#SuperGreens

Okay, okay: I know the title is a buzz…phrase, and I hesitated to use it. However, I think it taps into an important question of salads that often gets overlooked: “What makes greens so super?”

In fact, I think that when most people think of salads—especially in restaurants and fast food drive-thrus—I imagine that the greens they picture are not so super. It baffles me how many people accept a side salad with a base that may be a spring mix in a nicer setting, but sometimes sinks to the cheapest green: iceberg lettuce.

Iceberg Ranch

Um, yum?

Now, that’s not to say that iceberg lettuce doesn’t have nutritional benefits, I wouldn’t exactly consider it “super.” But perhaps that’s why some greens are able to hold that position since ‘super’ means ‘over’… as in “ranked over lame lettuce varieties” or “I’m over the common practice of ordering a salad and receiving this:

20171203_124832.jpg

P.S. I added the seasoning a la my #Flavorites, but I didn’t return to this restaurant for salad…

So what’s a better green to use? Well though kale may be the typical go-to super green, even that can be exploited for aesthetic appeal so much so that people wonder if its even edible. But aside from vegetable injustice, I’d like to emphasize some of the categories I focus on when deciding what greens to use:

1) Vitamins and Minerals — Nutrients are important to me in my greens. I mean, I’m not sure how many or which nutrients ought to elevate greens to the category of “super,” but when I read articles touting the benefits of spinach for its nutritional profile, I have to scoff at why this constitutes a surprising revelation. Whether striving for the iron that supposedly made Popeye so strong (or did it?),  less popular vitamins like A or K, #GoingGreens is a great way to improve your body’s nutritional content. In fact,spinach is a better multivitamin source than a pill. So if you have to pick a green from the garden of supermarket choices, why not maximize the nutritional content? It really shouldn’t be surprising. Some nutrients even supplement each other. And science shows that even when eating the most super of foods, your body needs as much as it can get.

2) Fiber — Because I am always personally looking to add fiber to my diet, I try to add at least one kind of green substance known for its fiber. My go-tos are usually broccoli slaw or shredded Brussels sprouts, but even spinach has some fiber content that is preferable to foods that are simply “fortified” or”enriched” (or worse: “refined”). These foods are lacking in the “super” we should all have access to. But beyond the way that fiber is consumed, it’s better to know what changes in consumption can increase both the amount and benefit of those superpowers. Even if there’s particular vitamin you’re striving for in your diet, it’s can be a good start to increase your dietary fiber—just don’t overdo it.

3) Flavor — Just like nutrients, flavors can stack and amplify each other. Even though iceberg lettuce may not have an overwhelming flavor of its own, it does dull the flavor of everything else. This was perhaps well exemplified in my realization that arugula pairs well with roast beef, but also hamburger, steak, and other beef-flavored things. And even if you buy a pre-mixed salad blend, it’s good to note the different flavor elements in the bag. You don’t even have to think of it in a complex way, but if you approach a type of green with a tongue towards balance, your taste buds will be happier if you meet the spiciness of arugula with sweetness of strawberries and nuttiness of walnuts… or something like that.

So again, I hope I’ve inspired you to think of new approaches to this amorphous “salad” idea that isn’t always taken seriously. And if you’d like to contribute your own ideas to making #SuperGreens even more super (maybe, supper?), don’t hesitate to comment and join me in #Saladarity

If you’re fine with a cheap snack, check out this one endorsed by the Food Network: https://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/dave-lieberman/hearts-of-iceberg-lettuce-with-ranch-dressing-recipe-1916423
To join team iceberg in its fight for nutritional equity: https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/iceberg-lettuce#uses
Despite having a lame salad game (and no website), the bar from my hometown has great camaraderie (and other good specials): https://www.google.com/maps/place/The+UpTown+Bar+%26+Cafe/@43.2630012,-84.9148858,17z/data=!4m12!1m6!3m5!1s0x88227648c532e2e9:0xdb84e950ca9caabc!2sThe+UpTown+Bar+%26+Cafe!8m2!3d43.2629988!4d-84.9146416!3m4!1s0x88227648c532e2e9:0xdb84e950ca9caabc!8m2!3d43.2629988!4d-84.9146416?hl=en
To read about the food injustice that kale and cabbage suffer: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/ornamental-kale-edible-90103.html
For support how good spinach is, even for menhttps://www.mensfitness.com/nutrition/best-worst-foods-man-can-eat
To become sadly disheartened about the mythic powers of Popeye: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2354580/Popeyes-legendary-love-spinach-actually-misplaced-decimal-point.html
To read about food pairings that increase nutritional benefit as well as flavor: https://www.shape.com/healthy-eating/meal-ideas/10-powerful-healthy-food-pairings
To dig into a dense scientific study about nutrient absorption: http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/article/nutrients-they-are-team-players
To add more fiber to your diet: https://greatist.com/health/surprising-high-fiber-foods
To self-educate about dietary fiber: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/InteractiveNutritionFactsLabel/factsheets/Dietary_Fiber.pdf
To read about having too much fiber: https://draxe.com/too-much-fiber/
For a simple arugula salad recipe (or at least one to start with): http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/248929/arugula-strawberry-salad/

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#CulinaryCollocations

S-s-s-salt ‘n’ pepper, hear?

Chances are you do hear this phrase often. It’s what linguists call a ‘collocation‘—which is basically a commonly chunked phrase. Other examples from cross-cultural culinary landscapes include ‘bon appetit’ and ‘mode en place.’ But I want to focus particularly on these phrases to highlight elements of food that are commonly chunked, and describe my interactions with them in ways that hopefully allow you to imagine food creations that satisfy your desires.

