Now Is The Time To Change Your Eating

Summer is great time to make changes in your diet or eating plan (we prefer the second term) and branch out to try new foods. Because of the abundance, whether or not you shop at Farmers’ markets, it’s time to try all the great variety of locally grown fruits and vegetables at their peak of perfection. Even better, that produce is loaded with healthful nutrients that can help you lose weight, gain energy and improve your life.

Corn is a food product we probably get too much of. But that’s not the same as summer Sweet Corn. These goodies are in season now through the end of summer. One thing you might not know about sweet corn is that it contains two important antioxidants that help your body deal with the summer sun. The easiest way to prepare it is to buy it still in the husk and put the whole thing, husk and all, into the microwave for two to three minutes. The corn steams in the husk and will be much easier to shuck and remove the threads after it’s cooked. However, if the husk doesn’t surround the whole cob (such has having a strip removed to display the corn) don’t use this method. In that case you can finish shucking the corn and boiling it for five to ten minutes. Or you can wrap it in aluminum foil and roast it with butter and herbs in the oven or on the grill.

There have been conflicting reports on the benefits (or detriments) of drinking coffee. But one new piece of information might make you want to try an iced coffee drink to beat the summer heat. One recent study showed that drinking one cup of caffeinated coffee a day offered protection against skin cancer. And more coffee provided more protection. Decaf just didn’t seem to do the job.

Available right now are tart cherries. These offer a long list of benefits. They are said to help in weight loss. Cherry juice has been found to help with post-workout pain and improve sleep. Compounds in cherries can increase the fat-burning process and decrease fat storage.

Tomatoes are another summer treat. Look for homegrown and heirloom varieties from small producers. You can even grow your own on your balcony or deck. A key nutrient in tomatoes is lycopene, the substance that makes tomatoes red. Like many summer fruits, this substance helps your skin deal with the summer sun. Tomatoes and carrots, as well as other reddish fruits and vegetables, can reduce sunburn by as much as 50%.

Staying hydrated is important in the summer. But you don’t always have to drink water or soda. Medical experts say you should stay away from dehydrating beverages like alcohol. But you don’t have to stay away from water-rich fruits, like watermelon. Some people don’t like this popular melon, but it’s 92% water and loaded with skin-enhancing nutrients. Research shows that water-rich foods keep you more satisfied than water alone without a lot of extra calories.

Another hydrating tip that’s also healthy for you is drinking tea. Hot, cold, black, green, herbal—it doesn’t matter, the benefits are still there. It’s best freshly brewed, but if you keep some in the refrigerator, add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to help preserve the antioxidants. Studies show drinking tea regularly helps protect you from Alzheimer’s, diabetes, tooth loss, gum disease and bone loss.

Berries are a great source of fiber and antioxidants. Raspberries are particularly rich in fiber. Fibers is filling and necessary. It’s also good to help you lose weight. Research shows that those who consume a lot of fiber  lose more weight.

If you hunt for and consume these foods in the summer, you’ll be better prepared to face the winter months just a little healthier.

Bouillabaisse Is Just Fish Stew

You’ve probably heard of Bouillabaisse, the famous French seafood stew. It is considered by French chefs to be one of the great challenges in the kitchen. But perhaps you also know that it wasn’t always that way. Like most of the best dishes from around the world, bouillabaisse was originally a peasant dish.

The dish we know today clearly originated in Marseille, France and the name comes from two words meaning boil and simmer. But the origins of the stew go back much further, to ancient Greeks who founded that French port city. They ate a simple fish stew called kakvia. Naturally, the Romans had a similar dish.

Bouillabaisse in its modern form comes from Marseille fishermen who used the common rockfish and shellfish that got caught in their nets, while the more expensive fish were sold. That mostly worthless part of their catch was cooked in a large pot or cauldron filled with sea water, garlic and fennel. This was cooked dockside over an open wood fire. After tomatoes arrived from American, they were added to the recipe.

As the Provencal region prospered, bouillabaisse began showing up on restaurant and hotel menus. Fish stock replaced the sea water. Saffron and local vegetables were added. The name means boil then simmer, and that’s the cooking method. The broth is boiled and then the heat is lowered to a simmer.

There are many recipes available. Each great chef seems to have developed their own version of this dish. But here’s a simple one from Austin, Texas’ Trace restaurant.

