Archive for the ‘Side Dishes’ Category

Is Broccoli Bad for Your Health and a Rant About Internet Research

November 17, 2015

As a writer who lives on St. Croix, I must use the Internet for the background research on the stories I write. On the negative side, much of what is published on the Internet is simply unsubstantiated personal opinions. Fortunately, I am living and working more than 300 years in the past and people have taken the trouble to electronically archive original documents and books on line.

When I find a page about pirate activity without a source for the information, I usually ignore it unless I can find a 300 year old source book with eyewitness accounts that substantiates the information. Where I find most of the worst information is when I am searching for new recipes or trying to find the nutritional value of what I eat.

 

Broccoli snack

Broccoli snack

For instance, another of my very low calorie snacks is steamed broccoli which can be done in a steamer or even a colander above a boiling pot of water. The water should not contact the broccoli, only the steam.

double boiler

double boiler

While seeking the nutritional data, I stumbled upon the paragraph I quote below.pixel period
You probably didn’t see what was so great about broccoli as a child, but the truth is that this vegetable is one of nature’s superfoods. From its stalk to its flowering head, broccoli is packed with nutrients and vitamins needed for your overall health and wellbeing. This vegetable has been around for centuries, and it has always been used and viewed as the perfect go-to food.”

pixel period
There are many superlatives in that paragraph even though it doesn’t give any really factual knowledge. For instance; Who has always used and viewed broccoli as the perfect go-to food? What is a go-to food? And how long is always? I like to give credit to the original author no matter how bad the work to confirm this was not a plagiarized post. I used two search engines (here and here) to check on the source of the sentence highlighted in bold. I found eight posted sources word for word on various health and fitness blogs all with a different authors so I have no idea who the original author was.pixel period
Interestingly enough, nobody bothered to leave a comment at any of the sites I visited so I assume that nobody really thought about what they were reading. I guess we will now have another generation of mindless mothers who will be feeding their kids broccoli because it is the go-to food full of the nutriments and vitamins needed for overall health and well being. Their kids would have been better off if Mom spent the same amount of time that she wasted surfing the Internet on taking her kids for a walk in the great outdoors or learning Arduino programming to teach to her kids.pixel period
On the other hand, Broccoli is bad for you, like, really toxic bad was written by Tim Crowe is an Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia and an accredited dietitian. He started off with a clear warning that “An alternative title I had for this blog post was: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet to do with nutrition”, but I wager this one was more effective in getting your attention.” He than published an over the top rant about the evils of broccoli before telling people that this was pseudo science, exaggerations and corruptions of scientific studies.

Professor Crowe received 158 comments many of them angry and negative because people missed or ignored the subtle warning not to believe everything you read on the net. Commenters feared that careless or unscrupulous readers might quote out of context and spread false informational about broccoli.pixel period
I decided to check and see if there was any other reuse of his article. Naturally I took one of his more outrageous sentences and searched, here and here to find other sites that contain the phrase, “And remember those thiocyanates I mentioned earlier? Well those too can cause bladder cancer in rats. We have graphic warning signs about cancer on cigarette packets, so why do health authorities continue to sit on their hands and take no action against broccoli?”pixel period
On the positive side, I found his complete article was reposted in full at FitnessReloaded.com by editor Maria Brilaki, a Stanford Engineering grad with an MBA. She helps over 100,000 monthly readers make better, healthier choices. She has a personal trainer certification and spends over 15 hours researching each article people read on her site. It’s all because she doesn’t want to fall for fads or hype anymore so searches for the truth like Tim Crowe.pixel period
Unfortunately, we are discussing Internet publishing so there is always an offsetting negative and the prize for that is Ben J. Johnson, Staff Writer for Natural Newd, a site that publishes pseudo science, deceptive science and science fiction. Of course young Ben only published the negative and avoided the part about how to tell real science from junk science as that would allow evaluation of everything published at his site.pixel period
As near as I can tell he even drops so low as to violate the terms of a free Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. He does lead with a link to the original article but lists his title as Staff Writer and notes at the end that the source is Broccoli is bad for you, like, really toxic bad by Tim Crowe.

