and they wouldn't be ripe enough. And why should I hassle with that when my beloved Fuyus are so accommodating?

Persimmon season won't last too much longer, so don't delay? In Seattle, my favorite places to buy them are Asian markets (such as Uwajimaya) and my local produce stand. The specimen pictured came from Costco (in an eight-pack, naturally).

October 29, 2013

Silencing a sweet tooth

Yesterday, I came across Dr. David Katz's "The Case for Taste Bud Rehab," and the first thing I thought of was an unpleasant taste experience I had a week ago.

It was the final day of FNCE, and rather than hunt for a proper meal during the short one-hour lunch break between educational sessions, I decided to push through and grab a snack from the Expo. When I saw the booth of a well-known Greek yogurt brand, I though, "Perfect!" 

I perused the options in the case, hoping in vain to spot a carton of plain yogurt. Alas, they were all flavored and sweetened.* I picked up a cherry yogurt with "fruit on the bottom." I though by eating the yogurt off the top I would get some of the flavor with minimal added sweetness. Nothing doing. Even the yogurt portion of the concoction tasted so sickeningly sweet that I tossed it in the nearest trash can after a few bites.

Plain Greek yogurt has about 1 gram of natural sugar per ounce. Kindly observe the amount of sugar in this 6-ounce yogurt. Yes, that's 21 grams. Subtract an estimated 6 grams of natural sugar and you have 15 grams of added sugar. That's almost 4 teaspoons...or as I like to call it, dessert. Just food for thought.

Now, I grew up eating flavored yogurt. I remember feeling adventurous and trying plain yogurt once during my early adult years and thinking, "This is gross...why would anyone eat this by choice?" How times have changed! Today, I like the taste of plain yogurt, although I do usually eat it with a bit of granola or fresh fruit (for breakfast) or with a tiny spoonful of Trader Joe's Fig Butter or homemade berry jam mixed in. Both options provide just a bit of sweetness, but the delightful tartness of the yogurt still shines through.

I do have a bit of a sweet tooth, but I try whenever possible to keep added sugars out of my beverages, meals and snacks and save it for when I have dessert. And that's how I rehabbed my tastebuds.

* I won't name the brand (although they did recently have a recall, if that rings any bells), but I just went on their website and, based on their product page, they no longer make plain yogurt!

October 14, 2013

Meatless Monday: Meals from the pantry

Happy Monday! Shopping my pantry is going swimmingly. Too swimmingly, actually. I'm so well stocked that making tasty, nutritious meals out of what I already have is too easy. Yesterday I stopped at my neighborhood to buy milk, a tub of salad greens, a big bunch of kale and a few bananas. That's the sum total of my grocery shopping since the previous Saturday. (I talked myself out of replenishing my empty steel cut oats jar on the grounds that I have plenty of other breakfast grains on hand.)

Early in the week, I was eating up leftover grilled tri-tip (from last Sunday) and leftover Fesenjan Persian Chicken Stew. Then I went vegetarian for the rest of the week. 

I cooked a pot of quinoa and used it as a base for bowl meals. Some had baby spinach, shredded cabbage, chickpeas and a yummy Thai peanut sauce. I chose this particular peanut sauce recipe because I had all the ingredients (many versions call for fish sauce and hoisin sauce, which I am currently out of). For some bowls, I swapped out the peanut sauce for hummus, left out the cabbage, and added a little feta cheese, olive oil, and lemon juice.

A yen for Mexican food Friday night had me heating up some canned pinto beans with salsa, cumin and ground chipotle powder. We keep high quality fish sticks on hand in the freezer and Tillamook sharp cheddar in the fridge. I added leftover shredded cabbage, some avocado, a squeeze of lime and a dollop of sour cream (its been ages since we bought sour cream, and now I know tastes exactly like the nonfat plain Greek yogurt we always have in the fridge). The leftover beans got topped with fried eggs, a touch of shredded cheddar, avocado and salsa for brunch yesterday.

