Sunday, September 14, 2014

Like broccoli in a brownie

One of the research links in the previous post addressed how one's tastes are more or less set at a young age. Which may account for my less than favorable opinions of peas.
Stupid peas...think they're so special!
It's funny, because I do love pea soup, I adore sauteed pea greens, and I don't mind throwing a handful of peas into a dish for some crunch or color (such as last week's Ancho Carbonara). But a serving of peas with a meal? Meh. I'd rather not.

But I know why this is. Peas were the one ubiquitous vegetable at dinner when I was growing up. We always had other veggies, too, but my dad insisted on peas, almost every night. And unlike much of my parent's other food "experiments" with recipes doomed to scare small children, peas were always served as is: defrosted from a bag and then put on our plates. 

This may speak more to the fact that my mom probably didn't care too much about them and my dad only wanted them as is. They weren't presented as tasty. Merely mandatory. 

And even though I was a surprisingly picky eater, I did scarf down other vegetables. Brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach, carrots ... yes, please. But peas...I'd hide them in my napkin.

So it should not be surprising that, as an adult, I rarely if ever have peas in the house, nor do I go out of my way to order them in restaurants. It's not like I hate them. They just don't come up in my list of foods to think about. 

Sorry, peas.

Around the same time as my napkin hiding escapades, came a product that was supposed to handle such an issue: I Hate Peas.

These were basically vegetables reconstituted with potatoes (and other ingredients) to make french fries.  And they came in other vegetable flavors, too.


(I had hoped to find the TV Commercial online, but no dice.)  

Even back then, I thought this was a bad idea. Really? French fries as a substitute for everything? 

Now I can really see that my parent's feeding habits of us kids helped me be open to trying most everything. That is especially apparent watching some adult friends and acquaintances who avoid certain groups of foods altogether. It's one thing to not like a a particular food's taste or texture (I was married to someone who hated the pulp of tomatoes. I'm currently dating someone who does not like the taste of cucumbers. We manage.) It's entirely something else to meet folks into their 30s and 40s who won't eat any vegetables or fresh fruit because they find them all "icky".

And I believe these were the people who were probably snuck their "healthy" foods into their "regular" meals. And that's not so unique. You can find tons of blogs about it, so much so that other bloggers have complained about it. (In-fighting among the foodies!)

Even scientific studies have shown that both scientists and moms felt that "stealth veggie-ing" was the effective way to introduce healthy energy-dense food to youngsters.      

But then we end up with folks who only eat deep fried greens and perpetuate this madness by following Jerry Seinfeld's wife into hiding broccoli in your cupcakes.

So, much as I don't often say it...thanks, Mom and Dad, for serving me those awful peas every meal, along with the strangely crisp eggplants, the home made sushi and "crepe night." Without all that, we wouldn't have the Streamlined Ska Librarian recipes we see today.

Stupid peas....


Caton, Samantha J., Sara M. Ahern, and Marion M. Hetherington. “Vegetables by Stealth. An Exploratory Study Investigating the Introduction of Vegetables in the Weaning Period.” Appetite, Feeding infants and young children: guidelines, research and practice, 57, no. 3 (December 2011): 816–25. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.05.319.

“Dear Ninja Vegetable Mom: You’re Raising Kids Wrong.” Accessed September 14, 2014.

Spill, Maureen K., Leann L. Birch, Liane S. Roe, and Barbara J. Rolls. “Hiding Vegetables to Reduce Energy Density: An Effective Strategy to Increase Children’s Vegetable Intake and Reduce Energy Intake.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 94, no. 3 (September 1, 2011): 735–41. doi:10.3945/ajcn.111.015206.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Failing homemakers, or Spice up that Carbonara!

The other day I cooked with goat's milk. It wasn't any definitive recipe or attempt at being more "organic" or "natural" (Goats aren't exactly wandering around downtown Manhattan), but I was in the dairy aisle, it was on sale in half a liter size containers , and I felt like trying it.

The results were tasty, although I can't say for sure goat's milk lent that final piece of specialness. And the results certainly weren't any healthier because a goat was involved.

And then there was this bit of experimentation: Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara

Mmmm...that's a spicy pasta!

