Thursday, September 29, 2011

Refrigerator Pickles Recipe

7 C Sliced Pickles (about 1/8 inch)
1 C Sliced Onion
2 C Sugar
1 C White Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Celery Seed

Cook sugar, vinegar, celery salt and salt up to a boil an then pour over cucumbers & onions. Can be stored in the refrigerator for a few weeks!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

"Favorite" Cucumbers Recipe

4 Large Cucumbers, sliced thin
1 Onion, chopped
1 C Mayonnaise
4 Tbsp Vinegar (white or cider)
1/2 C Sugar
1/4 tsp Salt

Mix together and serve chilled

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

What to do about dairy? Is soy a good alternative?

This Morning's Soy Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte
I was craving something warm and comforting this morning, so I decided to swing by the coffee shop at work today and get a latte. 

In the old days I would have ordered a small (or "tall") sugar-free vanilla latte with skim milk, no whipped cream.

Of course now, with my commitment to a healthier lifestyle, I needed to make a few modifications. 
  1. I try to avoid artificial sweeteners, so I had to get a "regular" flavor shot (as I get better at this, I'll probably want to cut the flavor shots out completely). 
  2. I've been off of caffeine now for exactly four months, so of course I had to choose decaffeinated espresso.
  3. Finally, as I'm trying to refrain from all dairy that I do not know where the milk comes from or how the cows live, I chose soy milk.

This cow at a modern California dairy has a swollen udder.
Today’s large farms tend to confine dairy cows in drylot
feedyards (shown) or inside barns.1 The animals commonly
suffer udder infections, metabolic disorders, and lameness.
In addition to abstaining from dairy for ethical and even environmental reasons, I have been reading a lot about the health effects of dairy.  The information I have found has made me consider cutting out dairy from my diet completely, even if I find milk, cheese, or yogurt produced from grass-feed, free-range, humanely treated cows.

Our bodies are not meant to drink any milk except our own mother's milk, and only while we are infants.  Humans are the ONLY animals that drink another species milk, and the only animals that drink milk after infancy.  That right there should tell us something about how unnatural our society's obsession with dairy is.

Click here for info on this spoof.
In the U.S. alone, about 80% of African Americans, 90% of Asian Americans, and 60% of Hispanics are lactose intolerant.  People with lactose intolerance experience gas, discomfort, and sometimes diarrhea upon drinking milk.  Those who can digest cow's milk are mostly of white European descent and are thought to have a genetic mutation that occurred thousands of years ago in our evolution so that we could survive on a herd's milk under harsh environmental conditions.

Cow's milk has been linked to obesity, breast cancer, testicular cancer, diabetes and heart disease.  It underlies asthma and allergies, and messes with our hormones. 

In 1900 American girls started menstruating, on average, at the age of 14.  Today, they begin at 12 1/2, with the first signs of puberty showing up in some girls as young as 7. 

These stats really hit home for me, as when we were growing up we used to drink at least 3 servings of milk (thankfully skim) a day , and I got my period just before my 11th birthday!

All of the reasons above have made me try to avoid most dairy whenever possible.  It has been about a month now, and when I have eaten "humane" dairy on occasion, I notice a difference right away in how my body reacts!  I feel gassy and bloated, and a little sluggish afterward.  That's all the proof I need that our bodies are not naturally made to digest cow's milk!  Of course, cheese and ice cream are soooo good, so it may come down to the the occasional hard decision for me, knowing full well what the consequences will be when I choose to indulge.

So this morning I got a Soy Decaf Pumpkin Spice Latte, a perfect Fall pick-me-up!

Or was it?

I've also been coming across a lot of information about the negative health effects of soy, one of the most disconcerting to me being the links between soy and infertility.

Soy and Fertility
Soy is an excellent source of protein and also a phenomenal source of phytoestrogen (also called isoflavones) - a plant form of oestrogen that mimics our own natural hormone.  

Some research has shown that eating large  amounts of soy may throw off a woman's natural hormone levels, increase her menstrual cycle length, and affect ovulation.  

