Weekly Wisdom – Food Rules… Eat only foods that have been cooked by humans

  • Let humans cook for you, not corporations
  • Corporation cooks = too much salt, fat, sugar, preservatives, coloring, etc. & aim for “immortal” food
  • Treat restaurant meals as special occasions-professional chefs (albeit human) often cook with large amounts of salt, sugar & fat

Source: Michael Pollen, Food Rules

Weekly Wisdom – The # 1 thing you can do to be healthier


  • People who cook for themselves eat healthier diets
  • 3 cooking tips: patience, presence, practice
  • Be patient while cooking & don’t rush
  • Cooking is important for your health, your family life & your sanity

Source: Michael Pollen, Food Rules

Weekly Wisdom – Food Rules: Buy your snacks at the farmers market

  • You will find yourself snacking on fresh or dried fruits & nuts
  • Real food – not sweets & chips

Source: MichaelPollen, Food Rules

What makes the difference between a good cook & a great one?

What makes the difference between a good cook & a great one? In my opinion, it’s layering of flavors. You can make a decent beef stew by putting raw beef, water, vegetables & spices into a crock pot & letting it cook all day. The meat will be tender, there will be some flavor. But how do you make a great stew? You take the same ingredients & add a few steps.

First step-browning the meat. By carmelizing the natural sugars, you’re adding wonderful flavor as well as texture & color (remember, we eat with our eyes first!).
Second step-use broth instead of water. Homemade is best, but, let’s face it-who has 12-24 hours to spend lovingly tending a pot of beef stock? If you do, awesome! If you don’t, there are great premade broths available at your nearest grocery store. I prefer ones that are MSG free & reduced sodium-it gives me the opportunity to season to my taste.
Third step-sauteing or roasting vegetables before adding to the stew. Again, the process of carmelizing the sugar adds color & flavor.
Fourth step-adding seasonings, herbs, additional flavors.
Fifth step-taste as you go! Food needs to be tasted & seasoning adjusted as it cooks. Start slow, with small quantities. Allow that stew to cook a little while. Taste it-does it need a little more rosemary? Pepper? Add just a bit. Allow it to cook a little longer. Taste it…what does it need?

Yes, layering flavors takes more time than just putting it all in a pot & turning it on. But trust me-it’s worth it!

Here’s the same bit of advice from another person, with a little more detail…the food bloggers version of adding layers….


Layering flavor is a gourmet technique any cook can use. It’s all about combining, expanding and deepening flavors in a dish with spices, vegetables, meats, liquids and seasonings.

How to layer flavor
“Layering flavor” is a term that’s really in vogue thanks to a number of food television personalities. However, what, exactly does it mean and why is it important for making great food at home?
In many ways, layering flavor is something that everyone who cooks, from the chef at a five-star restaurant to the bachelor who can only make chili, does. Put simply, layering flavor just means that while building a dish, chefs add a number of different, yet complementary tastes beyond just the basic ingredients. For instance, it’s one thing in a dish to saute onions by themselves. It’s another to saute onions in a butter/oil mix with onions, leeks, shallots, white pepper and thyme. Both add flavor to a dish, but the second option layers in more.
Layering flavor has become a popular buzzword recently because so many chefs and cooks are going beyond traditional recipes and trying to build new and complex flavors into every bite. This is true for very fancy and for very simple dishes, which means that you have the opportunity to do it on any dish you might cook.
Of course, it’s hard to cover the entire breadth of layering flavor without surveying every recipe. We’ll cover some general concepts in layering you can use in many dishes.

Layering with seasoning and spices
The most important thing you can do to make your meals taste good is to season them well. Even if the recipe fails to call for it, anytime you add an ingredient, make sure it’s well seasoned. Vegetables that get sauteed, meats that get added, should all have, at the very least, a pinch of salt. A lot of chefs like to add a little black pepper as well.
Also, consider what other spices might work well in a dish. For this, you will need to keep the finished product in mind and think about how it will taste and which spices might build better flavor. When in doubt, add a little garlic as its earthy flavors can deepen a dish’s taste. You can also use stronger spices like paprika or nutmeg sparingly and only when you know it will help. Each additional spice will help layer in extra flavor.