Not as light as my fluffy dinner balls, but a pretty amazing piece of work. In fact, here's the recipe:

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Ancho Whole Wheat Carbonara
(Serves 2-4, depending on portion needs)

2-3 dried ancho chiles
1 cup boiling water
1/2 pound smoked bacon, chopped into pieces (or other smoked not-too-lean meat)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
1 cup onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, diced
Apple Cider Vinegar
Chicken Stock
3 eggs
1 cup half & half (or other fatty dairy milk product)
1 cup Asiago cheese, grated
Salt & pepper to taste (depending on meat choices, you may need extra salt).
1/2 lb whole wheat pasta

1. Stem and seed chiles, place in bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Let steep for at least 15 minutes
2. Puree chiles (with water)  in processor until smooth
3. Sautee the bacon pieces until crispy. Drain on paper towel.
4. In same pan, add olive oil, corn, peas, onion and garlic. Sautee until beginning to brown. Deglaze pan with vinegar and stock. Keep flame on low and stir veggies occasionally.
5. In separate bowl,  beat, eggs, half & half, 1/2 cup cheese and chile puree until mixed.
6. Boil pasta until just al dente.
7. Drain pasta (saving some of the water). Put pasta back in pot. Add veggies, bacon and egg-chile mixture and stir until incorporated. Add a few spoons of pasta water if needed.
8. Top with rest of cheese, pepper and salt, if needed.

(and for dessert, there was goat's milk pudding!)

It's been a while since I've put something like this together on a weeknight. I realize that's one of the possible upsides of my recent cohabitation: I'm willing to cook more elaborately because someone else is doing all the dishes! And this recipe does leave a lot of stuff to be washed.

It is definitely the drudgery of domesticity which can prevent a lot of more "home spun" creations. It's time consuming, it can be economically unfeasible and sometimes just not pleasant.

Which is why I am once again rolling my eyes at Michael Pollan and his call for the "old fashioned" ways. In the past few years, he's been touting that home-cooked meals eaten with the family are what's truly missing from our lives now and blame is placed solely on those modern thinking housewives. (I've ranted about his smug attitude before). 

I love cooking. I even love healthy Streamlined cooking. I love the sense of creating and sharing something out of food, even if it's just for my own gullet. But when I've worked 12 hours and still want to get some stress relieving exercise in the mix and have to clean the house, do homework, and yes, write this blog, well then, I'm not above going the less than "made from scratch" route. Or even a pizza or pannini from down the street.  

A recent study did show that perhaps the decrease in household maintenance has contributed to decrease in energy expenditure which one can try to correlate to an increase in obesity. Although it doesn't really take into account that perhaps energy is being expended elsewhere. 

But is that what we're looking for? Women who do nothing but chop wood, milk cows, mill grain, and start cooking the meal at 5 AM so we can have dinner? I think most modern working mothers (at whom Pollan seems to be aiming) really do not have time for this crap. Even my mother, she of Julia Child influence and natural "treats," didn't always make her own tofu and pickle her own crab-apples from our backyard tree. She had better things to do.

A recent sociology-anthropolgy study on this topic takes Pollan to task:

"While Pollan and others wax nostalgic about a time when people grew their own food and sat around the dinner table eating it, they fail to see all of the invisible labor that goes into planning, making, and coordinating family meals. Cooking is at times joyful, but it is also filled with time pressures, tradeoffs designed to save money, and the burden of pleasing others"

Basically, we have been creating ways to ease the burden of much our worklife, but it's supposedly bad when we then deny this nostalgic view among those who can afford to have said nostalgia. 

Yes, you shouldn't just shovel fast food at the family for dinner all the time. There are studies that show that kids' tastes start early, so healthier dishes and fruits and vegetables thrown in between the mac and cheese dinners might make for better choices as they get older.  

But we're not in Donna Reed land anymore. Even Donna Reed wasn't in that land:

OK, enough award-winning "bad girl" roles, Miss Reed. Those radishes aren't going to rosette themselves!

So, Mr. Pollan, go try working for drudge wages and see if you still want to pluck your own ducks before starting the home made croquembouche. The rest of us have reality to deal with. 