Servings: 2

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots, one chopped and one sliced into batons
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb half chopped and half shaved with a mandolin or V-slicer, fronds reserved for garnish
  • 1/2 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 ripe plum tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup parsley leaves, loosely packed
  • 6 jumbo Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail shell on
  • 12 large freshwater mussels, scrubbed well
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 6 to 8-ounce fillet red snapper, cut in half

Directions:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Saute chopped carrots, celery, chopped fennel, onion and garlic for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
  3. Add tomatoes and cook for another 3-5 minutes until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Add tomato paste, stock and parsley, stir well to combine, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drop in mussels and shrimp, place lid on the saucepan and cook until shrimp is opaque all the way through and mussels have opened — about 2-3 minutes.
  5. Remove shrimp and mussels, discarding any mussels that haven’t opened, and set aside.
  6. Strain mixture through a sieve or chinois, pushing down with a wooden spoon to extract all the liquid, and return to pot. Discard what’s left in the strainer.
  7. Add potatoes, shaved fennel and carrot batons, bring to a boil, cover loosely with lid and cook at a vigorous simmer until potatoes are tender — about 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat the other tablespoon of olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, almost smoking.
  9. Sprinkle the snapper pieces with salt on both sides and sear in the hot pan for 2-3 minutes on each side.
  10. Divide broth with carrots and potatoes between two deep bowls, arrange shrimp and mussels on top, and top with a piece of snapper.
  11. Garnish with fronds from the top of the fennel bulb and serve.

Level of Difficulty:  Moderate; Prep Time: 25 minutes; Cooking Time: 50 minutes

Cooking Is Healthy

It will surprise no one that studies have shown over and over that cooking your meals at home leads to improvements in your health. In The Bachelor’s Kitchen we have often said that even if what you cook at home isn’t the healthiest food, it’s still better than anything you can get outside the home, in most cases. Even when restaurants offer healthier options, you are still better off cooking and eating at home.

That idea is what this blog is all about — getting bachelors and other singles to eat better, because they deserve good food as much as families do.

Research has shown then people who frequently cook meals at home eat healthier and with fewer calories. People in the study ate less even if they were not trying to lose weight. Even when eating out, these people still ate less.

The obvious lesson from all this is, the more you cook at home, the better your health. Sounds to us like a great trade-off, even if you have a very busy life.

Quick Breakfast Sandwich

We made a marvellous discovery in The Bachelor’s Kitchen. It will keep you out of the drive-through on the way to work. Most bachelors, and bachelorettes, and lots of other people wait to get up until the last possible moment in the morning. They leave just enough time to shower, dress and maybe grab a cup of coffee as they head out the door. And many of you will stop at the fast food joint on the way to work for a quick breakfast sandwich. Don’t get us wrong, we love breakfast sandwiches. But the ones on those delicious biscuits are so full of fat that everyone closes an artery somewhere.

We’re going to rescue you from all that with a breakfast sandwich that can be made in the same time it takes to go through the drive-through of the fast food restaurant. Our Egg Muffin Sandwich only takes a couple minutes to prepare. It’s tasty and very low in fat. Here’s what you need:

  • English muffins
  • Eggs
  • sliced cheese
  • a coffee mug or tumbler
  • optional sliced Canadian bacon or ham
  • optional light mayonnaise and/or mustard
  • optional butter

You can make this sandwich as rich or light as you choose. Split the muffin and put it in the toaster. While that’s going, ready the rest of your ingredients. Crack the egg into a microwave-safe mug about the size of the muffin. A coffee mug or short tumbler works perfectly. Add a teaspoon of water and beat the egg until well mixed. Microwave the egg for 30 to 50 seconds or until all the water is gone.

Now assemble the sandwich and you are ready to go.  Cheese, bacon and mayonnaise or mustard can up the flavor but you don’t necessarily need it. Skip the drive-through and have a hot breakfast sandwich anytime.

Happy Independence Day, America!

Enjoy a nice cookout followed by some fireworks displays.

Sustainable Shellfish You Should Get To Know

You’ve probably heard that we need to eat fish every week. Fish contain valuable nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, important for heart health. It might interest you to know that most shellfish, like clams, mussels, shrimp and oysters, also contain most of these same nutrients.

But, you might ask, how can we eat more fish and shellfish without hurting the environment or fish stocks in the world’s oceans? While this is a concern, many fish and shellfish species are sustainable and thriving. And with the rise of fish farms, more of these species are becoming more widely available at lower costs and in sustainable plans.

Take for example farmed mussels and oysters.Oyster Farm Dispute Not only are these good for you with lots of omega-3’s and iron, but they’re good for the environment as well. These shellfish feed off of natural nutrients and algae in the water. That improves water quality. They also can act as natural reefs, attracting and providing food for other fish.

There is one caution about eating shellfish. Be very careful with, and even avoid, raw shellfish that come from warm waters. These often contain bacteria that can cause serious illness.