Layering with vegetables
The choice of vegetables that go into a dish, even one where meat is the star, can often have a big impact on the final outcome. Therefore, be careful when you add vegetables that are not called for by the recipe. Even vegetables that might not seem to have a big flavor, like cauliflower or carrots, can radically alter the finished dish. However, you can usually add vegetables with similar flavors to those called for in a recipe and subtly change the dish without going too far overboard.
For instance, onions, shallots, and leeks are all used to add oniony flavor to a dish. Therefore, they can be substitutes for each other, even though the different types of ingredients all add something a little different to a dish. Red onions and shallots are sweeter. Leeks a bit more green in flavor. Vidalia onions are much sweeter. This is good, though. If you substitute or you use multiple types of onions, you will layer in new and unique flavors.

Layering with liquid
The choice of cooking liquid is vital to layering flavor because the right liquid can really affect the outcome of a dish. The rule of thumb when layering is, unless you are absolutely sure it’s necessary, never cook with water unless you’re boiling pasta. Instead, just about every dish can be cooked in chicken broth (for milder tastes) or beef broth (for strong flavors). Water is flavor neutral and can actually rob ingredients of their flavor. Broth, on the other hand, has its own taste that it can inject into the ingredients around it. Beer, soda, whiskey, etc., also can add flavors to the rest of the dish.
In fact, in some cases, you might want to hit your dish with a little broth, beer or whiskey even when the recipe doesn’t call for it. Do this only when you’re reasonably sure it will work, but that extra shot of taste can really layer in the flavor.

Layering with acid
Acid is a great way to add flavor, especially when it’s added in right before the dish is finished. Citrus juice is the most common form of acid one can add to a dish, though vinegar can also do wonders for some dishes. The nice thing about acid is that it awakens different parts of the taste buds (sour and bitter) that might otherwise lie dormant.
To layer flavor with acid, the easiest way is just to grate a little zest of lemon or lime into a dish and give it just long enough to cook so that the oils in the zest can cook out (usually a minute or so.) Just doing that will add a completely different flavor profile.


New additions to my ‘must read pile’

Today is Mother’s Day and I am very lucky to have an extremely thoughtful husband who just happens to understand my obsession with cookbooks/nutrition related books. So to my delight I was gifted with some new books that I will add to my “must read” pile (unfortunately that pile keeps growing but the hours in my day do not). The first gem is Mark Bittman’s new book VB6, Vegan Before 6. This is my 2nd book by Mark Bittman (How to Cook Everything just happened to be one of last year’s Mother’s Day gifts).

The second book is by my favorite food author Michael Pollan, Cooked. Michael Pollan is clearly a rock star in the world of ‘foodies.” Based on the current review I fully expect this book to deliver on my expectations.

I hope you find time in your busy lives to check out these new books. If you have any personal interest in our food system and our plant (and we all should) I highly recommend becoming regular readers of these authors.

Happy Reading!

Trash Talk – ‘Sustainable’ help from unexpected sources!

  • Fish tanks – when you clean the tank, instead of pouring the dirty water out the door or down the drain, use it as a nutrient-rich solution for plants!
  • Pet beds – the next time dog or cat needs a newbed, look for one made from recycled materials, and be sure to recycle the old one!
  • Pet toys & treats – just say ‘no’ to allthe packaging (marketing to your pet, who –guess what? doesn’treally care!!) Buy loose, in bulk, and recycle what little packaging you must get!

Will you take a small step to help?

Weekly Wisdom – Get off your duff! Sitting for hours puts you at major risk for diabetes

  • Get out of the chair whenever possible, even if only for a few minutes
  • Stand at your desk, during meeting, walk to your destination when possible
  • Don’t spend all your leisure time sitting
  • Don’t forget aerobic exercise & strength training

Source: Nutrition Action

Salmon Cakes with Cucumber Radish Sauce

Serves 8

1lb - salmon fillet,cooked and flaked
2 - 6”pita rounds,torn in small pieces
1⁄4c - lite mayonnaise
1lg - egg,lightly beaten
1t - old bay seasoning
2T - chopped chives, divided
11⁄2t - grated lemon zest, divided
2T - olive oil
s&p to taste
3⁄4c - plain yogurt
1t - fresh lemon juice
1⁄4c - peeled, seeded, finely diced cucumber
1⁄4c - finely diced radish