Saturday I got a little inspired. I made an easy-and-delicious lentil and white bean stew and tossed halved Brussels sprouts (a full stalk's worth from Trader Joe's) with 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, 2 tablespoons soy sauce, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, some granulated garlic powder, and fresh ground pepper. I roasted them at 450 degrees, tossing them after about 20 minutes (they took about 30 minutes total). Note: I found that they stuck to the pan more than they do with my normal olive oil/salt/garlic method...maybe because of the balsamic?

For reasons I don't remember, I have smallish amounts of lots of flours (oat, buckwheat, dark rye, coconut, garbanzo bean) in the freezer. I decided that I needed to start using up what still smelled fresh. I made oatmeal-dried cranberry cookies using oat flour (instead of whole wheat) to take to a friend's house. The cookies were flat and lacy (I was hoping for thick and chewy), but I think that was just the recipe. They were a hit, regardless.

I avoided more food waste by making the amazing espresso banana muffins out of Heidi Swanson's Supernatural Cooking using the three ripest of the really, really ripe bananas we have in our banana bowl (yet more have been used up in smoothies, but I need to bake a banana bread loaf), as well as the rest of the hazelnuts I had in the freezer, instead of the usual walnuts. I had some pears in the fridge that were getting dangerously close to being overripe. They were rescued by being transformed into a pear crisp.

As I mentioned in my shopping my pantry post last week, one pitfall of having an overstocked pantry/freezer/fridge is that you forget what you have, and it might not still be any good when you uncover it. The freezer section of our side-by-side refrigerator in the kitchen might as well be a black hole. I intend it to be used for things we use regularly and often (bread, bags of nuts and seeds, frozen fruit for smoothies, extra butter, first aid gel packs...and all those bags of flour). I also like things to be segregated by shelf, for ease of search and retrieval. Jeff likes to shove other food odds and ends in there, wherever he can find space. I unearthed some really lovely freezer burn specimens this weekend, and while I felt guilt over the waste as I disposed of them, at least I feel good that I let some light into the black hole.

October 8, 2013

Shopping My Pantry, or Tales of a Food Horder

I admit, I'm embarrassed. I openly endorse having a well-stocked pantry, but things are a bit ridiculous at my house right now. I think my insane schedule during my internship served as the Perfect Storm: I had little time to food shop, so when I found myself in a store that sold food for home consumption, I filled my cart with no real plan, other than to make sure we had every culinary base covered. Which is especially ironic when you consider that I did very little cooking during my internship. That fell to Jeff, and he and I have somewhat different styles of cooking.

When you have an overstocked pantry/fridge/freezer, three things happen:
  1. You forget what you have, so you end up buying duplicates multiples.
  2. You forget what you have, so some food gets stale/rots/develops nasty freezer burn before you can use it up. Food waste guilt ensues.
  3. You can't easily find what you need when you need it, which detracts from the enjoyable experience that cooking can be.

Observe our basement (aka "overflow") pantry. Our freestanding freezer is on the left, covered with checklists of beef cuts contained within, as well as every photo holiday card we've received from our "beef people" (a couple who has a small ranch outside Seattle). Love them! (The cards and our beef people.) There's also an assortment of frozen homemade soups, broths, pasta sauces inside, as well as tightly wrapped loaves of artisan bread from Acme (from our last trip to San Fran) and assorted ham hocks and beef soup bones.

There's a small refrigerator between the freezer and the shelves (mostly for beer, extra tubs of Greek yogurt from Costco, and for defrosting whatever we pull out of the freezer). The shelves hold excess canned beans and tomatoes from Costco, as well as things that do best in a darker location, like onions, potatoes and backup bottles of olive oil.

What is the point of my telling you all this? The point is that I'm fed up (with myself) and I'm not going to take it anymore! I am shopping my pantry! I vow that for the next 10 days (at which point I leave town for a conference), I will buy no food except for select perishables: vegetables, fruit, milk, yogurt and eggs (since my hens are entering their season of R&R). Since I am also known to overbuy vegetables and fruit, I also will endeavor to be super careful about not letting my eyes get bigger than my meal plans ("But that bunch of kale, it's so pretty...I must stock up!").

I plan to post daily on the blog's Facebook page about my progress. I'll do one or two status posts here.

