Tag Archives: food

FriendshipWorks (and So Does Enchilada Casserole)

Meet Chester:

He's not always this blurry.

Chester is a good friend of mine. He’s lived in South Boston for all of his 84 years. He is a WWII veteran. He enjoys bacon and eggs, a good Western movie, baseball, listening to the radio, and talking about how expensive everything is. He dislikes modern music, doctors, throwing things away, and how expensive everything is. He has diabetes and is legally blind. I’ve visited him often for about three years, sometimes to help out around the house, but mostly just to chat.

I met Chester through a great organization called FriendshipWorks, a Boston-based nonprofit that matches volunteers with elders and adults with disabilities. On the surface, Chester and I don’t seem to have a lot in common. But get us talking and the conversation usually turns to food.

Tonight I brought Chester dinner. He’ll eat pretty much anything, although he tends to favor pastries, candy, white bread, processed foods, and red meat. As you might imagine, none of these pair well with diabetes, so I jump at the chance to make and share a healthy meal with him. Tonight’s dinner was brought to us by the brilliant mind of Angela Liddon over at Oh She Glows. It was her Naughty and Nice Enchilada Casserole, baby, and man was it good.

This is a bad photo of a good casserole.

Click the links above to check out Angela’s site and get the full recipe. Some slight alterations: I used store-bought taco seasoning mix and enchilada sauce. THE SHAME. For the pasta, I used Eden Organic Flax Rice Spirals. I topped the casserole with crushed tortilla chips (Laurel Hill Multigrain) and fresh avocado.

For what it’s worth, this recipe has received the coveted Chester Seal of Approval. He didn’t even notice there was no meat in it.

Lots of veggie goodness.

Any ideas of what to make for Chester next?

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Filed under just because, nutrition, storytime, vegetarianism

On Gestation Crates, McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Basic Humanity

On Monday, February 13th, McDonald’s and The Humane Society of the United States released a joint statement regarding gestation crates used to confine pregnant sows (female pigs). By May 2012, all of McDonald’s pork suppliers must provide the company with plans to phase out the crates. After assessing these plans, McDonald’s says that it will share the results and outline next steps.

That one in the stripes looks highly suspicious.


First, a definition (from Wikipedia):

A gestation crate, also known as a sow stall, is a 7 ft by 2 ft metal enclosure used in intensive pig farming, in which a female breeding pig (sow) may be confined during pregnancy, and in effect for most of her adult life.

Thanks Wikipedia! Basically, gestation crates are cramped, cruel little spaces that 500-lb pregnant pigs are forced to hang out in for most of their short, miserable lives. They can’t even turn around. If you’re curious what they look like, here is a photo. I mean, I freak out when I’m sandwiched between two people on the subway. But unfortunately gestation crates are the industry standard and the vast majority of all pregnant sows live in them.

Advocates of the crates will tell you that they’re used to prevent fighting among the pigs, which is true enough. What these advocates often won’t tell you is that there are many other ways to prevent fighting, but those ways require understanding the animal’s basic natural behaviors and instincts and putting that knowledge to use. Perish the thought! Also, the crates cause a whole slew of other health issues for the pigs, which leads to sick pigs, which leads to us eating sick pigs.

So, let’s look at this McDonald’s effort. A lot of people have written about it – you can read what Mark Bittman and NPR have to say. I agree that this is a good thing. Where McDonald’s goes, the industry follows. If the company makes good on this effort, it’s likely that gestation crates will be a thing of the past in ten years. And that’s great! That is of course assuming McDonald’s makes good on this effort. Nowhere in their statement is there a guarantee (as Gawker so eloquently points out) and there is so much more work to do. Like, a lot more.  We can embrace this as progress, but we can not ignore the impact McDonald’s has on minimum wage and general employee welfare (it’s one of the largest employers in the country), animal welfare (it’s the largest buyer of industrially-raised beef in the country), and the global health dialogue (it’s the world’s largest fast food restaurant).

As Spider-Man’s wise Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility. We can applaud this effort, but we can also hold our nation’s biggest companies to higher standards. It is not unreasonable to do so. Yes, improving our food system takes time, thought, money and energy. It takes a desire to be better and to be different. It takes a cultural shift and a change in consumer values and a government whose food policies align with its nutrition talk. It takes a lot! There are obstacles. But if we can’t be bothered to work on overcoming these obstacles, then I don’t have a lot of faith in us and in our incredible capacity for innovation and creativity.

All of this brings me to Chipotle, a company which until 2006 was a subsidiary of McDonald’s. They ran an ad during the Grammys called “Back to the Start.” It’s a beautifully done ad with a simple message as I see it – basic humanity over industry. It highlights the challenges of being a participant in a broken system and it offers hope that we can reach a place where our values align with our business and where sustainability rules.