Now I know from personal experience to not expect that everyone thinks the same way as I do about food. And I don’t expect that. But part of the greater goal of my blog is to help inform ways you can adopt, imitate, overcome, and/or live without an innate attraction to having developed things like a “complex palate” that are common to “foodies”—something that according to the clinical definition in Schatzker’s book, I’m a prime  example of (despite how the stigmatization of that term causes me to avoid it).

Today, then, as perhaps an extension of my posts on #Flavorites and #UniqueCombinations, I want to talk a bit about how I have capitalized upon and extended my sense of things that work well together. So in this post, I want to describe some ideas and ways I develop new flavor combinations in attempts to always keep my consumption variable and dynamic.

1) Recipe Re-cognition — Any time I approach a recipe, I intend to immediately change it to meet my tastes. I know from recent discussions with people who need to follow recipes to be confident about cooking that this isn’t something that comes easy to everyone. But in re-thinking ways to flavor my own food—either in the dish I’m making or in others—the collocations in recipes sometimes inform the food I make. I’m particularly thinking of the french toast my dad used to make, which is similar to this recipe that requires whisking cinnamon into an egg bath.

Yum, Andrew!

The key way I used this recipe to change up my eating habits was to think of the way that not only the words are paired, but also the ingredients. Sometimes I don’t feel like eating toast, but why not mix things with an egg like cinnamon and/or maple flavoring (if you don’t want to use sugary syrup, might I recommend fenugreek?) and then pan fry it or microwave the egg in a mug. The key, though, is taking apart a recipe to savor its parts. After all, “no bakes” are really just a dessert form of less-runny oatmeal, right?

2)  Flavor Names — Similar to traditional table collocations like “salt and pepper” and “ketchup and mustard,” the American market is rich with paired flavor phrases that they repeat until some company rolls out a new product that arguably shouldn’t be flavored that way (I’m looking at you, Pumpkin Spice Four Loko! Well, that’s not actually real, but sill…). Aside from applying these flavors to maybe too many things, they really can help you key into what you love, and new things you might enjoy.
The Dorito Effect drew my attention to the popular style of tortilla chip, so I’ll use that as an example. Modern Doritos pair the flavors of corn with nacho cheese and “cool ranch.” So next time you have a corn-based dish, why not experiment with reverse engineering flavor combinations suggested by Fritos? You can easily add cheddar or nacho cheese to  a bowl of corn and then drizzle a bit of ranch dressing over it. Viola!
And though lattes may be the most common thing to contain pumpkin spice, you can still use that spice combination to flavor foods like actual pumpkins or something similar, like sweet potatoes, zucchini, or other vegetables. And if you like some of the crazy flavors of potato chips, why not pioneer a new potato-based dish? Maybe try a dash of salt and vinegar in your mashed potatoes, perhaps…
3) Deconstructed Pairings — One of the things I hate is the “all-or-nothing” approach that marketers suggest. Taking “pumpkin spice” as a prime example, do you know what those spices are? Reading the list may give you clues to which parts you like or don’t like, and then you can buy those parts separately to flavor other things (some assembly required).

Personally, I don’t want to pay the proprietary price for Old Bay, despite what they suggest to “sprinkle it lovingly on.” Instead, I find the list of ingredients and replicate that in my own way. An added benefit is that if a seasoning mix contains things like “celery salt” or “onion powder,” you can substitute actual vegetables for flavorings. By taking apart pre-mixed seasoning suggestions, you can modify not only your food tastes, but also your food content. Now you know what to do with that last little bit of relish or pickle: use it for anything you would season with tartar sauce!

I hope this is helpful to people who don’t consider themselves foodies. If this is you, please let me know what worked or didn’t and why. Until then, I hope you’ll stick with me next week in my continued mission to forge #Saladarity

For a retro rewind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vCadcBR95oU

For more linguistic nerding out: https://www.englishclub.com/vocabulary/collocations.htm
Again, you should really check out Mark Schatzker’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Dorito-Effect-Surprising-Truth-Flavor/dp/1476724237
For french toast recipes: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/basic-french-toast-147554#activity-feed and https://eatingrules.com/healthy-french-toast/
For more information on fenugreek: https://draxe.com/fenugreek/
For ideas on microwave mug eggs: https://www.incredibleegg.org/recipe/microwave-coffee-cup-scramble/
To level-up your “no-bakes”: http://www.quakeroats.com/cooking-and-recipe/chocolate-hazelnut-oatmeal-refrigerator-cookies
For the deconstruction of the satire that captures the ridiculousness of pumpkin spice: https://www.eater.com/2014/9/25/6847289/pumpkin-spice-flavored-four-loko-was-a-cruel-joke-many-people-fell-for
For suggestions of how to use Old Bay seasoning: http://www.oldbay.com/Products/Old-Bay-Seasoning

#JustDesserts

Since I started eating more consciously, documenting my food and paying attention to nutritional profiles, I weened myself off sugary foods pretty well. So much so that I don’t only lack cravings for foods I used to really long for (see: Puppy Chow), I sometimes can’t bring myself to enjoy them anymore.

I call this phenomenon my #BittersweetTooth

But just because I’d rather go back for more salad when other people move onto cupcakes (like I did at a dinner I attended two nights ago), it doesn’t mean that I shirk dessert foods entirely. So while I want to offer you some form of “dessert salad” (I have several ideas…), I’m going to stick to #JustDesserts and provide some examples of what I eat when I want to ‘treat’ myself.