October 2, 2013

Eating well on a budget

I think it's safe to say that most people don't have unlimited food budgets. Even if you don't need to be frugal all of the time, food splurges are often balanced with thriftier meals. I jumped all over the latest email from Jamie Oliver and the Food Revolution team, because this month they are "all about being thrifty, cooking clever and shopping smart."

Here are some of the great "food for thought" resources on the Food Revolution website:
Here's a "behind the scenes" clip from the show:

As serendipity would have it, an email from Bob's Red Mill landed in my inbox offering "20 Ways to Spruce Up Your Oatmeal." There's even a handy PDF calendar. Oatmeal is one of the tastiest, thriftiest breakfasts around...and with some of their savory options, maybe oatmeal's not just for breakfast anymore. I can't wait to try the Gilgamesh (pistachios, dates, honey, milk and cardamom) and Get Your Goat (pears, goat cheese, walnuts and honey). Yum!

P.S., This morning, I made a great oatmeal pancake recipe using leftover Bob's Red Mill steel cut oatmeal. I intend to post the recipe soonish.

September 24, 2013

Carrie's Test Kitchen: 10 minute barley

Several months ago, I decided to investigate some of the quick-cooking grains available at Trader Joe's. I already reviewed the quick-cooking steel cut oats, and when I was rustling around in my pantry last week I decided it was time to give the 10 Minute Barley a test drive. My impetus was the recipe below, which I had photographed out of some cookbook or other. The recipe was tasty and quick to prepare, and I was pleased with how the barley turned out. I don't cook a lot with barley, but this had a pleasingly chewy texture that's a bit different than the grains (farro, bulgur and rice) that I usually make grain-based salads with.

Barley Salad with Parsley and Walnuts

1 package ..... OR 1 cup dry whole grain barley
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
1 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled

1. If using the quick-cooking barley, cook as directed on package. If using "regular" barley, rinse with water using a strainer to remove any debris. Bring 3 1/2 cups water to boil in a medium sauce pan, add barley and return to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 40 minutes or until tender.
2. For either type of barley, when done cooking drain off any excess liquid.
3. In large bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Add cooked barley, walnuts, parsley and feta cheese to bowl and toss gently

Notes: I am reviewing this product of my own volition, and paid for it out of my own pocket. We enjoyed the barley salad with a nice piece of King salmon and some dandelion greens with a warm, mustardy vinaigrette.

September 16, 2013

Take your place at the table

The actual arrival of fall is less than a week away, and while I've been enjoying Seattle's extended summer (although maybe not a few of the hot days we had last week), I am really ready for fall. Fall, the early part in particular, is my favorite season. It would be better if the daylight hours weren't gradually getting shorter, but to quote the wisdom of the Rolling Stones, "You can't always get what you want."

What I have been wanting lately are soups, stews and roasts. Not exactly summer fare. Pot roast doesn't taste quite the same when it's 80 degrees outside. Since next week is veering toward low 60s and rain, I have roast chicken, chicken soup and roast beef on my menu. Yum.

Speaking of fall, if you happen to live in the greater Seattle area and enjoy cooking even a little, you may be interested in A Place at the Table, a program sponsored by the King County Library System. 

From September through December, all sorts of classes on food and nutrition will be offered at various KCLS branch libraries. You can learn about baking, food preserving, winter gardening, healthy cooking, tea and coffee, spices, cultural food traditions, recipe and food writing and much more.

Several classes are sponsored by the Washington State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and presented by registered dietitians, including:
  • What's for Dinner?! Thrifty, Fast, Healthy Meals
  • Comfort Food Made Healthy
  • Healthy Holiday Makeover
  • What You Need to Know about Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
  • Evaluating Diets: What Science Says about Trendy Diets like Paleo, Wheat Belly and Gluten Free
For the complete schedule and class descriptions, download the gorgeous PDF brochure and visit the program website.

KCLS is also accepting donations of non-perishable food to be donated to local food banks, "Because everybody deserves a place at the table." That is, of course, in keeping with this year's documentary film, "A Place at the Table." If you are unfamiliar with the film, I've included the trailer below:

September 5, 2013

And...I'm back

Long time, no see!

