Thought for Food

My perfect cup of tea
 I like to have several cups of green tea during the day. It is both calming and refreshing. Tea helps maintain proper hydration. It can also be the source of a multitude of nutrients and antioxidants. Many health benefits are claimed for green tea, a list too long for this post.

A small spoon of wild-flower or palmetto or orange-blossom honey per large cup of tea adds a bit of flavor and natural sweetness. My personal opinion is the daily dose of honey also helps keep my occasionally bothersome allergies under control. Again, honey has too long a list of claimed health benefits to list here.

 After dinner in the evening is when I like to brew my personal “perfect cup of tea”. I start with a ten-ounce mug and one heaped teaspoon of Temple of Heaven Special Gunpowder green tea in a stainless steel tea-ball. I add 1 teaspoon of honey, one or two slices of fresh ginger root, two to three whole cloves, a one-inch piece of cinnamon stick, a small piece of whole nutmeg and 1/3 to ½ of a piece of Chinese star anise. Boiling water is poured over this to fill the cup and left to brew for ten minutes. This allows for the maximum extraction of nutrients from the tea and spices. The tea-ball and spices are removed and the honey stirred in.

This is my perfect cup of tea to sip while relaxing after the evening meal and before tackling any tasks that remain to be done. It is nutritional, brimming with antioxidants and contains several ingredients that aid digestion.

Stay away from GMO "foods"

I have a really strong bias against genetically modified organisms(GMO’s) being sold as food for people. The large agricultural-industrial companies developing GMO products argue that they are identical to unaltered “natural” products concerning nutrition and metabolism. The only differences are supposed to be increased drought resistance or insect resistance or greater yield or better flavor. The problem is that no one really knows what the health effects of eating GMO products might be.

We do not know what cloning or inserting “extra” genes into plants does to them. We have a better idea of what it does to animals. Cloned animals tend to live shorter lives, to be more susceptible to some diseases and to have more genetic defects than “naturally conceived” animals. Why should anyone believe some of these same problems would not also turn up in GMO plants? It would be much more difficult to tell in a corn plant than in a calf or salmon.

There is not much of a track record testing GMO products. We all know how the FDA and USDA go about approving new types of products for human consumption. A few laboratory comparative tests paid for by the company wanting to sell the product is often all that is required for approval. No long-term animal tests are conducted, no human testing is needed. No public comment or approval is needed. The people eating them, often unwittingly(because the responsible government agencies refuse to require labeling), are the test subjects.

Now think about a few of the wonderful things this has allowed into our food supply: bisphenol-A(BPA) lining every metal food can and in almost every baby and water bottle, unacceptably high levels of man-made pesticides in and on most fresh commercial vegetables and fruits, trans-fats promoted as part of a “heart-healthy” diet for many years, bovine growth hormone(BGH) routinely fed to cattle to increase milk production(again with no labeling required on the resulting dairy products sold). All of these were allowed under existing government regulations and are still allowed. All have been proven harmful to humans. Now big agriculture wants us to believe, with no evidence, that GMO products will not harm us.

There is already GMO soy and corn on the market. It is supposed to be used only for animal feed but shipments get mixed up regularly. Few incidents make it into the national news. Even if these GMO products could be successfully kept out of human consumption, we would still be consuming poultry, pork and beef fed a regular diet of GMO grain. No one knows what the effects of this will be. And already there are many signs of the GMO products spreading genetic material into the wild ecosystem. Again, no one knows what the long term repercussions might be. It is all a grand experiment, carried out by big agriculture with the government’s consent and no input from the public.

GMO products in commercial agriculture are the single best argument for buying organic vegetables and fruit whenever possible. At least try to buy more locally, from farmers markets and roadside stands. Grow your own fresh herbs in pots. Grow as much fresh produce at home as practical. Every little bit helps. We do not need to be part of the great GMO experiment.

Herb-roasted chicken

This is a light but hearty entrée that is easily put together in one roasting pan. Total preparation time is about ten minutes. Cooking time is about one hour. These times will vary with the exact types and amounts of vegetables and the size of the chicken.

Rinse the whole chicken well under cold water and dry. Rub the outside with a tablespoon of avocado oil(other oils I like are olive, grapeseed and walnut). Place in a 8”x13” shallow roasting pan. Cut two carrots, one parsnip and one sweet potato into bite-sized pieces and distribute evenly around the chicken. Other vegetables that might be used are fingerling potatoes, peeled acorn or butternut squash, celery root, whole button mushrooms, rutabaga and turnip. Large-chopped onion and whole garlic cloves may also be added to the vegetable mix if desired.

Sprinkle the chicken and vegetables liberally with sea salt, black pepper, dried oregano, dried thyme, dried sage and turmeric. Add enough water to the pan to not quite cover the vegetables. Place in a 350F oven for 30 minutes, then turn the pan and roast another 30 minutes or until the juices in the body cavity are clear. Remove from heat and let rest for ten minutes before splitting the chicken in half or quarters for serving.

I like to reserve the remaining liquid from the roasting pan for other cooking uses. The photo with this post shows mushroom greens, which was prepared using the roasting pan liquid. The recipe for this nutritious side dish will be the subject of a future post.

It should be obvious that I like to keep the number of pans and utensils used in the preparation of a meal to a minimum. Great tasting nutritious food does not need to take hours to prepare nor result in a kitchen full of dirty dishes. I believe in fresh cooked meals made from “real” ingredients. I don’t enjoy washing dishes and scrubbing stoves/ovens. My recipes are about good food with minimal time and effort.

Why I cook

I love to cook because I love to eat.  I also enjoy seeing others appreciate a great meal. Best of all is delicious food that is perfectly prepared and promotes a healthy body and mind.

I do not believe in store-bought, ready-to-eat “prepared foods”. I always try to avoid MSG, any type of trans-fat or hydrolyzed anything, white flour and white sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified produce, dairy products from cows that were fed bovine growth hormone, any meat from animals that were regularly fed antibiotics and/or hormones, artificial sweeteners, and artificial colors and preservative. These chemicals were never meant to be “food” in the quantities present in modern grocery store products. I believe these chemicals in the food supply are responsible for most of the host of illnesses/diseases associated with the “modern western diet”.

I do believe in using “real” ingredients to make simple and delicious meals that promote good health. Real ingredients means starting with fresh whole vegetables(organic whenever possible), fresh whole fruit, all-natural herbs and seasonings, pure oils, wild-caught fish(instead of farmed), all-natural chicken and pork(no antibiotics or hormones), and beef only when 100% grass-fed is available. Fresh herbs from the garden are best for many dishes but some work better with dried herbs. I prefer sea salt to refined iodized salt for the extra mineral content. Whole peppercorns in a grinder provide better flavor than pre-ground pepper in a shaker can.

There are no aluminum or non-stick pots or pans in my kitchen. Aluminum is too easily dissolved by acids and might possibly be linked to chronic health problems. Chemicals in non-stick coatings leach into the food and evidence is now being found that connect exposure to chronic health problems. Stainless steel is easier to clean and lasts longer that aluminum. Cast iron of ceramic-clad iron cookware works as well as non-stick if properly prepared and maintained.

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