1) Banana Walnut Freezer Mash – At some point—somewhere between trying to find a healthier ice cream and determining that banana cream is perhaps a great substitute—I decided I’d experiment with different ways of freezing to establish an easy freezer wash I could have before bed. Adding some of my favorite flavors (cinnamon and salt), I found that I could create a mash that I could freeze ahead of time and then later mix with Greek yogurt to establish a consistency not too dissimilar from ice cream. In addition to discovering that bananas were a good alternative cream, I found that they (along with things like cherry juice and jasmine rice) are good to consume before bedtime. But I also found that walnuts are suggested as a “perfect bedtime snack” as well—which is great because the flavor of walnuts pairs excellently with banana (just think of all of the banana-walnut combinations you’ve seen and heard about.

I mean, just check out this “bourbon banana and walnut french toast”:

Can someone bring me a plate of this?

So now, I typically have a bag in my freezer with a strangely-colored dark banana mash. I can easily mix this with Greek yogurt or a milk (alternative) to make a cream spread or the base of a drink (smoothies, anyone?). Regardless, it’s definitely a satisfying snack I can go to in times of “weakness.”

2) Blueberry Icee – Blueberries are hands-down my favorite fruit. Because they’re packed with b-vitamins and native to my home state of Michigan, I grew a strong affinity to regularly consuming them on their own. In addition, when I learned that b-vitamins help to prevent and recover from the ill-effects of drinking alcohol, I decided that I would never let my blueberry stores run out. And since research suggests that blueberries maintain their nutritional content when frozen, it’s easy to keep them around. But just like banana freezer mash, I was introduced along the way to Blueberry Icee—a kind of slush that truly is a treat. Mixing frozen blueberries with cool milk (alternatives) turns a well-portioned mix into a slush delight that you can easily modify by adding cacao flakes, nuts, and flavoring (my dessert go-to, as always, being cinnamon). Because the dish is cold and low-calorie, I would also suggest this before bed—especially after consuming things that… may intoxicate your body.
3) Apple Cinnamon PB2 – Bananas, blueberries, and now apples: you can see that my dessert cravings currently center around sugars naturally found in fruits. But here, I also want to talk about nut butters. Given the bad reputation that nut butters have received, I try not to use traditional spreads when I can. But the taste pairing of apples and peanuts still excites my tastebuds in wonderful ways. So as a dessert, it’s a real treat for me—especially with the addition of salt and cinnamon elements.
If I’m not snacking on fruits and nuts in their original forms, there are a few ways I commonly utilize the wonderful powder known as PB2 to make desserts. The first is to make a spread by again mixing it with cinnamon and Greek yogurt. The other is to add it directly to applesauce (sometimes even frozen applesauce). And though apples, cinnamon, and PB2 are fine on their own, they can also be modified with rich cocoa, cacao nibs, and/or (alternative) pretzels for extended enjoyment. The key in this last dessert, however, is that I’m aiming for fiber and satisfaction of a flavor I still crave (peanut butter) without having to give into less-healthy foods. In this way, healthy-er habits allow a way to enjoy dessert without having to junk food—what a relief!

Do you have similar dessert habits or ideas about how you can #LevelUp the things I’ve presented? Comment below and we can still develop a #Saladarity. As a final suggestion: all of these desserts can be reformulated to top a salad and avoid less-healthy dressings. Why wait for dessert when you can enjoy it throughout the whole meal?

Check back on next week’s post for some retrospective ideas about how I expanded my the way I approach food combinations. (Hint: it involves familiar phrases…)

For a good Puppy Chow/Muddy Buddy recipe: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/15820/puppy-chow/
For more ideas about foods to eat before bed: https://www.prevention.com/health/sleep-energy/best-foods-eat-night-help-you-sleephttp://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20628881,00.html
For the recipe to make bourbon banana and walnut french toast: https://naturallyella.com/bourbon-banana-and-walnut-french-toast/
For more foods to recover from and/or prevent a hangover: http://www.eatthis.com/best-foods-for-hangover-cure-ranked/
To read about research on freezing blueberries: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/07/140722124810.htm
You can find PB2 in many supermarkets or on sites like Amazon, here: https://www.amazon.com/PB2-Powdered-Peanut-Butter-6-5/dp/B002GJ9JWS?th=1
To read about unhealthiness in nut butters and how to get around them: http://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/nut-butter-the-bad-the-good-and-how-to-make-it-better

#OatHacks

When I was a kid, I loved cereal. Both my older brother and I would eat it regularly, though not in the traditional way with a spoon out of a bowl of milk,: rather as a dry breakfast or snack food out of a Tupperware container. This was especially handy when we started school and could eat breakfast on the bus out of Ziploc baggies. Perhaps this was one of my beginning to the uniqueness of unapologetically strange food habits…

But while we ate plain Cheerios, Kix, and more sugary varieties of cereals, one breakfast food we never ate—plain or otherwise—was oats or oatmeal. And even though they were my grandfather Melvin’s favorite, we even avoided oatmeal cookies (sorry, Bompa).

Now there’s such a buzz over the benefits of oats and oatmeal, and there’s even a sizable trend of preparing various overnight oats of various kinds. But aside from the main trends in these nut-buttery or sweet oat recipes, it’s perhaps not surprising from my history that I’m fine with just eating some dry. In fact, you might even say they’re my snack alternative to potato chips.

1982c324_glutenfree_rolledoats_f_1800

(Look at that bag of junk food!)

