Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual (Penguin Books, 2009) by Michael Pollan is a very simple book about what to eat, what kind of food to eat, and how should I eat. Pollan gives us 64 simple rules for eating healthily and happily. These rules also allows us to undo our so-called Western diet of processed foods and meat, lots of added fat and sugar, and lots of refined grains. This Western diet is a leading contributor of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and obesity. Some of the rules are simple and need no explanation while others are followed by a paragraph or two explaining more detail of the meaning of the rule. Here are a few of the rules:
What Should I Eat?
#6. Avoid food products that contain more than five ingredients.
The more ingredients in a packaged food, the more highly processed it probably is.
#11. Avoid foods you see advertised on television.
#20. It’s not food if it arrived through the window of your car.
What Kind of Food Should I Eat?
#36. Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of the milk.
Such cereals are highly processed and full of refined carbohydrates as well as chemical additives.
#37. The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.
#43. Have a glass of wine with dinner.
How Should I Eat?
(Not too much)
#45. . . . Eat less.
#49. Eat slowly.
#57. Don’t get your fuel from the same place your car does.
I read this paperback book of 140 pages in less than two hours but it is a reference guide that I will keep looking at until I have reinforced many of the principles of the book. I highly recommend this book of simple food rules if you want to feel better about yourself while improving your nutritional well-being.
- the kitchen help
While shelving books today at the library (my part time job), I came across an Italian cookbook for breakfasts. As I was thumbing through the pages I stopped at an eye-catching picture of a plate of scones. They looked delicious. I began reading the simple ingredients and directions. What led me to thinking was, this looks very much like a simple biscuit recipe. It appears that a scone is basically a sweetened biscuit. This scone recipe calls for heavy whipping cream and sugar but no shortening. So, on the way home I stopped at the supermarket and purchased the unique items that I didn’t have at home: candied fruit, heavy whipping cream and Amaretto liqueur. I’m calling my tweaked scones recipe - Tropical Fruit Scones.
Tropical Fruit Scones
- 1/2 Cup chopped candied fruit. I used Sun-Maid Tropical Dreams – Tropical Trio (pineapple, papaya & mango)
- 2 Tablespoons Amaretto liqueur
- 2 Cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 Cup sugar
- 1 Tablespoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 Cup + 2 Tablespoons of heavy whipping cream
- Preheat oven to 425°F
- In medium bowl pour the liqueur over the candied fruit and let sit for 15 minutes
- Next, add the dry ingredients: flour, sugar, baking powder and salt; combine thoroughly
- Add cream and mix until all ingredients have a doughy wetness; don’t over mix
- Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and roll out flat to about 3/4 inch thick
- Cut with a 3-inch biscuit cutter and place in a greased baking pan
- Take a knife and cut each biscuit in half without separating the halves
- Bake for 12-15 minutes until scones begin to turn a very light shade of brown
- Cool, then drizzle with orange glaze and orange zest
In a small mixing bowl add 1/2 cup of confectioner’s sugar, juice of 1/2 fresh orange, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla. Mix thoroughly. You’re looking for a consistency that will allow you to drizzle the icing by the spoonfuls over the scones. Add more orange juice or water if icing is too thick.
Finish the project by zesting the remaining orange peel over the iced scones. This gives the scones a pleasing appearance and enhances the taste as well.
The above recipe says it makes 8 scones but since I cut each biscuit in half, I now have 16 scones.
Now the problem arises of waking up in the morning and having enough scones for breakfast. That’s a real challenge!
- the kitchen help
A Trip to the Beach is a book I very much enjoyed reading; it was almost a page turner. There are many similarities with this book and an earlier book I reviewed this year (see post, 30 January 2013), An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude. In both instances, a North American couple shucked their everyday, hectic lives and traveled to the Caribbean for an adventure of a lifetime. Caribbean island food was a minor theme in An Embarrassment of Mangoes but it is the central theme in A Trip to the Beach as Melinda and Robert Blanchard leave behind their stressful lives in Vermont and permanently settle on the small island of Anguilla (rhymes with vanilla and pronounced Ann-gwilla; see map below). They sell their Vermont home and the once thriving Blanchard & Blanchard company (sauces, seasonings and salad dressings). Their goal is to build a small restaurant on this paradise island. While Melinda is the cook of the family, Bob is the handyman. From Melinda’s narrative, she leads you to believe that she and her husband embarked on this restaurant adventure without a business plan or any other logical objective in mind. They merely winged it. Each chapter tells of their travails and successes the couple encounter as they plod along to their final destination of a very successful high-end restaurant. One of the most striking aspects of establishing a business on a remote British colony in the Caribbean is that almost everything has to be imported from either the larger islands or the United States. One case in point is the lack of building materials. Bob Blanchard could not find one straight 2X4 or any plywood on the entire island so he ventured the seven mile ferry ride to Sint Maarten where there he couldn’t find the quantities needed to begin construction of a new restaurant. He eventually ended up in Miami, Florida, at a Lowe’s where he purchased the necessary building products and tools needed. Getting that shipment to Anguilla was another matter altogether. His 20 foot shipping container transportation cost to Anguilla was $2,600. Once the shipment landed on the shores of Anguilla, the local customs office assessed $26,000. These two items of cost were over and above the actual contents of the container the Blanchard’s had to pay the Lowe’s items. To compound matters, it took Bob days to wrest the customs official away from his dominos game to pay the fees. This is what they locals call Island Time. Here is the web site for Blanchard’s in Anguilla http://www.blanchardsrestaurant.com.