There is also some inconclusive research showing that eating too much soy may reduce a man's sperm production, which may be due to the phytoestogen  mimicking natural oestrogen.  Too much estrogen is never a good thing when it comes to sperm production.  The soy-sperm link is more pronounced in overweight and obese men, probably because they already produce more of the natural hormone than thinner men.
So, what am I going to do about milk?  Probably what I have been doing already.  Refrain from cow's milk (but if I ever HAVE to buy it, it would be organic), and limit my consumption of soy milk to rare treats at the coffee shop.  At home, I enjoy almond and coconut milk in my cooking and smoothies, and have become obsessed with Dark Chocolate Almond Milk for a sweet treat when I am craving something like ice cream.  I am not concerned about getting enough calcium, as I can get plenty from plant-based sources, but that is a topic for another post.

I am very concerned with consuming too much soy in other food products now that I've made a commitment to this new plant-based diet.  It seems that at restaurants, you'll often find the token veggie burger (aka, soy product) as your only option on the menu.  At home, I plan to continue exploring whole grains and legumes as my main sources of protein, and reserve soy products for when I'm on the road or in social situations where I don't have access to the types of natural foods I'd prefer to be eating.

I'd love to hear from other vegetarians out there, to hear what their favorite sources of protein are, and to learn more about their own opinions on the so-called "dangers" of soy.  I am still very much in the learning, or "information gathering" phase of this lifestyle change, and welcome all the advice or stories I can get!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Oven Roasted Leeks, Beets, Zucchini & Eggplant Recipe


2 leeks
3 beets
1 zucchini
2 small or 1 medium size eggplant
3-4 tbsp Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Wash the beets, trim and scrub the skin. Quarter or chunk them. Trim and clean the leeks by splitting in half and then washing out all of the sand. Cut the leeks into 1/2" pieces. Trim and clean the zucchini and eggplants and slice into 1/2" pieces, then quarter or chunk them.

On a cookie sheet with sides toss the beets, leeks, and garlic cloves with olive oil. Roast in a 375°F oven for 30 minutes, stirring the mixture once. Continue to roast a little longer until the beets are cooked through.

Everything will caramelize and it's wonderful!

This recipe is featured on at the 8 o'clock position on the dinner plate above!

Recipe of the Day: Vegan Split Pea Soup

Vegan Split Pea Soup

My soup simmering before adding the other vegetables


  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups dried split peas
  • 1/2 cup barley
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • 3 carrots, chopped
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 3 potatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large pot over medium high heat, saute the oil, onion, bay leaf and garlic for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent. Add the peas, barley, salt and water. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
  2. Add the carrots, celery, potatoes, parsley, basil, thyme and ground black pepper. Simmer for another hour, or until the peas and vegetables are tender.
Amount Per Serving  Calories: 247 | Total Fat: 2.2g | Cholesterol: 0mg

This recipe was so good!  It can get a little thick, so add more water if you like your soup on the runny side.  I had read a review that mentioned adding the spices during step one to really infuse their flavor, but by doing that, I found the flavor to be a little too peppery for my taste.  This made for a delicious hardy autumn meal and I will definitely make it again!

My vegan split pea soup served for dinner with oven roasted brussels sprouts and oven roasted leeks, beets, zucchini, and two kinds of eggplant.

SIGG or Stainless Steel Water Bottles?

I have been thinking a lot lately about reusable water bottles, ever since watching the documentary, Tapped. After doing a little research, I decided it is time to upgrade from the plastic and mystery metal freebies I've been drinking out of lately, and get something that is both safe and practical for my lifestyle.

I celebrated my 30th birthday last week. I decided this year to take the money that friends and family gave me as gifts and actually buy myself things that I would like to have rather than put it in the checking account like I usually do.

The first purchase I made was on, where I found the best prices on two brands of water bottles that I wanted to buy and compare. I picked out a brand new SIGG bottle, as well as a Kleen Kanteen.