But aside from the weirdness of eating them raw, there are a few other #OatHacks that I employ for which I’ve gotten various human reactions: from the equivalent phenomenon of a dog cocking its head in confusion, to interest and celebration of my “genius,” to virulent condemnation at the atrocities for which I am guilty. Whether you think my food trends are good, bad, or meh, I hope that these things I consider hacks in my own diet help you to rethink (and repurpose) the elements of your own intake.

1) #OatsInCoffee – when I was eating oatmeal regularly and also drinking coffee (essentially starting my day by consuming quick caffeine energy and prolonged oat energy), I decided that perhaps there was a better way to pack things on the go. Also: if oats need warm liquid to become a meal, why not put them directly in coffee? That way they’ll get soft, the coffee won’t be piping hot, and I can even make use of the stuff I put in my coffee (as referenced in my last blog post). In fact, I’m not sure which came first—putting oats or seasoning in my coffee—but I swear they create a symbiotic flavor infusion that is both convenient and delicious. Honestly, don’t knock it until you try it.

2) #OatsOnSalads – because I want the health benefit of oats, I’m always eating salads (#Saladarity), and I fight the pressure of using traditional croutons, I have used oats as a crouton-alternative from time to time. Especially if the oats are roasted or flavored in some way, utilizing the leftover “crumbs” as a salad topping just makes sense to me. And since oats are relatively porous, they even soak up some of the juiciness in a salad, and make each bite just a bit much flavorous.

3) #OatsForSoup – though I grew up in household that put crushed saltines in soup to add to the saltiness, provide a bit more sustenance, and cool the heat. Beyond this practice of putting saltines in soup, some companies even advertise that their crackers (and perhaps only theirs) are indeed the best choice for soup:

<source>

Well I’m not going to buy into the need of stocking saltines for the rare times I eat soup. That, and since I insist on crushing them, I usually make a mess. But what about oats? I usually have some of those, and they don’t need to be crushed. Especially if I’m eating out and I have oats on hand, why not use them as a cracker alternative. They work well enough to cool the heat and add sustenance, and if it’s saltiness you want, just add salt. Besides, oats are a much more health-conscious addition to a warm bowl of soup.

Do you eat oats in non-traditional ways I didn’t mention? And if you eat oats regularly, what kind of oats do you prefer? Feel free to extend the conversation and post your recipes in the comments. And as always, please let me know how you’re inspired to dine in #Saladarity

For the benefit of oats, check out: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/9-benefits-oats-oatmeal
For overnight oats ideas: https://www.foodnetwork.com/healthyeats/recipes/2015/05/as-you-like-it-overnight-oats-for-breakfast

#UniqueCombinations

I’d like to start today’s post with two anecdotes that have stuck with me.

The first is a sign from my home community that read “Rabbits for sale! Cute and cuddly or tender and nutritious”
demotivational poster BUNNIES<source: http://www.motifake.com/bunnies-bunny-pet-yummy-cute-demotivational-posters-154803.html>

The other is a joke: “Q: How do you catch a unique rabbit? A: Unique up on it.” (And there’s a follow-up–Q: How do you catch a tame rabbit? A: Tame way.”

Both of these anecdotes highlight the strange but sometimes pleasant result of combining things in unique ways. When it comes to food in particular, the different ways of thinking about and framing food can create major shifts in eating habits, taste preferences, and even the culinary ability to surprise others with simple (but purposeful) choices in preparation. I want to share with you a few examples that have changed the way I approach cuisine that I hope inspire your own modes of thinking and eating differently.

1) Salt + Coffee – I didn’t start drinking coffee until I entered grad school. This was not necessarily because of the caffeine (though I had transitioned from soda to energy drinks and was looking for a healthier alternative), but when I moved into the markets of Washington, DC, I was exposed to more kitschy and flavorful roasts. In addition, one of my first roommates worked as a barista and all it took was the anecdotal account of another roommate to convince me of the tastes and benefits of the beverage.

But beyond deciding how to flavor my coffee directly (“Cream or sugar?”), I also thought about coffee with my morning breakfast as both a side supplement of flavor and a potential source of dippable enhancement. At the time, I was a fan of multi-grain toast with salty butter, and dipping my toast in my coffee appealed to my gut. In fact, from a quick Google search, it seems the practice of dipping things from bagels to biscotti to donuts is not uncommon.

(Check out this suggestion of re-enlivening stale bread!)

<source: http://www.geniuskitchen.com/recipe/dipn-coffee-or-how-to-use-stale-bread-361831>

But I took it one step further. Rather than waiting until my breakfast food was ready to add to my coffee, I started adding seasonings to my coffee directly. While this may seem odd (and some seasonings may not mix), I was surprised to find that my own tastes even enjoyed a hint of salt in my coffee. Since iodized salt can provide some semblance of a necessary electrolyte, I considered this a fairly healthy practice.

More pointedly,, though, I have heard people suggesting that adding things like cocoa to coffee is “mind-blowing” and a “game changer,” while here I am putting notes of garlic and almond flavoring in my cup o’ Joe. Whether in coffee or another liquid, I suggest experimenting with your own tastes to see how you might enhance your drinking enjoyment.

2) Cinnamon + Milk + Stout – Speaking of drinking: I grew up in a few Michigan communities that viewed the beverage of a beer quite differently. In my rural hometown, it seemed the only choices for beer were Bud Light or Busch Light – neither of which tasted anything close to appealing, IMHO. So while many of my friends picked up drinking in high school, I picked up designated driving and experienced party atmospheres as a mere observer.