- 1/2 Cup Coco Lopez
- 1/2 Cup Bailey’s Irish Cream
- 2 ripe bananas
- 2 Cups ice cubes
- 2 ounces white rum
Place all above ingredients into blender and blend on high speed until smooth and creamy.
I recommend this book.
- the kitchen help
Whenever I’m at the Florida beaches (as I was all of this February) on the Atlantic Ocean side, I seek out my favorite pizza joint – Bizzarro Famous New York Pizza. There are multiple locations for Bizzarro’s. I usually order the white pizza; it’s soooo good! But when I’m back home in Ohio I have my white pizza withdrawals. But, no more. I have nearly duplicated Bizzarro’s famous white pizza. First, I made my homemade pizza dough (See 29 November 2012 Post, Fantastic Pizza From Scratch). Next, roll out the dough into a very thin (almost tortilla thin), round pie and place on pizza baking pan or cookie sheet. Apply extra virgin olive oil to the dough to just coat the surface. Lightly sprinkle with garlic salt. Generously place mozzarella cheese. And finally, add several dollops of whole milk ricotta cheese on top of the mozzarella cheese. Note: absolutely no pizza sauce on white pizzas. Bake at 450°F for 12 minutes or until cheese begins to turn brown. Cool and slice. I usually sprinkle a little EVOO on my individual slices and sprinkle extra Parmesan cheese to top it off. It’s wonderful! It’s not Bizzarro’s but it is close.
- the kitchen help
While spending the month of February in southern Florida, Nancy and I had the pleasant opportunity to entertain some close friends with one of my favorite recipes, low country shrimp boil. I carried this recipe with me along with my 12-quart stockpot to Florida and planned on this culinary event from the beginning. While the weather was uncooperative to cook and eat on the beach, I prepared this meal in our condo kitchen while looking at the roaring waves of the Atlantic Ocean from our balcony doors. The shrimp boil ingredients are rather simple but I wanted the freshest ingredients possible. We drove to a local seafood market and acquired two pounds of Cape Canaveral Shrimp caught nearby. Here is the recipe:
Low Country Shrimp Boil
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
Makes 8 servings
- 1 (12 oz) bottle beer
- 1 (1 1/2 oz) bag seafood boil seasoning
- 1 Tablespoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 onions, quartered
- 2 garlic bulbs, halved
- 1 pound small red potatoes
- 4 ears, fresh corn, husks removed and halved
- 1 pound smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch diagonal slices
- 2 pounds large shrimp
- French baguette, lemon wedges, melted butter, and Old Bay seasoning
- Bring 4 quarts water and first 7 ingredients to a boil in a 12-quart stockpot. Add potatoes; simmer 15 minutes. Add corn and sausage; simmer 8 minutes. Add shrimp, cover, and turn off heat. Let shrimp sit 10 to 15 minutes to absorb flavor.
- Drain liquid and spread shrimp boil out on a newspaper-covered table. Serve with baguette slices, lemon wedges, melted butter, and Old Bay seasonings.
All in all I’d say the day turned out perfect except for the coolness of the weather for that Sunday afternoon. The food was great and the beer cold. The informality of dumping the shrimp boil on the newspaper covered table was cool. Our guest dug in like they’ve done this every day. Maybe we’ll make this an annual event for February in Indialantic, Florida.
- the kitchen help
Nancy and I escaped the brunt of winter in Ohio to the warm environs of sunny, warm Florida. For the entire month of February we lived in a townhouse in Indialantic, Florida, with a balcony facing the roaring Atlantic Ocean. The average daytime temperature was 72°F while back in Dayton, Ohio, the temps were often in the 20′s and sometimes teens for the high of the day. Not knowing exactly what cooking tools the condo furnished, I brought with me a couple of my favorite knives, a large stockpot, electric grill, and various spices and seasonings. The first item of business after arriving at the condo was to take inventory of the cookware and bowls and tools. To my surprise, the cabinet was well stocked with various spices and basic seasonings. I pulled out all the pots and pans from the cabinets and to my amazement there were oodles of skillets/frying/saute pans. I laid out all the skillets on the counter-top and took a picture for posterity’s sake. As an afterthought I opened the storage drawer below the oven and found more skillets/frying pans. The total skillets/frying/saute pans was 17.