My Newest SIGG Bottle!
I've had 2 different SIGG bottles in the past. Both of them were destroyed when I left them in my car overnight during the cold Wisconsin Winters, and the water inside them froze and as the ice expanded the walls of the bottle burst open. The last bottle I owned was a year or two ago, and I'm excited to have a new one again!

I like SIGG because they have beautiful and artistic designs that you can use to really express yourself while carrying around your water all day. I like the "loop" top (as pictured above), but the ABT top is a nice option for when you need quick sips too. I love that they have the BPA-free lining now, (the newer bottles with the yellow lining are safe, the older gold ones are not!). And finally, because the brand is fairly well known, I love that people will see me carrying it and know I'm making a statement about drinking out of non-plastic reusable containers.

The downsides of SIGG bottles is that they can be a little inconvenient to clean because of the small opening, but I solved that by buying a SIGG Cleaning Brush years ago. They are dishwasher safe, though my last couple bottles claimed that hand-washing will prolong the life of my bottle and the liner inside. I DO NOT RECOMMEND using SIGG bottles for hot liquids, as the metal will conduct heat and become very hot to the touch.

Kleen Kanteen

In 2004 when the first Klean Kanteen bottle was released, the only other options out there were polycarbonate plastic bottles or aluminum bottles lined with plastic resin or epoxy (like the SIGG bottles).
My Kleen Kanteen!
Klean Kanteen wanted to give consumers a safe, healthy, BPA-free alternative to plastic, a bottle that's reusable, environmentally sustainable and durable enough to last a lifetime. They chose to make a bottle from high-quality, 18/8, food-grade stainless steel, which they claim is one of the healthiest and most durable materials available.

Some of the key features that set Klean Kanteen® apart include easy to clean rounded corners and threads; high quality, food-grade materials that are BPA-free and don't retain or impart flavors; and durable, all-stainless construction including bottle threads.

They also set up their company and manufacturing to be environmentally responsible and sustainable from the beginning. They oversee our manufacturing every step of the way, from the sourcing of the basic materials to the retail floor and they're constantly working to cut waste and operate more efficiently. Read more about their sustainability efforts.

Kleen Kanteen was preferred by several of the reviewers of SIGG bottles on, so I thought I'd spend a little of my birthday money and check it out for comparison!

According to their FAQ webpage, you still can't freeze them, but if you have a double walled insulated bottle, you can transport hot liquids in them, and even use them on stove tops!  

The biggest questions for me: 
Which is safer, the Stainless Steel in my Kleen Kanteen or the Aluminium in my SIGG bottle?

While I still am not sure which brand I'll ultimately end up with, I did find information on the topic. According to Kleen Kanteen's website:

"While aluminum is lightweight, it can leach harmful substances and chemicals when it gets hot or comes in contact with anything acidic. Studies have also linked aluminum exposure to Alzheimer's disease. To ensure that the drinks inside aluminum bottles are safe, the bottles must be lined with something.
The most common materials used to line aluminum bottles include plastic resins or baked-on epoxy, both of which can leach BPA and other harmful chemicals or can get scratched, exposing the aluminum underneath. Ceramic is another material used to line aluminum bottles, but it's more rigid and can crack.
Of even greater concern is the fact that many companies won't release information about what the liner on their aluminum bottles is actually made from. The liner can also retain flavors, which can make your drinks taste funky.
The stainless steel used to make Klean Kanteens® is time-tested, safe and completely free of BPA, phthalates, lead and other harmful substances. It's fine for acidic beverages or foods, and doesn't retain or impart flavors. That's why it's the material most commonly used in food preparation and by the brewing and wine-making industries."
The first paragraph above makes me a little nervous about cleaning my SIGG bottle in the dishwasher! The Kleen Kanteen site claims that the bottles are dishwasher safe, except for some of the plastic caps. Until I get the Kleen Kanteen, I won't know if it will be any easier to clean than the SIGG though, so the jury is still out on that issue.