When reposting. you must give appropriate credit to the original author of the material and indicate if changes were made. Well guess Ben is one of those people who never follows the rules.pixel period
I like broccoli, it is low in calories and I am not dead yet. I am also down to 202. Guess I’ll just keep snacking on Rabbit food and eat portion controlled meals. I would drop weight much faster if I quit drinking, I am just not ready yet.

 

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Even Better Bok Choy

April 24, 2012

Good, better, best.
Never let it rest.
Until your good is better
and your better is best.

Cooked Bok Choy

With all the Bok Choy in my garden, I had to keep searching for a low sodium way to prepare it or else keep giving it away. I found this recipe over at allrecipes.com and there are a few differences other than it calls for no salt at all. With a cooking time of 15 minutes, it is a lot longer than any of the other stir fry recipes I had seen. It also includes capers, vinegar and lemon juice to essentially give this bland vegetable some more flavor beyond the ginger and garlic. Well of course I wasn’t going to buy red wine vinegar just to test the recipe and with a lime tree outside my kitchen door, I thought it senseless to buy a lemon when I use lime for every recipe that calls for lemon and like the taste. So with these very minor changes, the Bok Choi turned out excellent and I will be eating more of it and testing other low sodium recipes with a little longer cooking time.

Ingredients:

6 big leaves bok choy
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup water
1 T capers
1 T minced garlic
1 T minced fresh ginger root
1 T balsamic vinegar
1 dash fresh lime juice, or to taste

Method:

1. Remove the leaves from the stems of the bok choy. Cut the stems into bite-sized chunks and shred the leaves.

2. Heat the olive oil in large skillet over medium heat and add the stems to the pan

3. Cook the bok choy stems in the oil until slightly tender, about 3 minutes.

4. Add the water and chopped leaves and cook until the water is gone or about 10 more minutes.

5. Stir in the capers, garlic, and ginger and cook 1 minute more.

6. Sprinkle the vinegar and lime juice over the bok choy and remove from heat;

7. Serve immediately.

I used this as a substitute for my mid day salad and am planning a smoked turkey and Bok Choy dinner now that I find I prefer the taste of well cooked bok choy.

Bok Choy and Flowers

April 21, 2012

Flowers and Panas en Escabeche

Last week the winds brought down partially ripe breadfruit from a tree and I got 3 of them. Now breadfruit is one of those items that is best eaten in the green phase as when ripe, it gets a very sweet taste and has the consistency of custard  I am not fond of the ripe ones. Even green it is not a popular vegetable in the Virgin Islands but gets more popular in the Eastern Caribbean. When I was in St. Kitts last summer a friend prepared Breadfruit Plantains and they are fantastic.

They are essentially fried and when cooked for only five minutes they are according to my granddaughters who did not know I made a switch with regular white potatoes, the best French Fries they had ever eaten. When they are cooked for 15 minutes or so, they turn a golden brown and get very crispy like a potato chip. I like them both ways and have been know to over indulge since you start with a whole breadfruit weighing about four pounds and you can fry another batch ever 5 to 10 minutes.

Since I had three breadfruit to play with, I started searching for other recipes. It seems the first recipe I found was called “Soused Breadfruit” which I had never heard of nor could I find it anywhere on the web other than that one recipe. But in the West Indies, most souse recipes call for Vinegar and oil which is the basis for Puerto Rican Escabeche so I expanded my search for Panas en Escabeche.

Essentially, these is just like the Green Banana salad (Escabeche de Guineos) previously published. You dice the Breadfruit after pealing and discarding the seed. The breadfruit cubes are boiled for about 20- to 25 minutes which makes them soft to a fork. All of the other ingredients are added to the bowl and tossed.

This time I had green and red bell peppers so I used both. Also I had a cucumber that I wanted to use up so, I pealed it and sliced it very thin with a cheese slicer and added that to the salad. It was a pretty good salad  but not as good as “the Best French Fries ever.”

So what has this got to do with Bok Choy? My friend Gloria loves Bok Choy and at 90 pounds is not worried about salt and high blood pressure from traditional stir fried recipes which are really quite good.  Gloria Powell (www.antilleslilies.com) is a event florist on St, Croix heavily involved in working with tourists who want to get married in a St. Croix celebration.The solution, I made a trade of my excess arugula and Bok Choy for her gift of flowers. She also bought me a glass of wine.

