Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Diets are Stupid

Diets are stupid.  That's pretty much all I have to say on that.

When I turned on the TV this morning, the news reporters were all up in my face about some new diet study that said eating two meals per day was better for you could lead to more weight loss than eating six meals per day, even if your total food intake under both plans was the same.  I find this instantly annoying, because I can promise you that the people telling me to eat two meals were the same people who told me to eat six meals a day, or nothing but grapefruits or whatever.  I did a Google search on "Popular Diets" and got the following results:

  • Atkins: no carbs, all the fat you want, and lose weight.  Anyone who has read more than a few posts of this blog knows how I feel about carbs (I like potatoes in my pasta), so this ain't happening for me.  Also Mr. Atkins died of a heart attack, so...
  • The Zone: 30% protein, 30% fat, and 40% carbohydrates.  Because the only thing I love more than dieting is math.  Also you're not supposed to have cheese with The Zone diet, so clearly it was invented by a jack ass.
  • Vegetarian: Eat vegetables.  That's fine.  To each their own.  But I like meat.  Also, most of the vegetarians I know get their protein through soy, and I'd rather eat food with a face than GMO soy.
  • Vegan: My concerns are similar to Vegetarian.  Also I don't understand the honey part.
  • Weight Watchers: From what I understand of Weight Watchers, it might actually be a good thing; teach people how to eat well by assigning each food a point value.  But, similar to The Zone, I'd rather not confuse my eating habits with basic math (or counting.  Whatever).
  • South Beach: Like Atkins but different?  Honestly, I'm confused on this one.  No carbs, good fats, eat small portions.  But get this: "The 14 day induction phase bans bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, baked goods, and fruit.  And you can't have even a drop of beer, wine, or other alcohol.  The diet promises that after a couple of days, you won't really miss the stuff."  My ass I won't.  You can have my carbs and booze over my dead, well fed body!
  • Raw Food: As the name would imply, you eat only raw food - meaning uncooked and unprocessed.  I could rant about this for a while.  There are many types of food by which cooking releases the nutritional value, and cooked meat provided the energy that early humans needed to develop the big brains that we have (true story... or actual scientific theory, more appropriately).  I feel the same way here that I feel about vegan/vegetarian diets.  Humans were made to eat meat (our teeth tell us we are omnivores), and our bodies want that meat to be cooked.  Raw food provides less caloric energy, and our bodies need that energy.  Studies on modern women on raw diets show that they often miss their menstrual periods because of lack of energy (per Scientific America)
  • Mediterranean: Eat like the Mediterraneans do - specifically a diet rich in plant foods and healthy fats.  Fruits and vegetables should be seasonal, unprocessed, and simply prepared.  Meats are minimal.  But, this isn't just a diet.  It's a lifestyle.  You also have to eat slowly, exercise regularly, and possibly have good Mediterranean genes.  I would say this is the closest to what I try to do, and I'm part Italian so I guess I've got that going for me too.
  • The Biggest Looser: For those of us who like our diets "As Seen on TV."  I'm opposed to The Biggest Looser on principle.  That show does not promote good body image or healthy lifestyle changes.  It promotes watching a bunch of fat people fall off treadmills and cry.  I also don't plan on getting my singing lessons from the American Idol judges anytime soon.
Web MD (which is my third biggest source of information on all things medical - right behind my best friend who is a veterinarian and Gray's Anatomy) gives a list of 100 diets for you to chose from.  My favorites included:
  • The Baby Food Diet: You get to eat 14 jars of baby food throughout the day, with an option to have a healthy adult meal at dinner.  I happen to have had major reconstructive jaw surgery a few years back, and I was required to be on this diet for about two months.  You lose weight.  You also loose the ability to have a good morning poop.  Not a good trade.
  • The Carb Lovers Diet: YES!  This one is for me, right?  According to the diet, carbs are the preferred choice of fuel for our body, and "adding the right carbs back into your diet may be exactly what you need to feel full, increase energy, and lose weight."  Sweet!  But what's this?  "About a quarter of each meal should come from a carb star.  The rest should be lean meat, low fat dairy, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables."  Okay... I can deal with that.  But they go on: "Once weekly, you can have a treat of chocolate, apple pie, two light beers, or two glasses of wine."  OR?  ONCE WEEKLY?  F you, Carb Lovers Diet.  
  • The Cookie Diet: Buy their cookies.  Eat their cookies.  For breakfast and lunch.  Then buy and eat one of their frozen meals for dinner.  Follow it strictly and you will lose weight - because you only get 800-1200 calories per day.  You will also loose weight in your wallet.
  • The Hormone Diet: Start with a two week detox where you are only allowed to eat gluten-free grains, whole raw vegetables (excluding corn), whole raw fruits (except citrus), nuts, seeds, fish, feta and goat cheese, olive, avocado, flaxseed and canola oils, eggs, nondairy milk, and soy products.  Which confuses me because it started out by saying "in step one the highest allergenic, inflammatory, or migraine causing foods are removed from the diet."  I would have assumed that "highest allergenic foods" would include nuts, soy, and dairy...  Anyway, I'm basically pissed that the hormone diet says anything other than: Eat a pint of Ben and Jerry's, and cry.
  • This Is Why You're Fat: No, really, that's the name of this diet.  In addition to having the best name ever, this diet also allows me to quote Admiral Ackbar: 