Wow, I really needed a vacation. We did some crazy flying back and forth between Seattle, Anchorage and LA (accumulating airline miles that we will use on future trips to Europe), and took a nice two-day drive between LA and San Jose. I'd traveled the northern California coast many times in my childhood/adolescence, but never the southern/central coast. Beautiful. And now I sort of want to move to San Luis Obispo. But I won't...I'm still smitten with Seattle.

As I expected, I'm having a hard time making the post-classes/internship transition. Downshifting my brain enough, but not too much (still have a thesis to write) is easier said than done. I've decided not to spend evenings in front of the computer, so instead my brain bounces between the various long-shelved "fun activities" available to me. Should I read? Should I watch a movie? Should I organize my closets? I feel like I have an overexcited labrador between my ears. Sigh.

Here are the highlights of what I'm welcoming back into my life now that I have a life once more:
  • Reading for fun, Part 1. My fiction to-read list has been getting mighty long.
  • Reading for fun, Part 2. My stack of nutrition-related books has been getting mighty high.
  • Reading the September fashion magazines...before the end of September!
  • Exercising more. I've been tortured for months by having to choose between walking, weightlifting or yoga on a given day. Now, I don't have to choose...I can do all three if I want to, and many days I do. I've especially been reveling in my morning walks along the lake.
  • Cooking more. Didn't do a lot of that this week, since I have the house to myself and am cooking for one, but I had great fun stocking the fridge with produce, roasting a big pan of veggies, cooking up some quinoa, making tomato sauce out of our bumper crop of backyard tomatoes, and so on.
  • Taking meditation classes at my neighborhood Zen Buddhist monastery. (Yes, my neighborhood really has one.) I need to tame that labrador!
  • Studying Middle Eastern dance (or bellydance, if you will). I studied it for years, but shelved it when I started taking my grad school science prerequisites.
  • Conferences. I'm super excited about the upcoming Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) next month, as well as the Renfrew Conference in November.
  • Being a local tourist. Seattle has changed so much in the years that I've been wearing a path between my house and campus...I really need to check things out!
I always intended for this blog to be about both nutrition and cooking, because the two are deeply intertwined. The cooking part kind of fell by the wayside, especially since starting my internship last January. I have never done the daily "this is what I ate" thing, and don't plan to start, but I do want to return to this blog's roots, which included a lot more food! I'm excited that when I see an appealing recipe, I can say, "Hey, I should make that this weekend" instead of "Hey, I'll tuck that away in the black hole that is my 'to make someday...hopefully' file."

Along with readjusting to life, I've been preparing for a talk I'm giving this evening. So I'll have a nice links post tomorrow, then be off and running Monday. 

June 12, 2013

Obesity: Where does the money go?

I was contacted last week by one of the creators of the video "The Economic Cost of Obesity,"  wondering if I would like to share it with you, my blog readers. I finally had a chance to view it yesterday, and, in a bit of serendipity, one of my nutrition e-mail news blasts referenced recently published research by the chair of my department, Adam Drewnowski. First, the video:
A brief criticism: The video falls into what I feel is an unfortunate trend of using carefully chosen numbers, taken out of full context, to make a somewhat sensational point. For example, it is true that the obesity rate is higher among people with less than a high school degree and among children and adolescents that live in poverty. However, the social determinants of health are complex, and educational status and income level are just two pieces of that puzzle.

That said, the video does makes some important points. One is that commodity crops like corn that produce the raw ingredients for "junk food" do receive more subsidies than do apple growers, which contributes to the low price point on many highly processed foods, including fast food and packaged snack foods.