Good Bok Choy

April 17, 2012

Bok Choy Bed

The Bok Choy in my garden is even healthier than my arugula which is so thick, I could harvest it with a Machete. To bad I’m not overly fond of Bok Choy because most recipes taste good but are heavily loaded with salt which I try to avoid. I started searching for low salt recipes and found a few and decided to move from the least complex to more sophisticated to see if I really liked any of them.

The following recipe was inspired by a recipe from steamykitchen.com where they start to build up the flavor with the addition of ginger and chicken broth with salt to taste.

Stir Fried Bok Choy

Ingredients:

4 large leaves

3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 T crushed garlic, finely minced

1 T grated fresh ginger

1 tsp sesame seeds

4 tablespoons chicken broth

salt to taste

Method:

This is a typical stir fry with the oil, garlic, ginger and sesame seeds added to my fry pan and stir fried for a minute or two after the pan starts sizzling.

The stems are added to soften for a few minutes and then the broth and chopped leaves are added and stir fried until the leaves wilt.

Serve immediately and add salt to taste.

The Bok Choy still needed salt but at least I was in control.

Excellent Vegan Microgreen Soup – Is this a first?

September 11, 2011
microgreen soup

Microgreen Soup

When I Googled “microgreen soup” and “cooked microgreens”, I found nothing in the first category and only limited information in the second. I was searching because I stumbled across the microgreen concept and found that I could grow a crop of microgreens hydroponically without mess or much effort all year long. I could keep several tray going and have fresh greens daily.

The problem was, microgreens wouldn’t bring much added value to my life unless I could discover unique uses. I tried broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and arugula and the only salad green that was a keeper in my mind was arugula because it substituted for something I was already eating a lot of. The others were OK, but since I buy reasonably priced and hydroponically grown cucumbers, watercress, Chinese spinach, and arugula, the other microgreens don’t add much to the salad except as a garnish. Also, since I live alone, a lot of what I grew was going bad.

I love soups of all kinds and I have fond memories of the children’s story Stone Soup and have made it with magic stones with my daughter and granddaughters. I let them choose the smoothest magic stone they can find which is then washed prior to cooking.

This recipe is as close as possible to making a fantastic soup out of next to nothing and I used wilted root cellar crops that would eventually go bad. This is actually two recipes as the blended soup is excellent for lunch or a side dish. I just added the potatoes and carrots as I wanted a heartier soup for my dinner.

Excellent Vegan Microgreen Soup

Ingredients

1 T. olive oil

1 medium onion chopped

2 garlic cloves diced

2 celery stalks diced

1 oz. Rum

3 cups water

6-8 oz. microgreens (mixed broccoli and cauliflower)

1 T. Dried parsley

½ tsp. Thyme

1 tsp. salt

1 large potato cubed

2 carrots coined.

Directions

This recipe can be scaled up and made in either a Crockpot or coffeepot. Since I am cooking for one, I used my coffeepot.

  1. Add oil to pot and put on hot plate of coffeemaker.
  2. Chop onions, dice celery and garlic add to the pot
  3. Add rum
  4. Add three cups of water to the coffeemaker and let it drip into the pot. This will heat up everything quicker.
  5. When onions are soft (about 1 hour), add the microgreens and cook for 1 hour more.
  6. Add spices and salt to the pot. Mix thoroughly.
  7. Place in blender and blend until the consistency of pea soup.

Taste this soup right now! It is fantastic!.

  1. Coin carrots and add to pot.
  2. Dice potatoes into ½ inch cubes and add to pot.
  3. Cook for 4 more hours and serve.

This should have been enough for two meals but I enjoyed it so much, I only had a cup left over which wasn’t enough for a full meal. I really love this soup. It has only natural ingredients with no artificial thickeners, or bullion of unknown origin.