What shellfish should you get to know? Besides the aforementioned oysters and mussels (the later being very easy to cook and very tasty with rice or pasta), you should try Pink Shrimppinkshrimp and Spot Prawns. Most shrimp and related species are plentiful and reproduce quickly. But whether farmed or harvested from the wild these are great for many dishes. The pink shrimp are wild-caught from the waters off the coast of Oregon. Spot Prawns, a large shrimp, are plentiful in the wild off British Columbia. The best choices are these and other wild-caught shellfish from the Pacific Northwest. Look for the MSC certification for environmentally safe harvesting.

There is an issue with many of the shrimp you might find available at the store. Many environmentalists are concerned about the by-catch, those sea creatures caught up in the nets when harvesting shrimp. A common fishing method is to use drag nets which not only catch lots of unwanted but environmentally necessary species, but they destroy coral reefs and scrap clean the ocean floor. Although the U. S. has strict regulations on farming and trawling, many other countries do not. So, you should avoid imported shrimp, no matter whether they are wild or farmed. This is particularly true for countries with warmer climates, like Mexico and Central America.

Get your fish fix at least once a week by getting to know some of the other animals from the sea. But be aware of where they come from and how they were caught. That way both you and the Earth can maintain our health.

Cooking Can Save Your Life

Eating has become complicated in our modern life. But it doesn’t have to be.

Amen to that, sister. That’s from Christina Pirello, christina_pirelloan advocate of eating better with natural and whole foods. She’s saying what we’ve been saying for some time, as readers of The Bachelor’s Kitchen know.

In Change Your Life, Cook Dinner! Pirello dissects the conflicting information about what we eat.

It’s as though we don’t even see food as food anymore, just the sum of its nutritional parts. We have lost touch with our intuition and fallen victim to the science of nutrition. And as soon as we lost touch with our gut instinct, we became the perfect victims for the sharks who swim just under the water…marketers. They pounced on our confusion and through the smoke and mirrors of dazzling packaging, checkmarks, seals of approval and health claims have slowly and consistently robbed us of our health. And it seems to me, made us stupid in the process. It’s as though we don’t think for ourselves anymore — about anything.

Even those of use with pretty good nutritional knowledge find ourselves confused. If we’re supposed to eat a low fat diet, what about good fats? Can artificial sweeteners be worse than sugar? Why is there so much emphasis on carbohydrates in the government’s recommendations? Why so many questions.

Food is simple. Nature is simple. It’s easy to be healthy and vital. But we have to understand a few things first. There are a couple of facts about the effects of food on health that are not in dispute by any expert I have heard.

For example, we all know that our diets are killing us. But rather than change our food supply, everyone’s talking about some sort of cure, a magic bullet that will fix the problem, a single culprit to eliminate.

And we know that people who eat a more traditional diet for their culture or region don’t suffer from the same diseases, such as obesity and diabetes.

This tells us something very important. There is no one diet that serves all of humanity well. As humans, we can adapt to a wide variety of diets and foods — except, it seems, to the modern Western diet so commonly eaten today.

What Wine Goes With That?

We used to know a guy who worked for a wine distributor. From time to time they needed a hand to work wine tastings at area wine shops and liquor stores. Helping out, I learned a lot along the way. We’re not an expert, but can usually pick out a decent bottle of wine for any meal or occasion.

Unless you grew up drinking wine, your eyes probably glaze over when you look down a long aisle of bottles from all around the country and the world. There are reds, whites, rosés, blush, concord, kosher, local, national, Italian, French, South African, Australian, German, Californian, New York, Oregonian and undoubtedly more that I can’t think of right now. How’s a bachelor to choose?

Choose what you like. You’ve probably heard that there are rules about selecting wines. But I say throw those all out the window. The best wine is the wine you like.

The rules of thumb for choosing wines are a reasonable place to start. But don’t limit yourself. In general, foods that are light and delicate should go with a wine that won’t overpower the dish. Similarly, a hearty or spicy dish can stand up to and be enhanced by a wine with a strong or assertive taste. The color is not as important as the flavor and scent.

That being said, the rule says that white wine should go with white meat like chicken and fish; red wine with red meat like beef, lamb and pork. That’s because chicken and fish dishes are usually lighter and white wines are usually also lighter. But that is NOT an absolute. You can have a hearty, spicy fish dish that would go well with a hearty red wine like a burgundy or a cabernet.

The best first step is to find a good wine shop. Yes, you COULD buy wine at a liquor store or a grocery store. But just try asking something there to help you select a wine. You’ll probably hear something like, “It’s all good. I like Mad Dog, myself,” as he scratches himself. For those who don’t know, Mad Dog is Mogan David 20/20, a powerful concord grape wine that tastes like cough syrup and has strong alcohol kick from the addition of brandy. It’s also cheap and thus a favorite of professional drunks.

