Category Archives: Food

smoke points

222_.jpgI recently ran into our family friend who is a well known chef and got to ask her a question that’s been *burning* at my conscience ever since a certain beloved friend put it on my radar. Is it safe to eat food cooked in hot oil? In particular, I was wondering about my personal hopefully healthy fav, olive oil.

Why wouldn’t it be safe to cook with hot oil? The concern is about an oil’s smoke point, which according to the ever-trustworthy wikipedia, is the
“temperature at which a cooking fat or oil begins to break down. The substance smokes or burns, and gives food an unpleasant taste. Beyond the smoke point is the flash point, the point at which combustion occur.”

We definitely do not want combustion, but even heating an oil past its smoke point can cause it be potentially carcinogenic, as well to leave nasty black grease in your kitchen. However, according to Molly, who is working with food scientists to make her recipes safe and nutritious, olive oil is in the clear (and she highly recommends it as a source of good fat and a way to make vegetables more delicious so you eat more of them).

The oils not to heat are those with super low smoke points, like unrefined walnut oil; those might be best drizzled on salads or even in soup once it’s been served.

To find out the smoke points for your favorite oils, you can check out wikipedia’s list (a few eyeball comparison’s showed it to be comparable with the other lists I found) or read this totally suspect article from the olive oil source (conflict of interest, much?). Note that refined, unrefined, extra virgin, etc, all affect the smoke point.

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a side of metal with that?

logo_lodge.gifHappy New Year! I wish everyone a healthy ’08.

I was contemplating what sorts of health things I want to blog about this year. I plan to continue with tips about how to reduce consumption of toxins. My tips come from a variety of sources: friends, professionals, my own research and hopefully some new tips from the natural cooking classes I got for Christmas!

Last night as I was washing our almost new frying pan, I noticed a bit of ugly chipping — i didn’t think they were Teflon, but it appears they are, and are already getting scratched. I’m really looking forward to bits of Teflon in my scrambled eggs. We’ve all heard how healthful that is!

Actually, what I’m really looking forward to is the day I purchase a set of Lodge pots and pans. Lodge makes cookware out of cast iron, completely Teflon free. This company has been around forever, and individual pots and pans are really reasonable (about twenty bucks for a large frying pan). I think they may even be sold at target, among other places.

* This tip came from Ode Magazine, which ran an article a year ago about the dangers of Teflon and suggested Lodge as an alternative.

gimme green

I first tried drinking liquid chlorophyll after discussing natural deodorants with another natural products fiend.  She told me, in fact, she didn’t use deodorant at all because she didn’t need it; she didn’t smell bad (and she really didn’t).  I asked how that could be and she told me for a long time she drank liquid chlorophyll (which among other things acts as an internal deodorant) and now just eats a healthy diet rich in leafy greens and presto! No BO.

What I didn’t realize is that liquid chlorophyll is a super concentrated dose of green goodness, including calcium and iron (which is why it is often recommended for women to replenish from menstruation).  It is also good for digestions and detoxifying your liver (and word on the street is it can improve the odor of your genitals).

Chlorophyll is available at health food and vitamin stores (it’s actually a whole food, not a supplement).  You can dilute it with juice or water, but I actually find the taste just fine (though kind of like nothing else).

People on various blogs and alternative health sites seem to see chlorophyll as a health miracle.  I’m going to try drinking it for a full month, and report back on my findings (and we’ll see about the no deodorant…).

wild fermentation

kimchee.jpgMy dear friend Adam arrived in New York with a very exciting late birthday gift: Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz. Sandor has a lovely and modest website about fermentation as well. This man is truly WILD about fermentation, and after making my first foray into fermenting, guided by Adam, I think I am too.

Adam and I made the radish and root kimchee. After chopping up various radishes and roots, soaking them in salt water, adding garlic, ginger and chili flakes and pounding them down into a glass vase, we put a jar on top to keep them submerged by the next week, they were fermented!

Not only is it this kimchee delicious, I have this deep feeling of satisfaction after I eat it. Surprisingly, I have found it does not leave an lasting taste in my mouth as I would have expected, but it is important to store it in an airtight container to keep the strong garlic+ smell from taking over your fridge.

The process of fermentation creates probiotics like the ones in kombucha, which is also fermented. As Sandor puts it, we should invite this friendly bacteria to live in our bodies in a symbiotic relationship. He has a pretty special way of describing his passion for fermentation, adamsarah.jpgincluding a very touching story about radishes. This book is great for anyone looking to spice up their cooking, jump start their health in a new way or reconnect with the desire to do.

