WARNING: science-based nutrition will rock your world.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Brussels Sprouts: Garden Ex-Patriate

Brussels sprouts were first cultivated in Belgium (hence the name "Brussels" sprouts) in the 1500s, and introduced to the U.S. in the 1800s. Odd, though; this delectable alien isn’t mentioned as a classic Belgium food in the culinary portion of the Brussels Travel Guide. Perhaps our dear sprouts grew tired of playing second fiddle to a stupid waffle, and upon voluntary exile from its native land, lost all rights and privileges of birth. Tant pis Belgium, I say.

Brussels sprouts are cruciferous veggies containing high amounts of vitamins A, C, K, and folate, plus 4 grams of dietary fiber. These luscious buds are also rich sources of phytochemicals (also know as plant food) which boosts cell repair and might just cause cancer cells to commit suicide. Plus, they promote supple skin, digestive health, and a myriad of other health benefits.
You! Stop being a Brussels sprouts hater and give this garden super star its props. As long as they're cooked with respect, they'll maintain their dignity, won't stink up the house, and you will love them. You will!
In The World’s Healthiest Foods cookbook, George Mateljan suggests trimming and cutting a pound of fresh Brussels sprouts in quarters, then steaming them for 5 minutes. Afterwards, dress them with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, 2 medium cloves of garlic, and sea salt and pepper to taste. And they are really, really good like this.
However, my little garden sprouts are too tender to steam that long! I trim and cut them in half, then, in a sauté pan, I add a few tablespoons of water with salt and quickly heat to boiling. Next, I toss all the sprouts in the sauté pan, add a pat (not a stick) of organic butter on top, and cover for one minute on medium high heat. Remove the cover, stir around to scrape any delicious carmelized bits off the bottom of the pan, add a little tamari if desired and romp on those goodies.

For an extra good treat, sauté some shallots in butter or olive oil and add to the sprout pan at the end, or just cook at the same time in the same pan. I simply prefer my shallots to be carmelized more.
Of course you can roast them for 40 minutes or so in a 400 degree oven after trimming and dressing with salt and olive oil, but why torture them? Yes, sprouts are delicious roasted, but I urge you to experiment with a shorter cooking time to maintain the nutrient integrity of the sprout. Not only that, but high heat changes the chemical structure of oil, and not for the better.
Rebellious vegetable, or limp waffle? Whose side are you on?
Tant pis is French for too bad. 40% of Belgium residents speak French; 60% speak Flemish.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

What Rhymes with Yuck? Today's Caca Award Winner

When I was a kid, I used to eat Chef Boyardee straight out of the can while devouring Saturday episodes of Sky King, My Friend Flicka, and Fury. There was nothing nutritious about the ravioli and spaghetti, but Chef never made health claims; he was a fat and happy icon, and his food was fun to eat.

Then one day, Corporate advertisers created an unprecedented level of deception when we weren't looking, and lying became an accepted and financially rewarding part of our culture.

This from Hormel:

"In our Principles Platform, a statement that reflects our approach to corporate responsibility, we lay out our commitment to making food safety, food quality, and health and wellness a focus of our products. This commitment is central to our mission of delivering wholesome, nutritious and great-tasting products to our customers and their families."

Really? How about Compleats Kids? Are consumers supposed to consider this stuff nutritious? "Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies, tell me lies, tell me tell me lies..."

Click on the picture to enlarge it.

People, the issue here is the false health claim.
To start, Compleats Kids lists three unnatural flavor enhancers and a listing for chicken flavoring. So while there may be no artificial colors added, ask yourself these questions: where do artificial and natural flavorings come from? Are they delivered by stork? Do they grow in the ground, or are they manufactured in a lab somewhere? What exactly are flavorings, and could my children be allergic to them?

Might flavorings be detrimental to one's health? Just so you know, hydrolyzed yeast and MSG are cousins. If you or your children are sensitive to MSG, you must also avoid hydrolyzed yeast. Go here for more information.

I called the Hormel Consumer Hotline not because I expected an answer about the safety of flavorings, but because I wanted to ask about the plastic microwavable container. The instructions direct the consumer to poke holes in the plastic film covering the food and then heat.

Hmmm...is Hormel plastic safe to eat?

Here's what I gleaned from the reluctant Hormel consumer hotline person I will refer to as "J": "Our plastic is BPA-free, and our research team determined there isn't a safety issue. If you're concerned about the plastic, just dump the food in a bowl and heat it that way." J was thrown off balance by my polite questioning; miffed, she hung up in the middle of my thank you and goodbye.

Final question: How can something with no preservatives added have an unrefrigerated shelf life of 16 months or more?

A big cheesy bowl of caca-filled ravioli to the USDA food team responsible for establishing the Healthy Food Guidelines which allow our children to be poisoned.

" Little Lies" Fleetwood Mac, 1987
Muck. Muck rhymes with yuck.