At some point in college, though, I was the driver for a birthday jaunt with a friend to Founder’s Brewing Company. After the server took her order, he turned to me and asked, “What would you like.” Even though I explained to him that I was the DD and I didn’t drink, anyway, he insisted I must at least taste what they had on tap.

Agreeing to a conservative sip of their beverages, I soon realized I had been greatly misled in my impression of beer varieties. When I could pick out the notes of barley and other flavors I associated with my experience around grain fields, my mind was enhanced in terms of what I would expect of brews, but also what I was willing to drink given the right flavor combinations.

However, it also gave me ideas about how to turn something bland into something grand. Even a light lager can be made into a citrusy shandy just by adding a fruit element, like lemon or orange.  Some even insist that the beer must be served with a fruit wedge, like people who are crazy about lemon water (love you, mom).

Citrus Beer Cocktail | The Marvelous Misadventures of a Foodie<source: http://www.foodiemisadventures.com/2013/01/drink-dish-citrus-beer-cocktail-with-video.html>

But then I tasted what I sounded like it would be very flavorful (DuClaw Brewing’s Sweet Baby Jesus), and it still left me wanting. So after a few sips, I thought o O (Chocolate and peanut butter go with cinnamon and milk… maybe I could turn this into my own creation?)

I give you the Sweet Chocolate Horchata Shandy:

IMG_20170704_081248_743.jpg

Even though I doubted the mixture of (almond) milk with beer, a little experimentation with unique combinations led to a much more enjoyable drink. Never doubt your inklings.

3) Yogurt + Nut Butter – Also known as “PeaYoNuGurt,” I was once in the habit of consuming this combination on a regular basis. Because plain yogurts tend not to overtake the other substances with which they are mixed (and because I was looking to up my intake of protein and probiotics), I combined peanut butter with plain Greek yogurt as a staple base for my mornings. Sometimes I would use it as a spread on toast; sometimes I would add crushed blueberries and chia seeds as a seedy cup o’ PB&J; and sometimes I would even use other kinds of nut butters. However, the key here is the yogurt.

I acknowledge that some diets don’t allow lactose or other elements of yogurts, but there are so many alternatives available that I’m sure yoou can find one that suits you. Beyond enhancing the benefits of nut butters, you can make your own with crushed nuts or you can make various kinds of mayonnaise, like avocado mayonnaise.

Creamy Avocado Spread (Better than Mayo!)<Source: https://www.simplehealthyeats.com/creamy-avocado-mayo-greek-yogurt/>

The key, though, is that the unique combinations can change thee consistency, taste, and application of your food so that you can achieve the flavors and nutrition you desire. By experimenting with #UniqueCombinations, you, too, can create a diet that enhances your enjoyment – of food, of fellowship, and (ultimately) life as you know it.

Thank you to everyone who has checked out my #Saladarity blog thus far and perhaps given me feedback in person.However, please do let me know (in the comments) what you enjoy, what yo want to hear about, and what you practice in your own life – or (especially from this post) what you think sounds ridiculous.

To check out the beer that aided my experimentation and explore what else DuClaw offers: https://duclaw.com/beers/sweet-baby-jesus-2/
For a great recipe of avocado mayo (complete with it’s suggested uses): https://www.simplehealthyeats.com/creamy-avocado-mayo-greek-yogurt/

#BelligerentlyHydrated

They say that if you want to lose weight, drink water. They say you should drink eight glasses a day. They even say hokey things like “Water is Life” and “This Is Water.” But how does this play into everyday nutrition? And if it is true that water has restorative and healing powers (in addition to helping your diet goals), how can you consume more of it?

That’s something I thought about after I graduated high school and was bored out of my mind still living with my parents. I had an affinity for drinking out of glass containers (albeit my beverage of choice was typically Mt. Dew), and I wanted to find large containers that would easily allow me to meet (and exceed) the eight-glass recommendation.

One day I realized the vases my mom had around the house would suit my needs, and there were enough to cycle through so I could wash them as needed. Little did I know that these “vases” were actually meant for drinks, though decanters/carafes/etc. are typically meant for pouring into other containers rather than directly into your mouth.


<source: https://www.tradesy.com/i/glass-set-of-6-vintage-wine-carafe-clear-decanters-centerpiece-bottle-jar-reception-decoration/1160561/>

Still, whether I drank from these open glass implements or seal-able bottles, I made sure I was #BelligerentlyHydrated by priming my habits with full containers. When I still hadn’t started consuming alcohol, I posted a status on Facebook that just said, “Drinking tonight.” And then people were like, “WHA–?” And I was like, “-TER.” Now that I do consume alcohol, I still drink water first.

If this sounds like a beneficial habit to you, it is. Psychologists, nutritionists, and other theorists suggest the mindless habits we engage in can set us up for success or failure (see the book on Mindless Eating I previously mentioned here). Here are a few that I think have helped me consume more—and stay hydrated:

  • #BottleItUp – Early on, I started engaging in a trend of keeping around large containers that I would fill with water. Because we can prime ourselves to feel the sunk cost of commitment, by setting up my environment with bottles I could easily drink from, my first consumption was not a bag of chips or candy (though I certainly used to have plenty) but a significant amount of water. Whether or not what they say about mistaking thirst for hunger is true, drinking water does start to fill you up. So even to this day, as I begin my day and before I enter a space with food, I like to #GetHydrated with an appetizer of water.
  • Flavored – According to Mindless Eating, psychology research shows that flavoring water—particularly fruit and other nature-based flavors—triggers our minds to actually want to drink water. That’s why companies offer all different kinds of flavored water. I even see brands like Giant now trying to get people to think about their #Flavorite non-water beverages in order to try their “spiked-inspired creations“. (Note: they’re careful to disclaim the non-alcoholic nature of these beverages). Whether you buy flavored water, spike it yourself with flavoring liquids, or infuse it with things like chopped fruit, herbs, or other types of flavoring, drinking any water is more hydrating than none at all.
  • Cucumbers – In a previous post, I shared my reverence for the power of cucumbers and their nutritional benefits, but even Macka B admits that a cucumber’s “95% water” makes it a “great hydrator.” And that’s not nothing. More to the point, you don’t have to drink water straight or even spike to hydrate: you can consume hydrating substances like celery, watermelon, and berries to ensure you’re getting #WateredUp. In fact, living in DC has taught me to be careful about consuming too much water before wandering far from a bathroom. So instead of drinking liquid (which is more likely to flow through me), I eat a cucumber. This habit is so common that the cashier in the health food store at the midpoint of my commute to the GWU started calling me “cucumber,” and I suppose there are worse things to be known for…

So whether you drink it straight, infused it with other substances, or osmose it into your body from subtle sources, I recommend getting #BelligerentlyHydrated on a daily basis. I’m not saying that it’s definitely magical, but I drink water every time I’ve had a sickness, and so far I recovered every time.

To listen to David Foster Wallace’s “This Is Water” speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CrOL-ydFMI
To  read more about sunk costs: https://www.behavioraleconomics.com/mini-encyclopedia-of-be/sunk-cost-fallacy/
To check out Giant’s Spiked Inspired Creations: https://www.facebook.com/giantfoodstores/videos/10215155208023757To groove again to the coo-cumber song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRGlon_ezvU

#Flavorites

Wherever I go to eat, I most always carry a grinder with my own personal “all-purpose seasoning” that’s crafted to my tastes. Growing up in a household with a fresh herb garden and a yia yia who utilized many flavors in her Greek cooking, food was never allowed to be bland. This cultivated an early enjoyment of flavorful foods, but I didn’t truly realize the deep implications of this until I read Mark Schatzker’s The Dorito Effect and learned how to hack my taste buds and cravings to my benefit. The effects of this way of thinking is perhaps most poignantly evident from the story of my Munchies epiphany.

The morning after a savage game night at my apartment, I awoke with a craving for a tasty snack. But since I didn’t have a hangover as an excuse to binge on fried food, I wanted to make a healthy choice. And yet there, in the middle of the kitchen counter, was a bag of Frito Lay’s Munchies.

Munchies <source: https://target.scene7.com/is/image/Target/14885837?wid=520&hei=520&fmt=pjpeg>

Opening the bag, I soon discovered there was no more than a handful left. Yet my appetite had been whet, and I was determined to finish them off. So to extend the flavor enjoyment and to hack my hungry head, I grabbed some matchstick carrots to sop up the residual seasonings left in the bag. Not only did that increase the volume of food I was eating to a satisfying amount, it also allowed me to savor the flavor in every bite—as if vegetables were the junk food I was craving all along. Since then, I have identified several ways to trick my mind into eating more  of what’s good for me while still satisfying my cravings. Here’s some things I do:

  1. Add the Herbs – Though I’ve never tried weed and really got the munchies, Michael Pollan’s account of why it’s so desirable gave me enough evidence to suspect that my jonesing for things like oregano and rosemary is at least similar. Whether I’m cooking with fresh herbs, pairing them base on pop culture phrases (eg. “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and time“), or sprinkling a savory herb blend on top of a dish, I use herbs to curb less flavorful things like cauliflower and tofu. I’ve also noted my flavor preferences so I can order food that tastes good from the base to the topping
  2. Nutritional Yeast – If you don’t yet know about this stuff, you’re in for a treat. This low-calorie, high-protein, vegan-friendly sprinkler provides a cheesy, nutty taste when added to foods (try popcorn) or mixed into a spread like mayonnaise or yogurt (including dairy-free alternatives) to make a home-crafted sauce. Not only does it provide great flavor: its nutritional profile is sure to supplement your healthy diet.
  3. All-purpose Seasoning – I balk at the suggestion of seasoning mixes thoughtlessly added to foods; especially if they claim to be intended for specific types of cooking, like grilling or preparing specific meats (and not everything is improved by adding salt and pepper). However, I know personally which flavors I enjoy if a dish isn’t up to my sniff or snuff, so I keep my grinder handy. Packed with flavors that meet me general or current tastes, I can make food more garlicky, hickory, peppery or otherwise—the important part being that I can change the flavors to meet my own preferences rather than conforming to simple marketing suggestions.
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    <source: https://www.amazon.com/Trader-Joes-Everyday-Seasoning-Grinder/dp/B007SR8IP2>

So what are some of your flavorites? And how do you ensure you’ll like the foods you eat? Also, please let me know if you have similar habits so we can continue to dine together in #Saladarity.

For #Basic, all-purpose seasonings (and instructions on how to make your own): https://food-hacks.wonderhowto.com/how-to/make-copycat-trader-joes-spices-home-0168876/
For Mark Schatzker’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Dorito-Effect-Surprising-Truth-Flavor/dp/1476724237
For Michael Pollan’s book: https://www.amazon.com/Botany-Desire-Plants-Eye-View-World/dp/0375760393
To watch a performance of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Scarborough Fair”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Ccgk8PXz64
To order some yeast, look in your nearest organic market or check here: https://www.amazon.com/Bragg-Organic-Yeast-Seasoning-4-5-oz/dp/B002863BIW?th=1

#Basic

I’d like to think my culinary skills were developed from a young age, cooking with my mom and Nana—and later on my own with an Easy Bake Oven. But I have to credit the basis of my current food prep with self-tracking via food journaling my meals that started in response to a medical diagnosis. Many people have documented origin stories like this, such as Richard MacManus in his personal narrative of engaging with health trackers and tracking culture, as well as countless others I have spoken with directly. Though diet management is often pigeonholed as a desire to lose or control one’s weight, there’s a premise to my personal, conscious dietary habits that is even more foundational to the reason I keep making salads: their bases.