Experiment in the kitchen. Just don't chain yourself to it.


Archer, Edward, Robin P. Shook, Diana M. Thomas, Timothy S. Church, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, James R. Hébert, Kerry L. McIver, Gregory A. Hand, Carl J. Lavie, and Steven N. Blair. “45-Year Trends in Women’s Use of Time and Household Management Energy Expenditure.” PLoS ONE 8, no. 2 (February 20, 2013): e56620. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0056620.

Bowen, Sarah, Sinikka Elliott, and Joslyn Brenton. “The Joy of Cooking?” Contexts 13, no. 3 (August 1, 2014): 20–25. doi:10.1177/1536504214545755.

Louis, Catherine Saint. “Childhood Diet Habits Set in Infancy, Studies Suggest.” The New York Times, September 2, 2014.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Accountability or just plain ol' fat shaming?

I know I usually start my blog posts with a jaunty introduction about something in my life, but then I was checking up on the website of Registered Dietitian Aaron Flores and he posted about this video:

I am so disgusted, I can't even be jaunty. 

I know we need to take accountability for our actions in life. And yes, it shows the "body" in question avoiding too much exercise and eating a lot of cake. Mmmm...cake.

And yet for all this lack of moving and hidden stash binge eating (that was a trigger for me) and endless huge meals, it was this guy's mother's fault for enabling this lifestyle! The shame! Fast food and juice for infants! You ruined your baby, mommy!

Look, my mom forced me to eat home-made granola and foods from The Vegetarian Epicure and Recipes for Small Planet. In other words, healthy, hippie food. And I still ended up with binging on hidden candy stashes, giving up on exercise, and tipping the scale at 300 lbs. in my 30s. 

Giving your kid french fries isn't the sole reason he dies of a heart attack.

In fact, studies show that parents trying to set more stringent dietary rules on their kids end up with more eating disorders AND obesity issues. 

Then again, you can blame it on television. Or the school system. Or anyone else who you need to place shame upon. 

In other words, its a rich tapestry of reasons as to why we might be obese and suffer from health issues because of it. And by shaming both the obese person and their might as well be blaming them for the economy, too. It doesn't help. In fact, I can only imagine it will make it worse, because you're making the situation worse. You're not asking or helping people take accountability. You're just abusing them for having birthday cake.


Which reminds me of THIS video, which is meant as a joke, but I think covers what the ad is trying to convey in a much better fashion and far more truthfully:

The answer is try to be healthy. Work on it and own it. I can certainly blame my parents for a ton of things, but my current weight and health are my responsibility alone.

Carter R. “The Impact of Public Schools on Childhood Obesity.” JAMA 288, no. 17 (November 6, 2002): 2180–2180. doi:10.1001/jama.288.17.2180-JMS1106-6-1.
Clark, H. R., E. Goyder, P. Bissell, L. Blank, and J. Peters. “How Do Parents’ Child-Feeding Behaviours Influence Child Weight? Implications for Childhood Obesity Policy.” Journal of Public Health 29, no. 2 (June 1, 2007): 132–41. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdm012.
Flores, Aaron. “Balance Variety and Moderation RDN: Childhood Obesity PSA - The Completely Wrong Message.” Balance Variety and Moderation RDN, August 14, 2014.
Klesges, Robert C., Mary L. Shelton, and Lisa M. Klesges. “Effects of Television on Metabolic Rate: Potential Implications For Childhood Obesity.” Pediatrics 91, no. 2 (February 1, 1993): 281–86.
Robinson, Thomas N., Michaela Kiernan, Donna M. Matheson, and K. Farish Haydel. “Is Parental Control over Children’s Eating Associated with Childhood Obesity? Results from a Population-Based Sample of Third Graders.” Obesity Research 9, no. 5 (May 1, 2001): 306–12. doi:10.1038/oby.2001.38.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Happy fluffy dinner balls

[No references, just a recipe]

It's just been a wacky week. Along with gout recovery, we're finally getting repairs done on the apartment. Repairs that were needed from Superstorm Sandy. And of course, some of the "simpler" fixes have turned into multi-day event dramas:

I just wanna take a shower!
So between work obligations, dealing with maintenance men and having newish pets still acclimating to each other (and said maintenance men), all of a sudden it's 6 PM and dinner has to be on the table. 

