By now you’re probably incredibly tired of hearing me ramble about nutrition. Jackie, cut it out with the health talk. We want more butter! If you’re even still reading my blog, you’ve obviously not come here for my convincing propaganda about the French diet. She’s not qualified to preach! Do more cooking! Some of you have no idea how you got to this site, and accidentally clicked on the wrong Google link. Who is this foul-mouthed pale girl ranting on a weblog? She’s anti-American!” Whatever your reason for joining me on this fine day, I ask that you stick around for a few short minutes because I’ve got some good stuff to regurgitate.
We wrapped up our nutrition discussion on Monday, focusing on cholesterol and protein. Everyone has heard of the “good” cholesterol, HDL, and the “bad” cholesterol, LDL. Many don’t understand that your body makes cholesterol, yet when you have more LDLs than HDLs you have a higher risk of that little piece of cholesterol breaking off into your blood stream and sticking to your vessels in the form of plaque. Your body needs cholesterol, and gets it in two forms: dietary (from the animals you eat) and serum (the stuff you produce), and your levels of each are influenced by your diet. Fun and interesting fact about the enemy we love to hate - trans fats: they not only act to increase your levels of bad cholesterol, they lead to the decrease of your levels of good cholesterol. Wow! What a nice friend that trans fat is…Contemplate before you margarinate!
We then discussed sugars, and the important roles they play in our bodies. The New York Times enlightened readers last year with an article called “How the Sugar Substitutes Stack Up,” in which the ingredients, history and process by which each of the major artificial sweeteners is made is revealed. Here’s just a snippet below:
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low) – Anthranilic acid, nitrous acid, sulfur dioxide and chlorine are combined with ammonia
- Aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) – The amino acids aspartic acid and phenylalanine are combined with methanol
- Sucralose (Splenda) – Sugar is chemically altered by the addition of chlorine
These are not bioterrorism tactics, they are actual products consumed by millions of people every day.
After a few more minutes of some engaging protein and sugar talk, the lecture ended and we dispersed to delve into a slew of vegetarian recipes, mostly Mediterranean. We started with an Artichoke Heart, Fennel and Watercress Salad with Grapefruit Citronette and Toasted Walnuts…which requires no explanation because the title includes the entire recipe list. Imagine with me for one minute if all foods were that simple, and you just titled them with their ingredients. Let’s play a game – see if you can guess the food (answers at bottom):
1. Grapes, Corn Syrup and High Fructose Corn Syrup Compote with Fruit Pectin, Citric Acid and Sodium Citrate!
2. Pasteurized Milk , Cheese Culture and Whey Protein Concentrate Stabilized with Xanthan, Carob Bean and Guar Gums!
3. Soybean Oil, Pickles and Distilled White Vinegar with a High Fructose Corn Syrup, Egg Yolk, Corn Starch and Mustard Flour Base!
Awesome; really makes you wanna go out there and just spread some High Fructose Corn Syrup all over everything you eat.
If you’ve never cooked spaghetti squash, you probably don’t know where the name comes from - amazingly enough, spaghetti squash scoops out into long and thin spaghetti strands when it’s roasted! It’s such a kooky and healthy alternative to the original spaghetti, not that there’s anything wrong with the classic. We tossed our spaghetti squash with a tomato and caper sauce and garnished it with Nicoise olives, basil and sundried tomatoes. The Italians would probably NOT be pleased with this imitation, but it was surprisingly yummy and interesting. We then tossed bulgar wheat with parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice and tomatoes to make a fun and impressive tabouleh.
I was excited for this class, mainly because we were going to learn how to make the king of all street meats* – falafel (*term used loosely for all food sold on the streets of NYC). For those of you that don’t live in New York City, falafel can basically be found on every street corner at any time of the day or night. It is very simple – chick peas, garlic, cumin, fresh herbs and bread crumbs, formed into shapes and deep fried. Very yummy indeed. We served it with a generous dollop of homemade babaganoush, or eggplant, tahini and herb puree.
While I do actually know a real-life vegetarian, after years of living with her I still could not wrap my mind around the actual lifestyle of someone who does not eat meat. In my mind, I always imagined her ordering a fat Big Mac, or asking for extra meat on her Crunchwrap Supreme, because my naïve mind just didn’t understand and obviously didn’t pay attention enough to what she kept in her cabinet or cooked or ate while we sat around and talked. I don’t feel too bad though – this was the girl who accidentally offered me a stick of gum as I was recovering from painful jaw surgery. My only experience with vegetarianism is on Fridays during Lent, when we Catholics don’t eat meat. I learned a wonderful way to prepare well-balanced and tasty meals sans bovine in class on Monday, and it was pretty cool. Don’t get ahead of yourself here, it’ll be a cold day in heck when I give up the cow, it was just nice to learn the alternative. So when The Veg comes to live with Steve and me (in my perfect fantasy world) I’ll know some fun and delicious things to serve her as she raises our kids.
ANSWERS FROM "NAME THAT FOOD":
- Grape Jam
- Philadelphia Cream Cheese
- Tartar Sauce