Pumpkin Banana Fritters

January 24, 2011

Parade Day Breakfast

The butternut fritters came out so well I decided to try the classic Pumpkin Fritters and I asked an old friend if their was any way to reduce the sugar. I was told that in the old days, there were always bananas and pumpkin growing in the yard but not always enough money for refined sugar so her mom would combine the banana and punkin and make the fritters without sugar.

I decided to give it a try and made them the same as the butternut squash but used a little extra water to thin it out. Vanise and I decided to try them for brunch and even though she’s not a fan of sweet fritters, she liked these. I saved the extra batter and about a week later used the fritters and scrambled eggs as the basis for a big breakfast brunch prior to going to the Festival Parade to party for the next six hours.

I must admit this was a much heather breakfast then the eggs and spam I had a year earlier. I also will acknowledge that my drinking habits for the day were also much healthier for both me and my community as I have to drive about 15 miles to the parade route and festival village and was far more responsible this year.

The plate above has one scrambled egg, with three dots of hot sauce, local fresh cucumbers, and tomatoes, and the pumpkin banana fritters. Filling, healthy and delicious, a wonderful way to start my day.

Ingredients:

1 pound pumpkin

2 ripe bananas

1 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp cinnamon

½ tsp fresh ground ginger

¼ tsp fresh ground nutmeg

1 egg

1 cup flour

3/4 cup water

Directions:

1. Mash the boiled pumpkin and bananas to the bowl.

Mashed Pumpkin and Banana

2. Mix it and mash it well. (I used the potato masher and did it all by hand.)

3. Add the vanilla and spices and mix it into the pumpkin and bananas until uniform.

4. Add the egg and blend.

5. Add the flour and mix until uniform. I used a whisk for the rest of the steps.

Mix Everything Except Water

6. Add the water and mix until done. ( I used some water I boiled the pumpkin in.)

7. Fry until Golden Brown.

8. Serve as a side dish Crucian style. We snacked on these for brunch and then I ate the rest for my breakfast shown above.

Pumpkin Banana Fritters

Good, Better Best never let it rest. This is healthier but the next time I try it, I will switch to whole wheat flour and see what happens.

Crucian Prayer Breakfast

January 20, 2011

Crucian Prayer Breakfast

I don’t know how many other Caribbean Islands have a custom as lovely as our Crucian Prayer Breakfast. These are held for such unholy purposes as fundraisers for politicians and to bless candidates who are lying through their teeth in order to deceive the public and get reelected. Occasionally, they are held for good purposes such as the one I attended this past Saturday.

I am on the Steel Workers Scholarship board which is a Union endeavor at self help among the members to give their children scholarships to help defer the cost of college. Every year, I get to meet a half dozen very bright and sincere children who are working so hard to make it, I am sure that they would succeed without our help but they are so young that they don’t understand how strong they are so they always thank us and even come back years later to thank us again.

Since awarding scholarships is a seasonal occupation, we only meet from January to June. One of the nicer customs of this harmonious group is to start each year with a prayer breakfast which combines prayer, camaraderie and food as we discuss the coming year. Since most of us have been doing this for a decade, the administrative procedures have been stabilized so the focus is on the children as it should be.

Regardless if the purpose is good as in helping children succeed or evil as with politicians using the event to deceive the public, the food is always excellent and the offering differs from event to event.

The plate of food pictured above is what I started with and yes I had seconds. The numbers around the edge of the plate are approximately the position of a clock and the descriptions below correspond to the numbers in the picture.

1. Salt-fish Gundy. This is well washed salt-fish ground or chopped into a coarse past and blended with minced onion and oil and vinegar salad dressing. Occasionally lime juice is also used. This is appropriately served at breakfast, brunch, or cocktail hour.

3. Deviled Eggs

5. Herring Grundy Similar to Salt fish Gundy but based on dried herring. Usually a little spicier than Saltfish Gundy

7. Whole Wheat Dumb Bread made without yeast.

9. Stewed Eggplant

11. Stewed Okra and greens.

There was also a Tofu  dish for the vegetarian in our group.

          Last year we had pumpkin and banana fritters instead or Dumb bread and the ever popular jonny cake is usually available. What is served is based on the culinary skills of the person doing the cooking and also on what’s available. I have also had ham, scrambled eggs, black bread, avocado, cheese, stewed saltfish and I am sure many other items that I can’t remember.