What's a streamlined ska librarian to do?

Thankfully we had some ground turkey, and meatballs are usually quick, but I wanted to kick them up a bit and still keep them healthy. I had some yams, egg whites and tons of spices. And then I added a little molasses for contrast and taste and also to help create some caramelization. They were very light and barely solid, but I didn't want to go the flour route, so I threw in a little corn meal.

The result?

Not the best photo but I'll leave that to the "foodies"
They were amazingly fluffy and wonderfully fragrant with just the right molasses crust on the bottom. Paired with a little sauerkraut cooked in a sherry-sour cream sauce and fresh tomatoes with zataar....perfection after a stressful day!

The Streamlined Ska Librarian's Fluffy Spicy Meatballs
(Serves 4-6)

1 lb. ground turkey
3 TBS. Tandoori spice blend (I buy mine from my local fave, Dual Specialty Store.)
2 tsps. minced garlic
1 TBS. dried ginger
2 TBS. molasses
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups cooked sweet potato or yam
1/2 cup corn meal

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. In large bowl, combine all ingredients until well blended
3. Form into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 in in diameter
4. Place on oiled baking pan
5. Bake until done (about 30-45 min.)

Monday, August 4, 2014

What's Next...Lumbago?

This post took longer than expected. In fact, it was supposed to be about another topic and released before the end of last month. But then I developed gout. Yes, you read that right. And, boy, was it not pleasant!

The gout james gillray
There is no exaggeration to this image.(Via Wikimedia Commons)

I find it ironic that during my Retro Ska Librarian Lifestyle (aka Sedentary, Binge Eating Unhealthy Diet Life of Dan), this never happened. But a few years into Streamlined, Leafy Green, Daily Workout Ska Librarian Life of Dan .... hot poker glass shard demons jam into my bunion joint.

I'm hoping this was a one time event and not a chronic condition. And forcing myself to spend several days immobile with my foot up has once again made me realize how much I really need and want to move on a daily basis.

(What's also fascinating is finding out how many of my friends are gout sufferers. Who knew this persnickety affliction affected so many? I guess I know a better class of people than I thought!)

I tried to avoid too many fitness and nutrition websites during my recovery, lest I get too antsy, but I did start falling back to the Nutrition Blog Network, figuring my RD "colleagues of another terminal degree" might give me some interesting recipe ideas. And from that website, I came across this recent post from Dietitian Without Borders on "How to Walk 10,000 Steps a Day".

And here I can only walk zero! *sob*

But it did give me an idea for a blog post. All those steps...

I see a lot of friends and colleagues with the FitBit bracelet nowadays. Interestingly enough, many of these were gifts to these people from loved ones. Nothing like passive-aggressively telling someone to move more...

Don't get me wrong. I think it's great if you want to keep track of moving. And, as that aforementioned link shows, it's something we should probably all be doing in simple easy ways. I see it in the same vein as calorie-tracking, which I'm sure will get me in trouble, as that seems no longer a supportable choice for weight loss and maintenance. 

But I look at it as a template. I can see calorie levels and get a better understanding of portion control, even if not I'm not following calorie counting to the exact digit. And knowing that 10,000 steps is equivalent to 5 miles, well that can give you a better sense of how much you should really be moving. And when these FitBit and similar apps show you how much you actually move ... I'm sure it's an eye opener.

But many of my NYC pals using these apps (gouty or no) find it funny that they tend to go way past the limit of steps per day pretty early on each morning. That's because we live in a city where walking is just something you do, even during motorized commutes:

Subway, New York.  Step Lively... Digital ID: 836141. New York Public Library
It really hasn't changed all that much via NYPL Digital Gallery

We are a walkable city. It's been measured. Evidently, and not surprisingly, my NYC neighborhood has a walkability score of 100. Of, course, you can look at it from the other side: 3 or out 4 gas stations in the neighborhood closed in the past few years and there's no parking without a huge cost. And not that walkability always signifies a good thing to urban planners. You can look at the research that shows financial status can play a much bigger role in walkability as opposed to all other markers. (i.e. If you can't afford to drive, you won't).  This report that shows a correlation between high walkability and higher crime rates.