Another is that fast food meals tend to be much higher in calories, dollar for dollar, than do fruits, vegetables and many other healthful foods. I would add two clarifications, however:
  • Restaurant meals in general (at all price points) tend to be higher in calories, salt, sugar and fat than what people prepare at home from scratch, using fresh and minimally processed foods.
  • Some healthful foods (dried beans, oats, rice, some fruits and veggies, canned tuna) can be quite affordable.
  • Fast food, by way of it's cheap calories, may certainly play a role in obesity and related health problems, but the blame can't be entirely laid there, because that's not where the majority of calories are purchased.
Regarding that last point, I turn back to Dr. Drewnowski's research, published as "Energy intakes of U.S. children and adults by food purchase location and by specific food sources," in Nutrition Journal, looked at where people purchased/acquired most of their calories in a single day: stores, quick-service restaurants/pizza, full-service restaurants, school cafeterias or food provided by someone else (including food gifts). Here's the breakdown, by age:

You'll notice that most calories come from stores. Grain-based desserts and yeast bread purchased from stores are the top source of calories (soda purchased from stores is right up there for a few age groups). If you want to geek out on tables and graphs, check out the whole article

The data came from the first 24-hour dietary recall collected from 22,852 people in the 2003-4, 2005-6 and 2007-8 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). This type of cross-sectional data collection, which measures what a lot of people ate on one specific day of their lives, isn't perfect, but it's a decent way of measuring dietary habits on a population level

I personally don't eat at the big fast food restaurants, because that food doesn't taste good to me. I also don't shop in most mainstream grocery stores, because the huge displays of soda and snack foods sort of drive me nuts, creating an overload of visual stimuli before I can even get to "shopping the perimeter." What I do like to do is identify the true source of a problem, instead of just quickly pointing fingers. 

As Dr. Drewnowski said in the Food Navigator article "New research into exactly where Americans' calories are coming from throws up surprising results" [nice pun], his research suggests that "if we want to reduce calories, then supermarkets ought to be included in the battle against the obesity epidemic." [Disclaimer: I don't really like words like "battle" and "war" in this context.]

March 25, 2013

On Nutrition: Fresh vs. Frozen

Happy Monday! If you have not perused my latest "On Nutrition" column, published in yesterday's Seattle Times, please do so. I discuss the conundrum that exists when we are between fresh produce seasons in Seattle. Should we buy fresh produce that's in season somewhere (sometimes as far away as the southern hemisphere), or should we go for frozen? Read and find out: "Fresh vs. Frozen: Does it matter?"