It was difficult to return to Ohio the first of March.
- The Kitchen Help
Author Ann Vanderhoof and her husband, Steve, planned to sail to the Caribbean for two years. They were on a five-year target to make their dream come true but five turned into seven years before they left the waters of Toronto. They purchased a 42-foot sailboat called Receta (“Recipe” in Spanish). An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude (Broadway Books, 2003) is Vanderhoof’s two-year account of their adventures in the Caribbean in which they traveled more than 7,000 nautical miles and visited sixteen island countries and forty-seven individual islands. What I enjoyed the most was tracing the Receta’s journey, on my end tabletop map of the Caribbean, down from Lake Ontario to the Hudson River to the Atlantic Ocean. From there, they hung closely to the eastern seaboard to the Chesapeake Bay where they picked up the Intracoastal Waterway all the way down to southern Florida. Then the wide open seas awaited them as they zig-zagged around many of the Bahamian Islands, Puerto Rico, U.S and British Virgin Islands, St Lucia, Granada and Trinidad.
At the end of each chapter of An Embarrassment of Mangoes Vanderhoof reveals some of her favorite recipes she had experienced on many of the islands during their voyage. The Mango Crisp is one of those recipes that garnered my attention.
An Embarrassment of Mangoes is the enticing story of discovering not just vibrant new cultures and cuisines, but new priorities — and what really matters. I recommend this book for the adventure seekers.
- 1/2 Cup Flour
- 3/4 Cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats
- 2/3 Cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- 2 Tablespoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
- 1/3 Cup butter
- 6 Cups sliced ripe mangoes (about 3-4 mangoes, depending on size)
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1/4 Cup packed brown sugar
- 2 Tablespoons flour
1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Butter a 2-quart (8-inch-square) baking dish.
2. Prepare the topping: In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, nutmeg, and crystallized ginger. Cut in cold butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Set aside.
3. Toss the mango with the lime juice. Combine sugar and flour, and toss with fruit. Taste and adjust sweetness if desired. Spread fruit on the prepared dish.
4. Sprinkle topping evenly over fruit. Bake in preheated oven for about 40-50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is crisp and lightly browned. Serve warm.
I recently saw a cooking show on TV and host prepared a terrific meatball recipe for a meatball sub. Instead of baking or frying the meatball, he poached the meatball in the tomato-based sauce. I had never seen this done before and it intrigued me. I’m going to do this too.
First, I prepared my meat mixture for the meatballs. I used a combination of ground turkey, Italian sausage and prosciutto di Parma for my meats. In a large bowl combine 1 cup milk; 1 slightly beaten egg; 1 cup fine dry bread crumbs; 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese; 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed; 1/2 teaspoon salt; and 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper. Mix the milk into the bread crumbs and let sit for 5 minutes. Then, combine the turkey, prosciutto, sausage, and all of the dry ingredients. Gently mix with your hands. Roll meat mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls. An optional task is to place these rolled meatballs into the freezer for approximately 15 minutes to set up to keep their round shape. Sometimes they may tend to sag and become somewhat flat.
Poached Meatballs. Gently drop the meatballs, one at a time, into the cooking spaghetti sauce; stir gently. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or until meatballs are done (160°F). The internal color of a meatball is not a reliable doneness indicator, so 160°F is a safe determinator regardless of color.
Fried Meatballs. Attempt to match the size skillet or sauté pan to the number of meatballs you are preparing. The amount of oil you have available may be a determinant. If you are frying a large amount of meatballs at once I recommend canola oil because it’s much more economical that olive oil. Insure that you have enough oil in the pan to have at least half the meatball submerged in the oil. I also recommend smaller meatballs so they will cook faster on the inside when the outside browns.
Baked Meatballs. No rocket-science here either. Preheat oven to 400°F. Coat cookie sheet or other baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place meatballs on sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until meatballs are browned and cooked to 160°F.
- the kitchen help
This year I resolve to not make hollow New Year’s Resolutions. Instead I’m going to continually aim at:
- consuming less sodium in my foods. Not reaching for the salt shaker while dining and using less salt than recipes call for
- totally abstaining from sugar substitutes such as Equal, Splenda, etc. See 30 December 2012 post, Happy New Year – Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
- eat less refined sugar
- exercise frequently and consistently to strengthen cardiovascular system
- continue to travel extensively and discover new and interesting restaurants and diners
- get more sun
As a result of the above, I will likely lose weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure which will be a very welcomed side benefit.
Happy New Year!
- the kitchen help