Both the SIGG and Kleen Kanteen bottles will probably have issues with sweating, so to solve that problem, I added a fun rainbow striped neoprene water bottle sleeve to my order!  I love that it has a snap built into the handles so I can hook it onto my purse, lunch bag, a tote, belt loop, or whatever!

I'm a little nervous about the openings on the bottom corner, but hopefully there won't be too much of an issue.

To wrap things up here, I'd like to mention that I started this post wanting to talk about why everyone should want to run out and buy a SIGG bottle like the ones I've enjoyed using in the past. However, through my research, I'm starting to wonder if I may just end up converting over to stainless steel bottles like Kleen Kanteen! I'll follow up after I've had a chance to use both, but in the meantime, I'd love to hear about the types/brands of water bottles that others use. I'm especially curious about anyone who uses them for their kids instead of plastic sippy cups & bottles!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

My Recent Communications with Lancome and PETA

Lately I've become more keenly aware of animal cruelty and have been trying to make a difference through my buying power.  I've stopped buying all meat, dairy, and egg products unless they are clearly free-range & pasture finished.

While researching how to find animal products that are acceptable to me, I came across a lot of other commodities that cruelly affect animals by testing on them for safety.

I instantly wondered about my favorite cosmetic line, Lancome, and hoped they would be on the PETA "DOES NOT TEST" list.  Alas, I was disappointed to discover that they were on the "DO TEST" list!  What would I do without my favorite skincare product, "Genifique," which I fondly refer to as my secret liquid gold?!?!?

After a large amount of internet searching, I couldn't find any definitive reasons why Lancome is on the "DO TEST" list, or any information about how or what they test on animals.  Everything I was reading though was saying that they DO test though, so I knew I had to make a difficult choice.

I called up my favorite Lancome representative.  She is this super posh, Russian woman, we'll call her G.  I told G I needed to cancel my latest order before she put the credit card through and that I could no longer buy Lancome products until they publicly took an oath not to test on animals anymore.  G was shocked and swore up and down that they have not tested on animals for over 20 years!  She told me to check the Lancome website and call 1-800-Lancome for more information & to get the proof I need.  I told her to wait on canceling my order while I followed up.

Here is the transcript from the email that Lancome sent me after I called them:

September 13, 2011

The safety of our consumers is our highest priority at Lancôme, a division of L'Oréal USA, Inc. Our products and ingredients undergo extensive screening so that consumers may purchase and use our products with complete confidence.
L'Oréal is a leader in developing alternative methods to animal testing with the ultimate goal of eliminating all animal testing completely. In 1989, L'Oréal voluntarily stopped using animal testing for the evaluation of its entire range of finished products. The company has invested $800 million over the last 25 years to develop innovative, alternative methods to animal testing, particularly in the area of reconstructed tissue development. We are totally committed to a future without tests on animals.
To learn more about L'Oréal's work in the area of alternative methods to animal testing, please visit our Sustainability website at
We appreciate your interest in Lancôme and we hope this information is helpful.
Sincerely,Francesca SardiConsumer Affairs AdvisorRef # 6217727 

I found this a little bit confusing, given the fact that they are listed on PETA's website as a company that does perform animal testing.  So, I emailed PETA to ask why Lancome is on the list.  Here was their very prompt response:

September 14, 2011 

Dear Ms. Hutchings,

Thank you for your compassion for animals and for contacting PETA about Lancome, which is a subsidiary of L’Oréal. Unfortunately, L’Oréal is not as forthcoming as it should be about what exactly it does or does not do regarding animal testing.