You start out eating normal PLUS 2-3 cups vegetables, 1 cup oatmeal, two whole fruits, 8 oz whey protein shake, 2-3 liters lemon water, and 2 cups herbal tea.  But then, after two weeks, they take everything else away from you, and you JUST get those things, plus two eggs, 8 oz lean meat, and 1 cup whole grains.  And alcohol is 100% off the menu.  Bastards.

Anyway, my point is, it's not about some fancy diet with a fancy name.  Like everything, eating is about moderation.  Here's the Kate Diet:  "Don't Eat Crap."  I like to pair it with my exercise plan: "Go Do Something." 

Oh!  I'm going to be presenting at the South Shore Farmer's Market on August 18th.  I'm going to have to promote that better than at the bottom of a very long post about nothing.  Come check me out!

Also, I was just texting a friend, and my phone (multiple times) tried to autocorrect "beer" to "beet."  I might be the worst Sconnie ever.

Monday, June 24, 2013

A Return... Not Necessarily Triumphant

I've been absent for awhile.  And I don't just mean since my last blog post, but since I was really here, engaged, inspired.  There have been a lot of things going on: busyness at work, school taking my time, and a little bit of soul crushing depression.  But I would be passing the buck if I blamed my absence on any of those things.  No, none of that is the problem.  Something has been missing.  Inspiration.  What am I here to say?

I watch a lot of Food Network, and right now the big show is Next Food Network Star.  Each time I sit down to write, I hear Alton Brown's voice in my head asking "What is your POV?"

Great question, voices inside my head.  What is my Point of View?  What makes me special?  What do I have to offer?  Why should you read my blog over any of the other thousands of food blog choices that you have available to you?  Yeah, I'm a locavore, but frankly that's less interesting to me than those people who make everything out of bacon.  I mean, being a locavore is awesome, but I can't keep saying it over and over without getting preachy and/or boring.  I thought, for a few weeks there, that I was going to buy a farm.  That would have been fun.  Then "Home Grown, Home Made" could have been more than just a good tag line.  But, after a faulty basement to snap me back into reality, and some serious conversation, I think I've got other things I need to do before a farm can happen.

So, what do I have?  What is my Point of View?

The answer actually came to me in my other, other job.  When I'm not here, and when I'm not at my "real" job, and when I'm not in school, I'm a teacher.  And I'm a really good teacher.  But that's not my POV either.  Here's what happened:

I was teaching a class on how to be a successful college student, and it was made very clear to me that I couldn't let the students go early because they needed so many hours in the classrom for accreditation.  This was my first time teaching the course, and I guess I underestimated how long things would take, because, on the last day, there were two full hours and absolutely no content left.

And that was when it hit me: I'm a good teacher, I'm a good cook, I'm a good gardener, I'm a good advocate.

But I'm an excellent bull-shitter.

You want to talk about nothing?  I'll talk to you about nothing.  You want to talk about something I know nothing about?  I'll talk to you about that too.  One thing that annoys my husband about me is that I will answer questions that I don't know the answer to.  Not big important questions, not meaning of life questions, or which exit do I take, or is this fish still good questions, but the type of question that you can usually just reason your way through:

Him: Where did you learn that?
Me: I didn't.  But it makes sense, right?