What follows are the three elements I almost always consider when assembling a meal:

  1. Greens – Even if I have pasta or rice or something not so leafy, I almost always ensure I have an ample amount of nutrient-rich veggies—often incorporated directly into my base. My habits have made staple foods out of avocados and spinach mixes—sources of healthy fat and power greens—but more recently I’ve been working in plenty of fiber with shredded Brussel’s sprouts or broccoli. And if I want to make a dish more hydrating and juicy, I like to add cucumber—which truly is magical. But when I say “dish,” that really depends on the second element of the base.
  2. Scenes – By this, I mean how I will be eating. Will it be at home out of one of my favorite large bowls? Will it be on the go out of a Rubbermaid container? Or if I eat out at a restaurant or private residence, what does my place setting look like? Author Brian Wansink reminds readers that mindful eating involves the contexts of how food is presented as much as the food itself. If you fill a large plate or bowl with heaping portions of potatoes, it may not provide the nutrition you intend to consume. But if you start with a gratuitous helping of greens as a base and then move onto other foods, even Thanksgiving spreads can be less ominous and more NOMinous. But that doesn’t mean you should abandon the third element.

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  3. ‘teins – Okay, so I’m not authority or expert on macronutrient consumption. However, I know from experience that fats and carbs often come easy in Western diets, but proteins can be harder to balance. I grew up in a community of hunters and farmers where the typical source of protein was a slab of meat—and that was usually the focus of the entrée. But if you work more protein into the basic elements of a dish, you can enjoy a more moderate portion of meat without feeling the pressure to finish an entire 12 oz steak. Some of my favorite sneaky proteins include brown rice, beans (or lentils), yogurt, and nutritional yeast. In fact, the last two combined can form a version of vegan sauce that is cheesy, nutty, and modifiable to different diets and tastes. It’s also somewhat less threatening to digestion than most cheese sauces, and since there are many forms of yogurt (including whole fat and lactose-free), mixing this tasty homemade dressing can pull a base together without sacrificing moderation of nutrition or sabotaging dietary restrictions.
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That last element taps into something essential as you think about how to balance the rest of your meal, but I’ll discuss that in more detail next week. Until then, let me know in the comments what elements of these suggestions resonate with you, and if you have similar or supplementary habits.

You can also check out some of the media I referenced here:
Health Trackers:  How Technology Is Helping Us Monitor and Improve Our Health: https://www.amazon.com/Health-Trackers-Technology-Helping-Monitor/dp/144225355X
Brian Wansink’s Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Thinkhttps://www.amazon.com/Mindless-Eating-More-Than-Think/dp/0345526880
And certainly listen to this musical celebration of cucumbers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRGlon_ezvU

 

#Saladarity

Last week, I listened to the audiobook version of Jim Gaffigan’s memoir, Food: A Love Story—which reads (or sounds) like the self-promoting rant of a man famous for parroting the name of a consumer product in a feminized voice. But before I bite off more criticism than I can chew, I want to praise his commentary as both a trend and exemplary narrative of consumer attitudes—namely in anti-health options and in defense of eating poorly.

Not that there’s not good reason to indulge in desires—even food scholar Michael Pollan (whose book and show title I just punned) admits to enjoying less nutritious foods in moderation. My gripe is the poorly reasoned aversion to nutrition that resorts to oversimplification.

Since my grandmother told me to treat myself to better meals, I started posting the things I make from my kitchen fairly regularly. I sometimes share them broadly on Instagram and Facebook, but I have an almost daily habit of sharing on Snapchat with my family and friends as a way of saying, “Look, I’m still taking care of myself, even as I struggle through work and school.” Also, it allows me to not eat so… alone.

However, since much of what I eat involves some amount of nutrient-rich leafy greens, they can usually be categorized as salads:

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I’m not sure whether its our romantic narratives of dinner dates, our parenting practices of forcing vegetables on children, or the ubiquity of tart, iceberg lettuce as a base, but in Western culture, the word ‘salad’ seems to evoke disgust in a large segment of consumers—some of whom are vocal in my communities with mantra like, “All you eat is salad” and “Do you want to join us for dinner, or are you just going to have a salad?”

As if a salad is just the base.

Just, y’know… leaves.

Jim Gaffigan even acknowledge this reduction saying that he thinks of the term as a synonym for lettuce—which would be the equivalent of referring to burgers, sandwiches, and other sandwich-y foods as “bread.”

As in, “Do you want me to order you something, or are you just going to have a bun?”

But perhaps the most ironic part of Gaffigan’s commentary is that his premise (“Nobody actually wants to eat a salad”) is followed by praise of things like meat, cheese, and sauce—all elements that are necessary to turn a bed of greens into a salad.

Furthermore, while he talks of the joy of tasting these things, he conveniently ignores their flavors are far less muffled by “leaves” than by their carb-based counterparts. It’s as if salads are the social equivalent of admitting to purposefully taking public transportation while people complain about the pains of driving in heavy traffic.