L’Oréal claims on its website that it “has not tested its finished products on animals since 1989.” This statement has two loopholes. The first is that the testing policy outlined in the company’s most recently available annual report adds: “except in the case where national legislation requires it. This is the case in certain countries where L’Oréal operates and in those locations regulations require using animals before substances can be registered for commercial use.” The second is that the statement very pointedly omits any mention of ingredient testing. While European law forbids testing cosmetics products or ingredients on animals, companies are free to conduct some tests on animals outside the European Union until 2013. In 2008, L’Oréal stated, “[S]afety tests on animals are absolutely necessary and compulsory for some ingredients,” and it has not retracted this statement. In a 2010 Associated Press article (, it was reported that L’Oréal does use animals for skin allergen tests: “Like other companies in the cosmetics industry, L’Oréal is racing to develop alternatives for testing wrinkle creams and lipstick to comply with European Union laws. Regulators there have ordered companies to phase out animal skin testing by 2013. L’Oréal has decreased its use of animal testing over the years, but still relies on the technique to test certain new chemicals.”

Some companies choose to use, develop, or manufacture certain kinds of ingredients that numerous progressive, humane cosmetics companies are able to function perfectly well without, and L’Oréal has argued that these ingredients must be tested on animals. But as L’Oréal could also choose not to use these ingredients, any testing of ingredients that is conducted, commissioned, or otherwise supported by L’Oréal is voluntary. This is indefensible, particularly as more than 1,000 cosmetics and household-product companies have already pledged not to test on animals.

However, we also recognize that L’Oréal has made significant contributions to the development of non-animal methods. Notably, L’Oréal is now funding the development of the Hμrel biochip, for which Hμrel Corporation was recognized with a PETA U.S. Proggy Award ( L’Oréal also launched EverPure, a line of vegan and cruelty-free products (

We would like to see L’Oréal state unequivocally that no tests on animals are conducted for any purpose, or if they are conducted, where and when testing on animals occurs and for what purposes. Please encourage L’Oréal to be forthcoming about its testing practices and policies and to clarify this issue publicly. Your voice as a consumer makes a huge difference for animals.

PETA will continue to work with L’Oréal to encourage it to end the use of animals for all product testing. Please contact L’Oréal’s CEO and encourage him to commit to a completely cruelty-free policy and to permanently ban all tests on animals.

Please send polite comments to:

Frederic Roze
President and CEO
L’Oréal USA, Inc.
575 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10017
212-984-5019 (fax)

For a complete list of L’Oréal subsidiaries, please go to letter-writing tips, see, and for more information about ways to help animals in laboratories, please visit  and

To get involved in PETA’s other campaigns, please see To make a donation in support of PETA’s campaigns to stop cruelty to animals, please visit

Thank you for caring and for everything that you do to help animals!


The PETA Staff

So, what was my final decision on my favorite product in my favorite cosmetics line?  Alas, it didn't matter because I didn't have time to complete the cancellation because while I was waiting to hear back from these companies, my previously arranged order was processed, so I guess I better go pick up my liquid gold tonight...since I paid for it and all.

In the future, well, let's just say that I think this will be my last bottle until 2013 when I can be confident that none of the brands that Lancome is affiliated with test any portion of their products or ingredients on animals.

What do you say Clinique, do you want me back? I know it's been about 10 years since I was a faithful customer, but I never stopped loving you and right now I'm really digging your upfront and honest animal cruelty-free ways...

Bread of the Week: Honey Walnut

I got a new-to-me bread maker last month at a garage sale from a trusted family friend.  I'm so excited to start making homemade bread every week now!  This new plant-based diet is really exciting to me because for the first time in about a decade, I don't feel like I have to be afraid of carbs long as I know what's in them and where the ingredients came from!

Last week I made a plain whole-wheat one just get to my feet wet.  It was great warmed with vegan buttery spread, toasted, in a PBJ sandwich, or dipped in my made-from-scratch Kobacha Squash Soup!

This past weekend, I got more adventurous and on the request of my DH, I tried the Whole Wheat Honey Walnut Bread pictured above.  It turned out delicious!!!  It was a little darker in color, and understandably sweeter that my first loaf.  The walnuts were chopped up really small and were barely detectable with each scrumptious bite (texture-wise).

Next week's intended recipe: Oatmeal Bread!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Documentaries of the Week: Ingredients, King Corn, and Tapped

I had a wonderful weekend of cooking, cleaning, and walking with my dogs.  In the little down time I had left, I found time to watch three great documentaries through Netflix instant streaming.