          In my mind this is a tradition that should be shared with the world and it’s unfortunate that visitors to our island rarely get a chance to join these wonderful events or share the food.

          Tostones – Puerto Rican Twice Fried Plantains

          January 18, 2011

          Tostones and Mojo

          I have eaten and enjoyed Tostones for the past 40 years of my life but never made them as they are twice fried plantains and that just sounded like a lot of work. A couple of weeks ago there was an interview in the newspaper with Angie Morales of Villa Morales and she said she is so used to cooking them that she could do a batch in 10 minutes from start to finish. I decide to give it a try because I have been in her kitchen when she was making them for a large group and have seen other local cooks making them for smaller groups.

          For those who don’t know, Tostones are a fried disc of plantain which is about two inches across and gets enlarged from the standard size during the preparation. They are extremely crispy and great with salt, ketchup, or the more traditional Mojo which is a garlic sauce you make yourself. The starting fruit is an unripe green Plantain. They are great as an appetizer, or as a side dish or snack. Think “French Fried Potatoes” and you will get a good idea of all the ways that children and adults enjoy Tostones.

          Ingredients:
          Plantain
          Frying Oil
          Salt

          Directions:
          1.Peal Plantain, use a knife to start.
          2.Slice ½ to ¾ inch thick. (Thicker slices, cut on a diagonal will give a bigger finished Tostone)
          3.Fry 2 minutes per side at 350 Fahrenheit (Hot Oil but not smoking) until just tender to the fork.

          Fry Half Inch Chunks

          4.Remove and drain on paper towel
          5.Press flat with palm or flat object. I used a beer mug. They should end up ¼ inch thick. (Sorry about this Picture) If necessary, use a fork to separate them from the bottom of the mug.

          Press Flat with Beer Mug

          6.Return them to the pan and fry a couple more minutes on each side until golden brown.

          Refry Compressed Discs

          7.Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with Mojo.

          Mojo (Traditional Garlic Sauce)
          Ingredients:
          ½ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
          2 heaping Tablespoons Crushed Garlic (6 large cloves)
          2 Tablespoons Lime or Lemon Juice
          ½ tsp salt.
          Optional:
          1 Scotch bonnet hot pepper
          ¼ cup more oil.

          Blend all the ingredients in a blender until a smooth liquid. and serve. The traditional Mojo has no hot pepper but since I like hot pepper, I added a whole one and some more oil and blended it until it had the texture of mayonnaise. If I were serving this to guests, I would definitely leave out the hot pepper and serve it in the traditional manner.

          Good Salad – Bad Salad!!!

          January 14, 2011

          Good Salad - Bad Salad???

          It seems that a lot of people want to be immortal and are searching for a fountain of youth and many are finding it in their own way. Not so amazing, once they find it, they post the story on the internet and try to cash in on their discovery. Obviously, I am not opposed to that as I have made good money in the service industry for the past 15 years. However, I can’t believe that my genetics will adapt overnight to place my body in harmony with these new discoveries.

          I tend to accept that anything that your grandparent or mine ate and drank in moderation will not kill me. Historically, man had a life expectancy of 33 years from mitochondrial Eve 200,000 years ago until about 1850 when things began to change. It wasn’t fire, housing the arts or a zest for life that led to people living longer. It was good old fashioned improvements in personal hygiene and public health.

          From 1860 to 1910, life expectancy grew by about 10 years as Doctors learned to clean there hands and cities cleared the sewage and garbage off the streets. Life expectancy grew by a very big 20 years between 1910 and 1960 where we reached the biblical age of three score and ten. That was the era of sulfa drugs and improved antibiotics plus a continued focus on personal hygiene. Since the advent of infomercials about diets and exercise machines we have added 10 more years to our life but I would be hard pressed to give all the credit to exercise machines and weird diets with the advances in medicine and care for the aged that has taken place.