March 20, 2013

All the single ladies

Last weekend, I got to play at being a single lady, since Jeff was off on a boy's trip to Vegas for a few days. And by playing at being a single lady, I mean making meals for one. Alas, I was a very busy single lady, so I didn't want my cooking to involve much cooking. That didn't mean I threw nutrition to the wind and ordered pizza, oh no. I ate very simply, nutritiously and deliciously. Here's how it went down:
  • Saturday morning: Make microwaved oatmeal with egg (takes about five minutes to prep and cook) before heading off to assist with Food For Fertility.
  • Saturday, noonish: Arrive home hungry. Put a piece of Squirrelly bread in the toaster oven. Put some tomato-red pepper soup in a small pot to heat. Meanwhile, mix one can of tuna with enough mayo just to bind it, then stir in some capers, salt and pepper and granulated garlic. Serve about 1/3 of the tuna salad on the toast, enjoy with soup. Before eating, preheat oven to 350 degrees.After lunch, refrigerate rest of tuna (lefovers!), put two chicken breasts, seasoned with salt and pepper, into the oven to bake. Put six eggs into my steamer/rice cooker to hardboil. Set timer on steamer for 35 minutes. When the eggs are done, the chicken will be done, too. Start working on my end-of-term to-do list.
  • Saturday, late afternoon: Hunger hits. Quickly make a gignormous green salad with 1/2 of one of the chicken breasts, hummus, avocado, feta, grape tomatoes.
  • Saturday evening: Go to Activyst launch party in Belltown. The mini tacos being served look yummy, but I'm not hungry. Enjoy some red wine.
  • Sunday morning: Start with coffee and a smoothie. Later, make steel cut oatmeal (the kind that takes a while to make. Eat 1/4, refrigerate rest. Head upstairs to office to work like a maniac.
  • Sunday noonish: Golden retriever starts staring at me beseechingly. Sun is shining. Take dog for long walk. Arrive home hungry, toast a piece of Squirrelly, toss some mixed greens with olive oil and vinaigrette and top with a bit of blue cheese. Mash one of Saturday's hard-boiled eggs with a little Dijon mustard, mayo, capers, pepper and smoked paprika. Spread on toast. Enjoy. Make a cup of tea and head upstairs to office to work like a maniac.
  • Sunday mid-afternoon: Feeling peckish. Eat an orange with a little cottage cheese for some protein. Reconsider earlier notion to have pasta for dinner, roast some sweet potatoes instead. Pour a glass of water and head upstairs to office to work like a maniac.
  • Sunday evening: Brain is broken, stomach is hungry. Mix leftover roasted Brussels sprouts with half a cubed chicken breast, heat in microwave, stir in a bit of jarred pesto (not as good as homemade, but a useful refrigerator staple nonetheless) and top with freshly grated Parmesan and fresh ground pepper. Serve with a small tossed salad and half a small sweet potato (I actually served myself the whole potato but started to get full...mindful eating in action!) Pour a nice dark beer (it was St. Patrick's Day, after all) and cue up a DVD from the library ("The Deep Blue Sea," starring Rachel was pretty good, but having seen "The Avengers," I had trouble not seeing her leading man as Loki). 
  • Monday morning: Drink coffee, heat up bowl of leftover steel cut oatmeal with a little milk. Enjoy before heading up to my office to work like a maniac.
  • Monday, 11:20 a.m.: Learn about last minute conference call at noon, just as I was about to take a break to walk the dog. Eat a banana to stave off hunger.
  • Monday, 12:15: Take dog for walk, arrive home hungry. Make another gignormous green salad, exactly like Saturday's early dinner salad, and eat the half of the sweet potato I was too full for Sunday night. Go back upstairs to office to work like a maniac.
  • Monday, 5ish: Sort of hungry, and need to eat something before leaving in an hour to give a wellness talk, but nerves are making me not want to eat a lot. Leftover tuna salad sounds really good. While Squirrelly toasts, I make a small green salad to go with the open-faced sandwich. Viva la leftovers!
  • Monday, 8:30: Back home with Jeff in tow (I picked him up at the light rail station). He's starving, and makes a sandwich with the rest of the leftover tuna salad. He has a green salad on the side, because the boy likes his leafy greens. I'm a little hungry, so I have a small salad with some hummus. We both have a glass of red wine.
  • Tuesday morning: Two servings of leftover steel cut oatmeal left, two servings down the hatch!
  • Tuesday lunchtime: I enjoy a gignormous brownbagged salad exactly like the Saturday and Monday salads, using up the last half of chicken breast. 

Over those 3+ days, I ate very well with very little prep time. There was a lot of repetition, but chicken and tuna are not on the menu for the rest of the week, so it's not like I have to worry about getting tired of them. And I still have hard boiled eggs on hand for snacks or impromptu egg salad sandwiches.

I love to cook, but I don't love to cook when it's crunch time. That's why I appreciate that I can easily assemble tasty, healthful meals from a combination of whole food and minimally processed ingredients. It helps that I keep a fully stocked pantry (one could argue that it's a bit overstocked...) and make sure that I always have fresh salad greens, other veggies and fruit on hand.

I don't do "what I ate" posts as much as I once did, mostly because I don't have time to cook as much as I once did. But I decided to do this post because it exemplifies something I truly believe: You don't have to know how to cook to be able to feed yourself well at home!

March 6, 2013

Carrie's Test Kitchen: Quick-cook steel cut oats

I am a huge fan of steel-cut oatmeal. My first foray into the genre came from a fab recipe out of Cook's Illustrated, and it's the only stove-top recipe I make (I have recently ventured into baked steel cut oatmeal, but that's a different oaty animal). [Note That's not a picture of my pantry up above...although I do enjoy buying huge bags of bulk oats.]

When I first heard about quick-cook steel cut oats three or four years ago, I curled my lip in distaste. Why, half the pleasure of steel cut oats is that you have to patiently wait for them to cook. That delayed gratification serves nicely to increase the satisfaction of finally dipping a spoon into a steaming bowl of grainy goodness.