The first one, Ingredients, came on recommendation from a friend, though it had already been sitting in my instant queue for a while anyway, just waiting to be watched.

This film was very good, though both DH and I felt like we had watched it before.  The story of the Canadian Farmer's Fight with Seed and Pesticide Giant, Monsanto, was very familiar to us.

Regardless of whether it was a repeat for us or not, it was a great reminder of why we should spend the extra money, whenever possible, to buy organic & local food.  It reminded me that not only are the pesticides they spray not something I want traces of in my food, but also the genetically modified foods are scary!  They are less nutritious and could even be harmful to our bodies!  I actually I paused this film about half way through in order to rush off to the farmer's market and load up on some yummy fruits & veggies!

The next documentary, King Corn, was also recommended by the same friend.  I'm glad she mentioned it because I'd seen it in the Netflix "Recommended" section (based on other films I'd viewed and liked), but I was totally judging a movie by its cover!  I thought the image (left) looked like some crappy 70's comic book cover or something, and didn't ever bother to look deeper and see what the film was about.

Turns out, it's about these two friends from CA who move to IA to plant an acre of corn and then follow their product through the commodities chain into our food system.

This was a GREAT film and I highly recommend it for anyone who needs a reminder as to why we should be avoiding processed foods!  Corn is in everything.  You can go to McDonald's and order a corn-fed burger, with fries fried in corn oil, and soda sweetened with corn syrup.  All because the government chooses to subsidize a few select crops over all others.  And the crops they subsidize are genetically modified, and actually cannot be eaten straight from the ground, but rather HAVE to be processed in order to become edible.  Gross!

The final documentary we watched this weekend was called Tapped. DH was getting a little "tapped out" on food films, so we decided to switch things up.  We had heard about this one a couple weeks ago from some tourists who had taken the Milwaukee Photo Tour with us, and while we walking along the Milwaukee River Way, our guide mentioned how ground water works in Milwaukee vs the surrounding suburbs and what an important resource it is.  The other tourist mentioned this film and it stuck in my memory.

This film was enlightening.  It is about the bottled water industry and the damage it is doing to communities, our health, and our environment.  Did you know until the 70's that only Europeans really used bottled water, and then they were glass?  Did you know that your city's municipal tap water is tested multiple times a day...and bottled water companies don't have to test their water at all?  Did you know that in many cases, bottled water companies just draw water from the same ground water sources that municipal tap water comes from, but they take it for free and then sell it back to you at highly marked up prices, sometimes at hundreds if not thousands of times the price it cost them to gather and package it?  All of it being the exact same water you could get out of your own faucet for free, just lest tested for safety and now exposed to harmful chemicals from the cheap plastic bottle it is packaged in?!?!?

I've been carrying around reusable water bottles for about 3 years now.  I started during my second master's degree because everyone else had these unique looking "SIGG" bottles and it seemed like the cool thing to do.  Plus, they often came with caps that can be hooked to your book bag or easily carried by looping one or two fingers through the middle.

It was a large investment at first (around $20 on average per bottle for this brand), but I did the math and it quickly paid for itself in only a few weeks, especially if I were to buy bottles one at a time from vending machines, rather than buying cases in bulk from the store.

I found myself drinking a lot more water at school, on the road, and even in the evenings when I had my own personal bottle with me, that I could refill whenever, wherever.  I also liked that I could express myself by my choice in decorative bottle too.

Over the course of three years, I became so accustomed to carrying free water with me everywhere (that I now get from my refrigerator Brita Filter), that I started collecting water bottles from any source I could find them.  I stopped paying the big bucks for my SIGG bottles and started buying cheaper generic aluminum bottles, then cheap plastic bottles, then collecting free bottles.... all plastic.