          So given that I am a skeptic, how could one salad possibly be better than the other when both salads had about the same amount of ingredients including the olives and pepperoncini, they both had about 5 ounces of meat and the both used locally grown and very fresh arugula, tomatoes and cucumbers. The first salad I called Emperor’s Salad and first made last winter when tomatoes cucumbers and arugula were abundant and the meat is a sous vide Turkey Confit made from 5 ounces of steak cut from a turkey leg. I thought it was fantastic and healthy a year ago so I made it again this week.

          I believe firmly in seasonal eating especially when it comes to tomatoes, cucumbers and arugula and will eat it every night in every way including BLT’s. The second salad is based on canned tuna with the rest of the salad ingredients being the same.

          Bad Salad - Good Salad???

          The tuna salad is simple to make and you just stir the following ingredients in a bowl and use a mold to fix the shape. The topping is 1 tablespoon of horseradish.

          Ingredients:

          1 can (5 ounces) of tuna in water well drained

          1 Tablespoon of soy sauce

          ½ tsp fish oil (optional but it does add a lot of flavor)

          Both salads have about 500 calories but because of the soy sauce and fish oil, the tuna salad had about 50% of my salt requirement for the day. Since that was my only salt for the day it turned out to not be a factor. So which Salad is the truly healthy one?

          If you put your trust in the Inflammation Factor, the Turkey Salad is wickedly inflammatory and the Tuna Salad is soothing. Funny thing a cold front came through paradise the day I ate the Tuna Salad, my arthritis kicked up and if I didn’t know better and attributed my pain to the food I ate, I would have to conclude that the Turkey Salad was better for me. Oh well, one more reason I eat what I want in moderation.

          Melt in Your Mouth Eggplant Parmesan

          December 14, 2010

          Melt in Your Mouth Eggplant Parmesan

          Eggplant Parmesan is one of those family traditions we just do – There is no such thing called a recipe. All that is involved is making the fried eggplant which as discussed previously is a critical but messy job, placing it in a pan, spreading sauce to cover each piece and placing fresh, whole milk, mozzarella cheese on top. If you start with great fried eggplant, you will make great Eggplant Parmesan, Depending on on your preference, you can sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on prior to cooking or as I prefer after cooking. For sauce we use whatever is in the refrigerator. If it was good enough to serve with pasta it’s good for Eggplant Parmesan.

          The tradition method in out family is to layer it in a pan and if the pan is to be frozen we use a disposable aluminum pan. The following photo is a completely frozen pan of Eggplant Parmesan prepared at the same time I fried the eggplant as a side dish which I am saving for my niece at the end of December. Of course in the freezer it is covered with aluminum foil.

          Frozen pan of Eggplant Parmesan

          When I cook it, I will leave it out on the counter for about an hour or two to defrost and then the covered pan will be placed in the oven at 350 for ½ hour. After that the foil cover will be removed to cook as needed for 15 to 20 more minutes to develop a golden brown cheese on top.

          Consideration in cooking meals for one.

          When I scale down a recipe for myself, I don’t want excessive leftovers, I want it easy to clean my mess, and I hate to turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen for a single meal for me. These criteria make the fondue pot the ideal choice for this meal. My pot is Teflon coated for ease of cleaning, has a precision temperature control, and is the right size to cook a meal for one.

          The steps are almost the same except, as will be shown below, you do not get the golden brown color that my wife shrived for but in my mind you get a fresher tasting melted cheese.

          1. Place the friend eggplant in the cold electric skillet (fondue pot) and cover with tomato sauce.

            Fried Eggplant Covered with Tomato Sauce.

          2. Slice the cheese and place a slice or part of a slice on each piece of eggplant.

            A slice on each piece of eggplant

          3. Cover the pot and turn the temperature on the dial to 300 Fahrenheit

            Cover the pot

          4. Cook for about 10 minutes until you hear the sauce and melted cheese sizzling in the pan.

            Cook for about 10 minutes

          5. Serve with fresh grated Parmesan.

          Since I love eggplant fried and fresh mozzarella, I like this version just as well as the golden brown one and when making meals for one it is just the right amount. Don’t worry, when you come to dinner I’ll put the pan in the oven and make yours that beautiful golden brown but in the meantime I can cook great tasting traditional meals without excessive leftovers.

          Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that this great meal is vegetarian.