He's actually taking to asking me: "Is that true, or are you just assuming?"  9 out of 10 times I'm assuming, but 7 of those 9 times I'm also right.

Bullshitting, and being able to make (marginally accurate) shit up, is a fairly useful skill to have.  Not all the time, of course, and I hope that I'm not coming off as an enormous d-bag right now.  I'm not talking about the kind of BSing that belittles people, hurts their feelings, or gets someone hurt.  I'm just talking about a little mental improvisation.  For instance, back to my classroom example, I played Joss Whedon's Weslean University commencement address and, in the 13 minutes that it played, I figured out how it related to the class.

BSing is also a very important skill to have in the kitchen.

When people tell me that they don't cook, it's often because it's too expensive.  This makes almost no sense to me - eating out is what's expensive.  It was this Oatmeal comic that helped push me, again, towards finding this particular POV.  If you're not reading The Oatmeal, you probably should be.

Cooking is absolutely expensive if that's how you do it - if you  go out and buy the  ten or more expensive ingredients you need for that one recipe, in much greater quantities than you need, and then let the remainder sit in your refrigerator or on your shelf until they rot. Statistics say that Americans throw out half of the food they come in contact with, and that the average family of four throws away $2275 each year in wasted food. 

So you've basically got three choices: eat out every meal, figure out how to use up what you've got left after making your recipe, or figure out how to make that recipe with what you've already got. 

And that, my friends, is my new POV.  Not the first, the second two!  How to BS your refrigerator to make what you want and use what you've got.  Because, if you can do that, cooking becomes a lot easier, a lot cheaper, and eating locally is just a matter of where you shop. 

Here's a recipe that I BSed a few months ago, and that I promised a friend I would post for him. I had three goals in this recipe:

-use up as much in my freezer as possible,
- get as many vegetables on the dinner table as possible (which, honestly, is the hardest part of being a WI locavore in the winter and early spring), and 
-serve beets to people who I suspected didn't eat beets because I'm kind of an ass like that; I think making people eat and like a stereotypically hated food is fun. 

My favorite part about this was that it died the pasta pink.
And everything is better pink!
Super Beet Pasta

  • 1 lb pasta (your choice of what kind. Preferably something textured like rotini or bow-tie, but a spaghetti, fettuccine, etc would also work.)
  • 2 lb beets, roasted (I used beets that I had roasted and frozen in the fall. You could really use any kind of vegetable you wanted here, or a combination I vegetables, but that would mean changing the name. Cook the vegetables first to your preferred doneness. You'll be cooking the final pasta just briefly, so of it's something you don't want to overcook you may want to under-cook it slightly. )
  • 8 oz beet greens (I again used frozen greens here. You could really use any type of hardy green here, but I was going for a theme with the original recipe.)
  • 1/2 cup beet green pesto (or any kind of pesto you want. If you want to make beet green pesto, use my base pesto recipe here and substitute beet greens for the basil. 
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan or Romano cheese (or whatever kind of cheese you like in your pasta)
  • Salt and pepper as needed

Cook the pasta according to package directions until it is just under-done. Drain and rinse.

While the pasta is cooking, thinly slice the beet greens and then drop them in boiling water for about a minute. Drain, then transfer to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. (Because I was using frozen greens, which were already cooked, I skipped this step and just sliced the greens thinly.). Cut the beets into bite sized cubes. Combine pasta, beets, greens, pesto, and 1/2 of cheese and toss until well combined. Top with remaining cheese and bake in a 375 degree oven until heated through and cheese is melty. 

There's not a lot to this dish, so it's flavor really depends on what you're putting into it. Make sure the pasta water is well salted, and that the pesto is flavorful and well balanced. Taste it before it goes into the oven, and add salt and pepper as needed. Make sure you're taking the saltiness of your cheese into account when you're tasting. 

As with most pasta, you can really add anything you want to this. Mushrooms would be a nice addition if you had some. You could also add a splash of heavy cream, or some tomato sauce. 

So that's it. Pasta is pretty easy to BS, which is why you'll see it so often on chopped. I love comments, so if you have any questions please ask them below.