A good wine shop should be clean and well-lit. There should be more wine than other spirits or liquors. It should also be cool. The shelves should be clearly marked and organized in a logical way.

The most important thing to look for in a wine shop are the people who work there. They should be friendly and more than willing to answer questions. They’ll probably ask some questions of you, as well. If their response to a question is to reach for the nearest bargain bin bottle, run, don’t walk, out of the store and find another. In a good wine shop, the sales people regularly taste wines from various makers, wineries, countries and grapes. They should have learned a great deal about wine before they’re allowed on the sales floor. They should never look down at you or become less attentive when they find out how much you want to spend.

The kinds of questions the sales person should ask when you ask for a wine recommendation are:

  • What is the occasion?
  • What kinds of wines have you had that you like?
  • What kind of food will be served with it?
  • How much are you looking to spend?

If they don’t ask those questions or if they don’t pay attention to the answers, leave and find a better shop. If you say I’m looking for a bottle under $15 and they trot out a $50 bottle, leave. But if they bring out an $18 bottle, hear them out. It might be worth it. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, they should be as interested in teaching you as you are in learning.

Once you find a good shop, go there often and develop a relationship with YOUR sales person. They will get to know your tastes and you will get to trust their judgements. Most wine shops have tastings from time to time. Go! You will get to learn about some new wines, have a chance to talk to the staff and meet some people who might share your interests. You can attend a tasting even if you don’t buy something.

Don’t let wine intimidate you! It’s just fermented grape juice, for goodness sake. It’s one of the oldest, simplest drinks humans have every known. Later on, we’ll look at some of the different types of wine and what you might expect from them.

Pantry Basics: In the Refrigerator

Now that you’ve stocked up the cabinets and shelves with Pantry Basics, it’s time to turn to the cold stuff. These are all pantry items that will need replenishment whether you use them or not. None of these items will keep without spoiling for more than a couple of weeks up to a few months, depending on what it is. The object of having a well-stocked pantry is that you can make almost anything at a moment’s notice.

Eggs. We’ve talked about eggs before. Don’t shy away from this food just because you’ve heard it’s high in fat and cholesterol. While that is true, if you don’t eat them everyday, the nutritional value outweighs the bad. Get farm fresh eggs at a farmers market if you can. Yes, you will pay more, but it is well worth it. There has been some study that says there’s no taste difference, but I disagree. Learn to compute the cost difference between the different size eggs. If the difference is the same, then it doesn’t matter which size you pick. If there is a difference, take the smaller size of the biggest difference. In other words, if there’s 10 cents between medium and large but 14 cents between large and extra large, the large eggs are the best value. Eggs should be allowed to come to room temperature before use if possible. If you’re in a hurry, you can put the eggs you’re going to use in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes.

Milk. Unless you’re getting raw milk from a farmer, what type or brand of milk you buy matters very little. Organic milk might be available in your area which might have a better taste but undoubtedly will cost more. All milk and dairy products in your supermarket are processed. This is due to federal laws and regulations that all dairies have to follow. So buy the cheapest you can get. Milk is picked up and transported in large tanker trucks like what’s used to deliver gasoline. It is then dumped into large holding tanks and pasteurized. There are two kinds of pasteurization. One heats the milk more slowly and to a lower temperature, thus preserving at least a little of the milk’s natural flavor. The other method, used most often today, is called ultra pasteurization. The milk is brought to a very high temperature for just a few seconds before being rapidly chilled to just below 40F. Either way, the milk is then separated, the cream and fat removed, and what’s left is skim milk. Some of that cream and fat will go to make butter, other portions will be put back into the milk in a controlled way to create whole, 1% and 2% varieties. Some milk will be redirected to make yogurt, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese and other dairy products. Most of it will go to packaging. The fat difference between whole milk, which is 3% milkfat, and 2% is pretty small. However, between whole milk and skim, the difference is significant. All milk these days is homogenized,which means it is stirred until the cream (fat) dissolves into the rest of the milk.