But that's not taking into account a place like NYC. We just move more.We sort of have to. 

So, lot's of walking, better diet ... was I a candidate for this dreaded "disease of kings?" Could I have done everything to prevent this issue? Slept more and eat even better? This study showed that while those people who slept less tended to eat for a longer period throughout the day, they did not intake more calories than those who slept longer. That doesn't quite take into account those of us binge eaters. Longer hours awake may mean more opportunities to binge. And this one showed that a low glycemic diet (in a controlled test) did show a lowering of weight, but did not really decrease inflammation, as it was thought it might. Although I'm pretty much already in the low GI fruit eating group anyway.

No, it may have just been fate that did me in.It was also pointed out that stress could have been a factor. So even with extra walking and good eating, I'm not sure I could have escaped this pain.

If it does come back (and man, I certainly do hope it does NOT), I just need to be more aware of the situations and how it might be better controlled. And I think that means being more aware, but also getting back to taking of advantage of this oh so walkable, moveable city of mine. It may not have made me the healthiest young adult, but it always has the potential to get you moving more:

Men and boys playing paddleball, Cincinnati, Ohio, circa 1950
Believe it or not, I even played this when I was a Retro fella. Via The Center for Jewish History on Flickr


Carr, Lucas J., Shira I. Dunsiger, and Bess H. Marcus. “Walk ScoreTM As a Global Estimate of Neighborhood Walkability.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine 39, no. 5 (November 2010): 460–63. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2010.07.007.

“How to Walk 10000 Steps a Day.” Dietitian without Borders. Accessed August 4, 2014.

Juanola-Falgarona, Martí, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, Núria Ibarrola-Jurado, Antoni Rabassa-Soler, Andrés Díaz-López, Marta Guasch-Ferré, Pablo Hernández-Alonso, Rafael Balanza, and Mònica Bulló. “Effect of the Glycemic Index of the Diet on Weight Loss, Modulation of Satiety, Inflammation, and Other Metabolic Risk Factors: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 100, no. 1 (July 1, 2014): 27–35. doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.081216.

Kant, Ashima K., and Barry I. Graubard. “Association of Self-Reported Sleep Duration with Eating Behaviors of American Adults: NHANES 2005–2010.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September 1, 2014, ajcn.085191. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.085191.

Manaugh, Kevin, and Ahmed El-Geneidy. “Validating Walkability Indices: How Do Different Households Respond to the Walkability of Their Neighborhood?” Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 16, no. 4 (June 2011): 309–15. doi:10.1016/j.trd.2011.01.009.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

July Foodie Pen Pals Reveal

I was writing another post, but time just snuck up on me...

The Lean Green Bean

So it's time once again for free food in the mail!

I had taken a few months off of the food trade. There were many other obligations and lately the local post office hasn't been too up to snuff when it comes to packages, so a few got lost or way delayed in the mail. (And I'm not the only one in the neighborhood feeling that pain). 

But I figured I'd give it another shot. 

This month I was matched with Ilona from New Jersey. On the plus side, an "almost local" make for easier to deliver packages. On the not so plus side, Ilona's wasn't going to be so impressed with NYC local delicacies she can get with a short drive across the river. So I put together a few odds and ends from the neighborhood. And even though Ilona's all about recipes, I weighed my package more on the snack side. You can check out her site for details of what I sent.

But what did Ilona send me? 

It was another caffeinated delight of a package! There was coffee beans (called Americadoodle flavor - have yet to try that), Coffee Rio caramels (lasted about 2 days), J Morgan's vanilla sea salt caramels (lasted less than two days), Haribo juicy gummis (shared with many and gone fast), a Pamela's Whenever bar, and the piece de delices, Vintage Bee creamed honey with spiced apple.

You can't see my other hand is sticky with honey already...

This stuff was AWE-some! I tried to parse it out, but it did not last more than a week. It ended up in a few desserts, but mostly it was just eaten out of the jar. I'm thinking I will have to buy some of this in bulk and use it in my honey cookie recipe for upcoming Rosh Hashana.