I didn’t write this to stop you from eating meat or to stop you from going to McDonald’s. I just think that we need to cultivate a heightened awareness of how we eat and why. I don’t mean to oversimplify an incredibly complex issue, but quite frankly I’m sick of focusing more on the obstacles than on the solutions. Kudos to McDonald’s for a step in the right direction, but let’s not forget about all the other steps that need to be taken.

Talk to me – what do think of all this? Are you impressed with McDonald’s effort? What more could be done? How much did you love that Chipotle ad? Willie Nelson has such great delivery.

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Filed under food movement, news

Easy Lentil Tomato Soup

I originally titled this post “The Bay Leaf Incident of 2012,” but “Easy Lentil Tomato Soup” seemed a little more blog-friendly and less ominous. I shall begin with a photo:


Despite the Bay Leaf Incident of 2012, I did not die upon consuming this soup.


Looks harmless enough, right? WRONG. Lurking within that blurry bowl of Lentil-Tomato Soup is something that until this weekend I assumed would cause immediate death – blended bay leaf. That’s right. I slaved over a hot stove creating a lovely soup, only to forget the crucial step of removing the whole bay leaves before using my immersion blender. I was certain I would kill myself and my unassuming dinner partner, who had placed blind faith in my ability to make a non-lethal soup.

After much hand-wringing and brow-furrowing, I did what any functional adult would do: I texted my mother.


“Am I going to kill us both if I serve soup in which I accidentally blended a bay leaf?’

Mom responded with the sanity that I was lacking.

“Not unless either of you are allergic to bay leaves.”

Oh. Thanks Mom.


So long story short, I learned a valuable lesson. Accidentally blending bay leaves into your soup, while not recommended, will not lead to paralysis, stroke, nerve damage, or sudden death. Mostly it will just result in a strong bay flavor and tiny floating pieces of leaf in your soup. If you’ve learned nothing else from this blog, please retain that.

I still want to share the recipe with you all, as it was actually quite tasty. I was inspired by an Alton Brown recipe I came across awhile ago. By the way, leave it to Alton Brown to publish a recipe calling for “Grains of Paradise.” I’m almost certain that is not a spice at all, but the title of an obscure John Steinbeck novel.


Easy Lentil Tomato Soup

Serves 2-3 people


2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 minced garlic cloves

1 small-medium sweet onion, chopped

1/2 cup chopped carrot

1/2 cup chopped celery

A few pinches of salt

1 can cooked lentils, drained

1 cup peeled, ground tomatoes (canned)

1 32-oz box vegetable stock

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

2 whole bay leaves … do not blend


Directions

  1. Heat up the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and salt and saute for about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for another 2-3 minutes. The onions should be soft and starting to brown.
  2. Add everything else and stir it up.
  3. Up the heat until the soup starts to boil. Then reduce to a simmer and let it do its thing for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat. REMOVE BAY LEAVES. Blend using an immersion blender, regular blender, whatever.

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Filed under recipes, silly, storytime

Three Secrets to Perfect Cinnamon Sugar Toast – For Dad

Scrambled eggs. Bananas in milk. Cinnamon sugar toast. The Holy Trinity of my father’s culinary capabilities, the only “dishes” he was really able to make with complete confidence. Their beauty was in their simplicity. When I think of the comforts of my childhood I often think of these foods.

The power of food to define a place, a person, a time, a memory – it’s incredible. Have you ever tasted something that seemed to transport you to somewhere in your past? Smelled something cooking and thought of the person who used to cook that for you? Seen a favorite food from childhood and remembered what things were like when you were a kid? I have. Food engages so many of the senses; it’s no wonder that cooking and eating can be highly emotional endeavors.

Tonight I made some cinnamon sugar toast in a small effort to remember my dad. He died two years ago today after a lengthy illness. I think of lots of things when I think of him. I think of his laugh, his catchphrases, his voice, his quirks, his handwriting, his talents, his love for me and my brother. And I think about the food he made us – so simple and yet so full of love.

My dad approached death with courage, humor and grace and I try to approach my life like that. I miss him all the time, but he left me with many lessons and memories. And so without further ado, I present to you the Three Secrets to Perfect Cinnamon Sugar Toast.


1: The Bread

Make sure it’s something hearty and tasty! I used a big old hunk of sunflower whole wheat bread. Toast until brown and crispy. You know how to make toast.


2: The Butter

Spread a generous amount of real butter on it while it’s still warm! If I see you using margarine I’m coming after you.


3: The Cinnamon and the Sugar and the Eating Part

Sprinkle lots of sugar. Sprinkle as little or as much cinnamon as you want. Spread it all out with a knife. Enjoy.

Thanks Pops!

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Filed under just because, recipes

A Love Letter to Avocado

Dear Avocado,

I regret that I met you only recently – the years I spent without you would have been that much more joyful with your presence. I am especially anguished to admit that I hated you at first. I thought that you were weak, useless, fat, and plagued with unfortunate skin issues, not unlike a 14-year-old videogame nerd. As far as I was concerned, you weren’t even worthy of joining me for lunch.