While watching tapped, DH and I realized how harmful to our health all the plastic food and beverage containers were!  This prompted me to do a little internet searching and I discovered the following list effects that Bisphenol A (BPA), found in hard plastics, can have on our health:

  • breast cancer
  • prostate disease and cancer
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • hyperactivity
  • impaired, altered, and compromised immune system and functions
  • miscarriage
  • impaired female reproductive development
  • sperm defects
  • lowered sperm count
  • chromosome abnormalities
  • chromosome sorting errors
  • Down’s syndrome
  • Turner Syndrome
  • Klinefelter Syndrome
  • genitalia deformity
  • early onset of puberty
  • impaired learning and memory
  • increased aggression

After watching this film and learning about all of this, DH and I immediately went into the kitchen, gathered up all the plastic storage containers we could find, and put them in a bag to take to goodwill.  Then went out to buy some glass food storage containers.  I'm currently in the process on deciding which cool design SIGG bottle I want to buy again to replace all the plastic ones we're getting rid of!

I strongly recommend that everyone I know watches this film.  And don't be surprised if you wind  up getting a fancy BPA free water bottle from me as your next Christmas gift too :)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Vegetable of the Day: Brussel Sprouts

I woke up super early this morning (about 5:20am) even though it's Saturday. I think my internal clock has been permanently set to the time I get up for work on weekdays now. Oh well, just makes more time to get things done...and then take a nap later on lovely weekend days such as today :)

The stalk of brussel sprouts that I purchased this morning looked similar to this before I picked off all the individual sprouts.
What the whole plant looks like before it is harvested.
Since I was up so early, I decided to head over to the neighborhood farmer's market as soon as they opened, so I could get the best pick of the cheapest produce this time.  I was planning to only buy organic, but some of the the non-organic but still local people had some interesting items that the others didn't have, such as broccoli and today's vegetable of the day... brussel sprouts!

I've never bought fresh brussel sprouts before.  I've bought them frozen once or twice, but DH doesn't like them so we don't make them often.  As a kid, I hated them!  I think most people have bad childhood memories of a mushy, maybe buttery, awful tasting green pile of brussel sprouts on their plate that they were forced to finish before they were allowed to leave the table.  They used to make me gag!  I'm sure it didn't help that the stubborn streak in me made me wait at the table for I'm sure about an hour until they were cold and even more disgusting before I would finally give in and plug my nose while swallowing them as quickly as possible to get it over with so I could get down from the table.

The sprouts I picked on my porch this morning.
As they so often do for many people, my taste buds changed once I became an adult and I was open to trying this scary vegetable again.  To my surprise, they weren't so bad!  I did drench them in butter again... but I could still detect some of their natural flavor coming through and too my surprise I kind of liked it!

When I saw them fresh on the stalk this morning at the farmer's market, I'll admit that I had to ask what they even were.  When they told me "brussel sprouts," I got kind of excited and knew I had to try to find some new recipe and make them from this fresh stalk!

The farmer told me to take it home, pick off each individual sprout, and peel off the outer layer of leaves.  I found a video on you tube about how to prepare them and it suggested cutting off most of the base, and even cutting a little slit up the middle to let the tough stalk cook and get tender.

I plan to split my sprouts between two meals.  Tonight, I'm going to just do a simple oven roast with the following recipe that I found on the food network:

Oven Roasted Brussel Sprouts

  • 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 3/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Mix sprouts in a bowl with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Pour them on a sheet pan and roast for 35 to 40 minutes, until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside. Shake the pan occasionally to brown sprouts evenly.  Sprinkle with more kosher salt (I might skip this), and serve immediately.

    Later in the week, I plan to use the remaining brussel sprouts and pan-fry them with some pancetta that I also bought at the farmer's market from a local producer this morning.  The vendor makes all his own pancetta and smoked meats right here in Milwaukee, and he gets all his meat from hormone-free, pasture fed animals in Iowa.  This will be my first venture back onto the meat side of things in exactly two weeks.  I feel a little nervous about it as I'm still unsure where my ultimate ethics stand, but at least I do feel a little better knowing where my meat came from.