  1. Mix salmon, pita,mayo,egg,old bay, 1 T chives, 1 t zest, s&p
  2. Form into eight 3” diameter cakes
  3. Heat oil in heavy nonstick skillet, medium-high heat
  4. Cook salmon cakes until golden, 3 minutes per side
  5. Mix yogurt, lemon juice, cucumber, radish, 1 T chives, 1⁄2t zest & s&p
  6. Serve cakes warm with sauce

Serve on bed of greens or steamed asparagus

ECO (Eastern Carolina Organics)

I’ve been struggling for a few weeks now on a topic for my next blog post. I’ve thought about sharing some of my current personal struggles, but I’m just not quite ready to do that yet. Instead, I’d like to share my thoughts & admiration for ECO (Eastern Carolina Organics) and the farmers who have made it successful.

When we started at Guilford College, one of the first people we met was a representative from ECO. They’re a co-op of sorts…it was explained to me that they use money from big tobacco lawsuit settlements to help farmers throughout the south turn their tobacco farms into organic vegetable farms. ECO then contracts with the farmers to promote, sell & deliver the products grown on the farms.

In my studies of the local and organic produce movement, some of the biggest hurdles have been finding enough quantity of product to make transporting to foodservice locations worthwhile, and how to go about that transporting. ECO has developed the system that I think should be a template for farmers & chefs worldwide. How can you not love & respect a company that promotes organic & local produce, sustainable practices for harvesting, transporting & delivering those products, and providing farmers a better-than-living wage.

Who would have thought that so much positive could come out of big tobacco?!

Below is a brief note (included in the product availability listing I receive twice a week), from the folks at ECO about a farmer, Charles Church, a founding father of ECO, who recently passed away. It shows the depth of caring by the company he helped create. There is also a short video of the Charles, talking about his land and how he came to be an organic vegetable farmer. I hope you take a few minutes to view it-he seems like he was a very likeable guy… tho I think most farmers are.

Friends, our hearts are breaking as we mourn the loss of one of our own – Charles Church of Watauga River Farms in Valle Crucis, NC. Charles was a founding owner of ECO, and helped organize other organic growers in the High Country to grow more produce and carpool their product down the mountain for ECO. He believed in what we were trying to do from day 1 back in 2004. He was always a powerful mentor to new and young organic growers around Boone, and was tremendously proud of the organic community in the High Country. A great farmer, a Valle Crucis legend, and most importantly, an incredibly nice man. Charles was a ridiculously hard worker, and sweet and generous in every way.

Charles, we will miss you dearly and will continue to make you proud! Our love and prayers go out to Charles’ family and the Valle Crucis community.

“You got to just about have an inborn love for farming to do it… you got to understand what you get in to, and you got to love every day of it.” -Charles Church

Gwyneth Paltrow’s new cookbook, ‘It’s All Good’

In a totally non-nutrition related confession, I love all things Gwyneth Paltrow. Not in the creepy I want to name my children after her, but more in the fascination of a life that is led with incredible privilege. However, when her latest cookbook came out I didn’t have much interest simple because I deemed it unrealistic, mostly based on the pre-release reviews. However, one day while walking through the bookstore I happened to come upon the book. Curious more about the pictures of the blonde haired beauty rather than the recipes, I began to comb through the book. To my surprise the first few pages presented recipes that were really intriguing. I made a spontaneous decision to purchase the book and since we were visiting family I had a few spare moments to actually read through the pages. Now I agree with many reviews that some of the ingredients may be hard to obtain and can be quite expensive. But once I was done reading this book I had a few takeaways

  1. Her health/elimination recommendations should not be taken literally, meaning this is just one persons personal experience of how to live healthier
  2. Many recipes call for sheep or goats milk yogurt which can be replaced with the easy to obtain Greek yogurt
  3. I have no issue with gluten/wheat so I have no problem using regular whole grain bread in place of her recommended “gluten free” bread
  4. This book is a guide, not gospel. Though I cook often, I have new ideas for easily incorporating quinoa into my everyday diet and some great dressing ideas (again they can be easily modified)

For a more animated review of GP’s latest venture into clean eating see the quite comical review from the Washington Post.