So thank you, Ilona, for getting me back on the FPP track.

If you're interested in joining the free food in the mail brigade, find out more details here.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hitching a ride on names

For many years, I had heard about Marcella Hazan's famous tomato sauce recipe: an incredibly simple idea with what looks like not enough ingredients that somehow becomes something magical. Crushed tomatoes, butter and an onion, cooked for about 40 min. That's it.

I've talked before about not following recipes to the letter, but I do like to try them out correctly on the first go, before I decide what I can do to tweak them to my taste. So I made Marcella's recipe as it was written.

Oh. My. God.

There are some creations of masters with which you do not tamper! It was pretty amazing both in its simplicity and it's final complex taste. My only concession is that the end product does not always end up on pasta. I use it on veggies, meats and on occasion, just plain toast.

Heinz - Woman with tomato shap... Digital ID: 1675405. New York Public Library
Mmm...funny shaped tomatoes! via NYPL Digital Gallery

I don't see it as an everyday sauce. (that's a lotta butter for my everyday Streamlined lifestyle!) And sometimes I do want different flavors and textures, but then what I am making is not Marcella's sauce.

And doing a brief search around the internet, you see quite a few photoshopped versions of the sauce, but there's also a few where someone decides to "modernize it just a bit." Perhaps "veganizing" or "paleo-ing" it up. 

And a lot of those "modernizations" usually include substituting butter with olive oil and perhaps adding garlic, basil, hot peppers, etc.

Which means you're making ANOTHER SAUCE!  

There's nothing wrong with making other sauces. I myself love garlic and basil in tomatoes, or chilis, or fish sauce or assorted vinegars and curries, but I can't stretch that to say I'm making a"modified" Marcella sauce. The whole purpose of it is that it really is just those three ingedients. 

And all those other recipe bloggers're just using name recognition to try to get some more attention. I find this ironic as more and more folks are trying to find "food authenticity" and yet you're completely changing something while claiming this provenance. 

Harsh? Yeah, but we see that even more so in the fitness world. Yoga has been reiterated so many ways that it's become impossible to know what is considered that form of exercise. Pilates has gained so many "improvements" that I can only wonder that the canterkerous old boxer would probably smack all these modern practitioners. 

But the biggest shift I see is taking all these exercise regimens and making them more ... comfortable. Basically creating a spa environment for what should probably be just a sweaty time. 

Take this recent article about a new CrossFit studio in NYC. I'm not a huge fan of CrossFit; I have far too many leg and hip injuries and, as I've said before, I'm not too big on team exercise classes or events. So, not putting it down, but it's not for me. And what I do like about it is that it's about movement and exercise taken to a rather basic form. 

But here's a studio looking to "deliver the luxury-level amenities to the CrossFit community" by adding yoga, spa treatments and the like.

So is this still CrossFit? Isn't this really ... a spa & gym? It seems to me that they're just taking the name and using it as a marketing ploy. 

Or is it that people just don't like exercise to be basic and dirty? They need pampering along with a name exercise?

The spa, Central Park. Digital ID: 800960. New York Public Library
Do they have pull up bars at this spa? Or is just hot yoga? via NYPL Digital Gallery
I get that people need a push. This study shows that overweight subjects found exercise less pleasurable the more they had to exert during the exercise. And that, of course, led to less adherence to the exercise regime.

But is claiming a name making it more palatable? I don't think you'll get more intense exercise out of added facials and rubdowns. 

Exercise is still hard. And calling something that it's not is merely pasting glitter on the same idea. Trying to make yourself popular without actually BEING the thing in question is just bad form.

I'll just wait for butter to be included in my pilates workout, then.


Ekkekakis, P., and E. Lind. “Exercise Does Not Feel the Same When You Are Overweight: The Impact of Self-Selected and Imposed Intensity on Affect and Exertion.” International Journal of Obesity 30, no. 4 (2006): 652–60. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803052.

“Is ‘CrossFit Chic’ Coming to New York City?” Well+Good NYC. Accessed July 16, 2014.