Of course, the other half of the pleasure is the delightful chewy texture that you simply don't get from rolled oats. The only chance I had to indulge in steel cut on a weekday was when I had leftovers from a leisurely Sunday morning at the stove...until now.
That's right, I decided to suspend disbelief and actually test out this short cut to steel cut.

The instructions said to cook the oats in water, but I never do that. I swapped out my usual milk/water 50-50 split. The instructions said to simmer for 5-7 minutes for one portion, but I was making two portions, and it took 10 minutes (not surprising).
The texture was more runny than I usually prefer, but it wasn't bad. The oats had good chewiness...and it certainly was fast! My main complaint was flavor, because my usual recipe involves toasting the oats in a pan with a little butter first. It's an extra step that really helps build a delicious bowl (I mean, come on, the recipe came from Cooks' Illustrated, and you know they cooked that oatmeal 5 million ways before they decided on the best way).

I noticed the other day that my Costco now carries Bob's Red Mill Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats in a HUGE bag. Huge! I'm not sure if I'm willing to commit that fully, but I would definitely consider keeping a smaller amount in my pantry for a weekday steel-cut fix.

January 30, 2013

Who can wait for Friday?

I'm a fan of Mediterranean-style diets in general, and the Oldways website specifically ("Health Through Heritage"). Oldways has a great Mediterranean diet pyramid, as well as a ton of other resources on traditional diets. If I had more time, I could easily spend hours on their website. Seriously.

Anyway, since I don't have time to seek them out as much as I would like, I welcome them into my email inbox. Their semi-weekly "Fresh Fridays" free e-newsletter is one of my favorites. The newsletter is now in its third year, and you can find the complete archives online. Check it out. If you want to subscribe, there's a link on the archive page.

In the last newsletter, they had some great tips for adding quick, easy flavor boosts to recipes with these  traditional Mediterranean Diet ingredients:
  • Feta Cheese: Feta's firm, crumbly texture and tart, salty taste beautifully complement fruits, as well as eggs and grains. Just a little bit goes a long way in a salad, omelet, or on a flatbread. 
  • Herbs and Spices: Oregano and basil might be the most familiar Mediterranean herbs on your spice rack, but don't be afraid to experiment with others like cardamom, cilantro, dill, fennel seeds, ginger, rosemary, saffron, or turmeric. 
  • Olives: With the extensive variety of olives available, ranging from very bold dry Greek olives to mild black ripe olives, it is easy to find a variety that suits your palate. Try adding olives to salads, pasta dishes, and pilafs. 
  • Sun-Dried Tomatoes: Sun-dried tomatoes have an intense flavor and pack 12 times more lycopene (an antioxidant associated with reduced risk of certain cancers and heart disease) than raw tomatoes! Use them in wraps and sandwiches, or pasta sauces and bean dips. 
  • Wine: Adding wine to cooking liquids can deepen the flavors in seafood and vegetable dishes. Try including a little white wine in a risotto or red wine in your next tomato sauce. 

January 25, 2013

Links I Like

Happy Friday! I'm wrapping up a crazy but insanely productive week, which always feels good. That includes keeping up with the week's nutrition news. So, without further ado:
That's a wrap for this week. Have a great weekend!

January 22, 2013

On Nutrition: Food labels

Food labels are a wealth of useful information...but not all of it is trustworthy. Some of what you read on the  bag, box, can or carton your food comes in is little more than slick marketing, so knowing what to believe and what to ignore makes it easier to shop and eat healthfully and nutritiously. If you're trying to make the best possible choices at the grocery store, be sure to read my latest On Nutrition column in The Seattle Times, "Food Labels: What information can you trust?."

December 24, 2012

Truth in advertising

What happens when the food industry invites an obesity doctor to speak, then says, "Um...nevermind." If you're Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, you post your talk, "What's a Food Industry to Do?" on YouTube. Excellent!

November 27, 2012

This just in

I was at a loss for what to write about today (and I didn't think you wanted me to recite the details of the case study I'm working on for my Maternal an Infant Nutrition class), so I was quite happy to find in my inbox a cartoon from a colleague who heard that I'd recently given a talk on food labeling. Funny!