Butter. Don’t be afraid to use real butter. There is nothing else to match that wonderful flavor. I don’t care what they say, there is no margarine or spread that can even come close to the taste of real butter. Yes, I know butter has a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol, but if you use it judiciously and with a little thought, you can make it no worse than margarine or other products. I avoid using butter in cooking if I can. Usually extra virgin or regular olive oil can substitute well. If it’s going to stand on it’s own, like on bread with no additions, go ahead and use the real thing. You’ll want to buy a butter dish for it. Keeping butter covered allows it to last unrefrigerated for up to a week. It’s the air that makes it go bad or rancid, not the temperature. If your home is warm, like in the summer months, put the butter in the fridge when not using it. Take it out a couple of hours before you need it so it can soften up. Whipped butter is not a value since it’s still not as spreadable as whipped margarine, which is very bad for you due to presence of trans fats. Besides, butter is all natural, so it can’t be as bad for you as a tub of chemicals.

Parmesan Cheese. A hard, sharp, dry Italian cheese made from skim cow’s milk. It is straw-colored and has rich flavor. It should be aged 12 to 16 months. It is made all over, but the best comes from Italy’s Parmigiano-Reggiano, which is often aged 2 years. Get the real thing, a wedge, if you can. It costs a bit, but it should last for a while. You’ll need a grater, too. Don’t get the little block inside a plastic grater bottle, it breaks. Also, stay away from the powder-like stuff, too, if you can. You can get it already grated or shredded, I find that works best for me. This can spice up lots of dishes, not just Italian food.

Condiments.  If you have them, put them in the ‘fridge.

Pantry Basics: Roots

The term “root cellar” refers to an underground storage area where fruit and vegetables that didn’t spoil so quickly could be stored. It was cool and dark, an ideal place for root vegetables, often the only food available in winter or during drought. It was protected from the heat of summer and from the cold of winter, usually keeping an even temperature all year. It was one of two ways before refrigeration people in rural areas had to keep things cool. The other was a stream box or stream chest, a slatted box with a lid that allowed extra milk, butter and eggs to be stored in a nearby creek or stream and kept cool for a few days. The money earned from these extra foods was called butter and egg money, which later referred to what was saved out of the household budget.

Root vegetables can keep for several months in a cool, dark environment. These include carrots, potatoes, onions, garlic, turnips, radishes, parsnips and rutabagas. Celery, rhubarb, beets, apples, home canned foods and smoked meats could also be stored in a root cellar. Every kitchen should have at least a few basics in their pantry.

Potatoes. This is American’s favorite vegetable. It is often served at every meal. It is as much a staple of our cuisine as bread. It can be served in a wide variety of ways. These tubers are members of the same  family as nightshade, henbane and tobacco. The leaves and seeds of the plant are poisonous. The tubers themselves can be poisonous in their raw state, with dangerous compounds lying just beneath the skin. Cooking or high heat will render those compounds safe. Potatoes originated in South America and were first cultivated by the Incas. There are more than 4,000 varieties grown all around the world. They can be baked, fried, boiled, steamed, roasted and cooked in just about any way you can imagine. The skin, well cleaned, is safe to eat and can improve the nutritional quality of potatoes. Nutritionally, potatoes are loaded with vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fiber and phytonutrients, but very little protein.

Onions. Like potatoes, these root vegetables come in many varieties, sizes and can be applied to many uses. These days, we mostly use onions as a seasoning or flavor enhancer. Onions are not tubers, but are bulbs that have been used in cooking since their earliest known human civilizations. It can be eaten raw or cooked or dried. It goes with almost all foods, cuisines and dishes. It is a basic flavoring in French cuisines’s mirepoix, a mixture of finely chopped onions, carrots and celery used a base for most dishes. Onions contain a sulfurous compound that creates an irritating gas when cut. Learning to cut onions efficiently and quickly can reduce exposure to this tear-inducing gas. Shallots, leeks and scallions (green onions) are also a part of this group but do not store for as long as most common onions.

Garlic. This is also a member of the onion family. It has many uses in both cooking and medicine. The garlic bulb is divided into several sections, called cloves. It is used in a wide variety of cuisines and cooking styles. It is believed to have originated in Southeast Asia, but it has been used for so long in so many parts of the world that scholars are unable to pinpoint its source. In the United States, most garlic comes from the town of Gilroy, California. Having been there, I can assure you that the aroma of garlic can be detected for many miles around this coastal town. China is the largest global producer of garlic. It is a must for cooking because it adds a huge amount of flavor and can save many dishes from being bland. Unlike potatoes, garlic should be stored at room temperature and dry to keep it from sprouting. Peeled garlic should be stored in wine or vinegar in the refrigerator. Be careful of using garlic to flavor stored oils, as it can create a dangerous mold that will make people sick. It has been claimed to be beneficial in the treatment of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart disease, but this has not been confirmed in medical studies. It has been found to have an antibacterial quality which can be used to treat wounds and infections. Garlic also causes bad breath and smelly sweat due to a gas produced in the blood during digestion.