Me and Adam: fermented friendship —>

just a spoonful of agave nectar…

tequilla_agave08.jpgI was talking with one of my dear friends who loves cooking, and he was looking for a sugar substitute, which reminded me of the wonders of agave nectar. I was first introduced by one of my roommates, who brought it home as a substitute for honey during those long winter months when we drank buckets of tea. Interestingly, agave nectar (or syrup), no matter what brand you buy, comes from Jalisco, Mexico, and is made (fittingly) from the agave plant.

Agave is lauded for having a low glycemic index and marketing towards diabetics. However, I personally wouldn’t drink buckets of it, rawagave23.jpgnot even diluted by tea. I found this fairly extreme article by a raw foodist, which lists the pitfalls of agave for raw food purists and and points out that you should check the label and make sure your agave syrup isn’t diluted with corn syrup, like everything else in America, including, apparently, your fingernails (best to stop biting pronto).

Still, I think agave nectar provides a great alternative to sugar, especially for sauces and stir-fry. I personally have felt a difference with agave: you don’t get the sugar high and crash, but still satisfy your sweet tooth. Agave nectar can be substituted for sugar in most recipes, with a little fiddling. It is quite a bit sweeter than sugar (at least to me) and the substitution is 1/3 cup agave nectar for every cup of sugar. You will also have to adjust the moisture in your recipe, depending on what you’re making.

I recently discovered Baby Cakes, a delicious Lower East Side Bakery that caters to people who can’t eat wheat, dairy, eggs or gluten (hallelujah, I had not had a cupcake for something like three years! Thank you, Baby Cakes) . Notably, they don’t use an ounce of refined sugar. They use (drumroll…) agave nectar! …and the result is incredible. Everyone I know who has tried it has agreedtoplogo_white.gif that it is some of the best confections they’ve had, hands down, and not just in the living without category. They’re known for their cupcakes, but I think the chocolate banana bread is slammin’.

*It would be interesting to know if there are any specific nutritional benefits to agave. Anyone?

the dirty dozen

organic_produce.jpg

I love summer for the produce. Even in NYC, which is seriously sub-par to California, I eat so much more fresh fruits and veggies during the summer months and pay so much less. Whole Foods certainly throws into perspective the price difference between organic and non-organic produce. While I think Whole Foods prices are particularly suspect (farmers’ markets and CSAs are ways to get delicious organic & local produce for less), it’s hard to find affordable organic produce year round. So, I bring you the dirty dozen: a list of produce that you should try to eat organic because it is most commonly filled with pesticides. Fortunately, there is also a list of produce that is consistently clean, for those of us on a budget or with limited access to organic produce.

I first saw this list in NY Spirit, and was delighted to see it again in my new subscription to Nutrition Action (thanks, Linds!). One thing that Nutrition Actions points out is that eating fruits and vegetables (PERIOD) is more important than anything else. An important reminder for me, because sometimes I can get so caught up in trying to eat organic that I might miss out on eating as many fruits and veggies as I should. In any case, this list should help. Drumroll….

The Dirty Dozen: Peaches, Apples, Sweet Bell Peppers, Celery, Nectarines, Strawberries, Cherries, Pears, Grapes (imported), Spinach, Lettuce, Potatoes (Carrots were up there to)

The Consistently Clean: Papaya, Broccoli, Cabbage, Bananas, Kiwi, Sweet Peas, Asparagus, Mango, Pineapples, Sweet Corn, Avocado (YES!), Onions (Blueberries weren’t terrible either)

delicious accident

Sometimes lack of sleep results in brilliant accidental discoveries. After a night of not enough sleep, I was groggily exercising my morning routine, trying to get out the door and be on time to my summer job. I put some granola in a bowl and took out a cup for some ice tea (I’ve been making jasmine green ice tea, yum!). BAM! I poured the ice tea in the granola.

I was about to pour it out and start again when I thought, what the heck? I don’t have time, I don’t like to waste things, I’m just going to try it. And… DELICIOUS. This is a great alternative for no cow milk/no soy milk folks like myself (I usually use rice milk). I’m not sure it would work with cereals that are not as hearty as granola, but the possibilities for experimentation are endless. I’d love to hear your granola/ice tea combos. Did I loose my credibility with this post?