Does my brutal honesty offend? So be it, I must tell my truth! And while our relationship may have started off on the wrong foot, my truth is this: I love you, avocado. I love you more than Michele Bachmann loves corndogs. I love you more than Sandra Lee loves Kwanzaa cake.  I love you more than Sammi and Deena from the Jersey Shore love 6 Hour Power Energy Shots. That is to say, a lot.

I’m sorry for any hurt that my years of rejection may have caused. I recognize that your tough exterior is only there to shield your soft and delicate interior from the inequality and misunderstandings plaguing this world. You offer me nourishment when I need it most and you never fail to impress when I take you to dinner parties. I would be proud to introduce you to my mother.

Now I know it’s not easy bein’ green. But avocado, never change.

Love,
Megan

By the way, here are Five Things You Should Know About Avocados:

  1. They are really, really good for you. They get knocked for having a lot of fat, but it’s the magical “good” kind. That fat is precisely why avocados are so anti-inflammatory and why they help our bodies absorb nutrients. Fat is not the enemy, so eat your guacamole.
  2. Here is a nice tutorial on how to cut and peel an avocado from Simply Recipes. It’s easy once you get the hang of it.
  3. Avocados brown easy. If you only want to use half an avocado, save the side with the pit and sprinkle the exposed surface with lemon juice. Wrap it up tight in cling wrap and put it in the fridge so you can use it the next day. A little browning won’t kill you, by the way.
  4. Tip from me to you: Nothing makes a grilled cheese better than adding thin slices of avocado.
  5. You should try and make this and I will too. I will add feta.

Have any good avocado recipes? Let me know!

In closing, avocados are delicious. Eat them.

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Filed under letter, list

5 Things to Love About the Farmers Market

If you are reading this blog, you’re probably thinking “I bet this girl likes kale.”  And you’d be right, my astute friend (although would it kill you to have a little more enthusiasm?). Well listen, I gotta get that kale from somewhere, and sometimes Shaw’s just ain’t cuttin’ it.  That’s when I need to get my farmers market on.

I love the farmers market. I will happily  spend an afternoon prancing among the vegetables, taking in the sights and sounds, and chatting up the vendors. It’s a veritable circus for the senses, minus the depressed elephants and $15 bags of popcorn. I’m lucky enough to work a couple of blocks from the Copley Square market in Boston, which is open every Tuesday and Friday until Thanksgiving. It’s great to leave the office and be surrounded by healthy, fresh food.

So allow me to kick some new flava in ya ear. Here are five awesome things about the farmers market:

1. Eyegasms

It’s all just so freakin’ pretty. These are all photos I took today in Copley Square.

It's autumn!

$5 for a whole lotta mums.

I ate some of these moments after this photo was taken.



2. Knowing who grew your food and where

This may come as a shock, so brace yourselves – Larry the stock guy in aisle 3 did not grow that apple for you. I know I know, Larry is great, but the supermarket detaches us from the reality of where our food comes from. Do you know how far that apple had to travel to get to you? Do you know how long that apple has been sitting around? (Hint: Probably 6-12 months. Most supermarkets like their apples waxed, cold, and suffocating.) Can Larry tell you how the growing season was, or why the apples cost less this year? No he can’t, poor useless lug. You have  respect for your food when you have respect for the grower, which can lead to happier, more mindful eating.

Seriously though, I wish Larry the best of luck.

3. Good for your bod, good for your mind

Even with the conflicting nutritional advice we are bombarded with every day, I have yet to hear anyone say, “Eat less fresh vegetables.” You don’t need me to tell you that fresh produce is good for you. In fact, the longer it takes for produce to go from harvest to mouth, the more nutrients are lost. The better you eat, the better you look and feel. Farmers markets make it easy.

4. Supporting farmers at a fair price

I’m not going to touch on the myriad issues that go into the high cost of food – that’s a blog post for another day. But a good way to save money is to eat in-season from the farmers market. Sure, a lot of the more exotic stuff is going to be expensive, but buying an apple in autumn is often less expensive than buying a fancy McIntosh from Whole Foods. And even if something does cost a little more, I’m ok with it – you’re handing your money over to the person who picked your dinner, after all.

5. Gosh darn it, it just tastes better

Well of course it tastes better, it’s fresh! Even the CDC could tell you that. A lot of the produce sold to us in supermarkets is anything but fresh. Take the humble tomato, for instance. Bite into a lot of conventionally-grown tomatoes and you’ll notice that something is missing – namely, flavor. That’s because most tomatoes are “picked hard and green and artificially gassed until their skins acquire a marketable hue” (from Barry Estabrook, author of Tomatoland and Politics of the Plate). Appetizing! You’re unlikely to find these Frankentomatoes at the farmers market.

There are plenty of resources online if you’re looking for a market near you or are just curious as to what’s in season where you live. Do you live or work near a farmers market? What do you love about them?

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Filed under list, photos