    I'll use half the pancetta for this recipe (see below), and the rest I will serve raw with some cantaloupe that I bought at the farmer's market too.  The farmer told me he picked it yesterday and it should be at it's ultimate ripeness by tomorrow!

    Brussel Sprouts with Pancetta



    • 1 pound fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 3 ounces paper-thin slices pancetta, coarsely chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, minced
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth (I'm going to try substituting vegetable broth here)



    Partially cook the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain.

    Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until beginning to crisp, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until pale golden, about 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the same skillet and saute until heated through and beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add the broth and simmer until the broth reduces just enough to coat the Brussels sprouts, about 3 minutes. Serve. 

    Thursday, September 8, 2011

    Micronutrients vs. Macronutrients

    In the documentary, Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, Joe Cross talks about eating a micronutrient rich diet after completing a reboot period of juicing.

    Micronutrients are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals and often happen to be very low in calories. *Micronutrients are often referred to as “super foods” and include:
    • Polyphenols – Found in nuts, and berries, these act as antioxidants and anti-allergenics.
    • Carotenoids – Found in carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, apricots, and mangoes. These include beta-carotene, lycopene, and lutein and also function as antioxidants.
    • Phytoestrogens – Found in soy, seeds, whole wheat and other whole grains, and some fruits and vegetables. These are plant estrogens and may help prevent breast and prostate cancer.

    Macronutrients are protein, carbohydrate, and fat all of which contain a lot of calories. Macronutrient foods include all animal-based foods:
    • Meat Products (including poultry)
    • Dairy Products (milk, yogurt, cheese, etc)
    • Eggs
    • Fish 
    At first glance, it looks like the reboot program is promoting a vegan diet.  Assuming that followers of the diet are not supposed to eat meat, dairy, or eggs would lead one to that conclusion.  However, the program actually promotes a micronutrient-rich diet.  It does not restrict you from eating macronutrients.  The website associated with the documentary does suggest the following guidelines for eating animal proteins after completing a juice reboot: 
    Think about protein in a new way. When you are not on a Reboot, you should be eating protein. Protein is essential for a healthy immune system, building and maintaining lean body mass, regulating the speed of digestion, and overall energy levels. As Americans, we eat lots and lots of animal proteins like meat, poultry and pork. The typical American plate is 50% animal protein, 25% overcooked vegetable and 25% starch like white potatoes. Health advocates recommend, reshaping our plates for balanced, healthy eating. Recreate your plate by shifting to 50% plant foods like vegetables or some fruit, 25% lean protein and 25% whole grain.
    Examples of the Plant Proteins You Should Be Eating:
    • Beans & Legumes (lentils, split peas, black beans, garbanzo beans, hummus, kidney beans)
    • Nuts & Seeds (walnuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds)
    • Natural Nut Butters (almond, peanut)
    • Soy Foods (edamame, tofu, soy milk)
    The Animal Proteins You Should Be Eating:
    • Organic, cage free Poultry
    • Grass Fed lean beef (bison, ostrich, buffalo)
    • Organic eggs
    • Wild caught fish

    As it turns out, the program is not in any way promoting vegetarianism or veganism.  It is actually just encouraging its followers to choose to eat organic, free-range, pasture fed meat and animal products whenever possible.  There are many reasons to do so, some of them nutritional and some of them ethical... both of which I will discuss in future posts.

    There are also some controversial aspects to following this type of lifestyle.  Organic foods can be much more expensive than those found in the regular section of your grocery store.  In some areas, it may be difficult to find organic foods, or difficult to find the variety of foods that people need to make a complete healthy diet.

    Personally, I think that trying to choose organic and local produce and animal products whenever possible is the best rule of thumb.  There will be times when the option is not available, and that's okay.  There will be times when financial constraints won't allow you to buy everything organic, and you'll have to pick and choose which items to buy organic, and which to buy in the regular section.  That's okay too.  Some foods are better to buy organic whenever possible, and I'll try to do another post sometime soon on the topic.