And their response is, “Nobody wants to ride with strangers.”

But I do want to ride with strangers. And I want to eat salads.

And because I know how to tailor my meals to my preferences and the preferences of others, I know the delicious potential that a bed of leafy greens can support.

From here on out, this blog will be dedicated to food beyond my own tastes. By sharing my experiences cooking with others, eating in and out (and sometimes even in the wild), I hope to inspire new ways of thinking about food. Even if that doesn’t mean giving up fast food or whatever foods others might demonize, I hope the stories I share help you to rethink the menu available to your eating habits.

And if you start to work more veggies onto your plate, please share your experiences with me so we can form #Saladarity

You can also check out Jim Gaffigan’s book, Food, here: http://www.jimgaffigan.com/books/food-a-love-story
And if you must peep my Insta, you can find it here: https://www.instagram.com/pensiveprotege/?hl=en

Wealth of Relations – Moonlighting

Blood Moon
(Photo Credit: Christian Ronnel)

“Even when the body goes to sleep, the mind stays up all night, telling itself stories.” Jonathon Gottschall, The Storytelling Animal

While playing a round of The Game of Things, I was tasked to name “Things you think about as you are falling asleep.” Players are supposed to secretly contribute a response, and then take turns trying to correctly match the responses of other players. The game can be adapted to the people and the mood of the group, so I was torn between being cheeky, transgressive, or honest. Though I ended up writing something strategic that I expected people not to match with me, any real answers would cast a beam on something that is important to my life—namely, nightly reflections.

When I prepare for bed, I don’t deceive myself into thinking that I’m being taken away from my best state—as if full consciousness is the only opportunity for value and productivity. Instead, I have made ritual my mindful transition into dreams. Whether this means reflecting on my day and affirming its successes, remembering the things that have constituted my life thus far, or preparing my mind for sleep and the day beyond, I engage in a conscious effort to spend my subconscious time better than merely “crashing” into sheets and hoping for the best.

Just as the moon is a reflection of the sun that shines in the day time, so too should our minds be at night, casting the same brilliance. We tend to think of nightlife and nocturnal states as the dark sides of our lives, but the reality is that they are more connected than we admit. Not only does the day affect the night, but what shines at night also affects the day. We often talk of the “full moon rising” as bringing lunatics to their prime, but it doesn’t take an oceanographer to convince people who live near the sea that the moon shares its tidings even when it can’t be seen. The natural component of Earth’s orbit represents an image of our mind—full or less.

full moon madness
(Photo Credit: mstollenwerk)

Aside from punny connections within nature, the moon is as important in symbolizing my nightly routines as the parenthetical sun is to my day. Even Biblical accounts considered the moon a great light, and though it is regarded as a lesser one, it is still intended to “separate light from darkness.” (Genesis 1:16).  In whatever phase or visibility the moon is currently represented, it often serves as a reminder that tangential thoughts constantly orbit in the margins of visibility, and they hold a certain importance when illuminated.

As a personal practice, I have found relief in knowing that all the thoughts I exhale during the day have a place on my nightstand, right next to the tangible objects I pull out of my pocket at the end of my day. Here is my take on the significance of the moon in its various phases. Just as they reflect light, each phase illuminates the practice of setting aside thoughts in preparation for sleep:

  • Full – Illuminated in its full glory, this phase of the moon is a classic symbol of reflecting fully on the thoughts of the day. With the greatest amount of the moon in view—omitting the dark side that faces away, of course—the moon is presented for inspection and analysis. Every crater, face, and changing blemish becomes visible for anyone willing to notice, and this phase represents the ability to perceive a maximal consciousness of the iceberg mind. It represents our reflections in the clearest view.
  • Crescent – Either waxing or waning, the crescent is an admission that there is something missing; something present, but not quite perceivable; something that would complete the concept that is more clearly in view. While there is a plentitude of scholarship on the ancient symbolism of the crescent—even shoddy sources acknowledge this—its currency establishes a certain curiosity: that beyond what can be seen, there is more to be filled in. Just as partial thoughts are carried throughout the day, the sleeping mind can fill the rest with imagination, even if we fall asleep with thoughts incomplete.
  • New – When the sky is clear and the moon is nowhere to be found, what cannot be seen can still be recalled. Just as aftertaste can recollect the amore that was formed when that pizza pie first came into view, the acknowledgement of a moon out of sight is still effective in knowing there is something in the darkness that has pull on the present. Though no thoughts may come into view as we fall asleep, the practice of recalling allows the image to return another night as the thought comes ‘round again.

Harvest – Cast in an ochre hue like the image of the god of war, a harvest moon is a popular image in photographs and pastoral myths alike. Just as the sun rising through the misty horizon can create a beautiful image as it rises or sets, the harvest moon demonstrates the effect of framing an idea in the dust of the day. Whether perceived as a symbol of plentitude or as a scientific phenomenon of sight, the harvest moon demonstrates the power of putting thoughts into perspective. So long as it doesn’t morph into anxiety and rumination, the act of recalling and releasing memories is a practice that prepares the active mind of the day to transform into the Gottschall’s storyboarding mind of the night. The process of re-collecting ideas at night may seem like a second job—the least desirable task after a long day’s work—but I find that moonlighting all that has been, is, and could be, allows me to harness the power or subvert the forces of what is presently orbiting my mind.

By perceiving the big cheese and deconstructing the significance of parts of my life, I have found that reflection is a valuable habit to enter at night. In addition to allowing my mind to orbit on, it gives me time to unwind so that my sleep can be restful. I recommend a similar practice as a space-clearing mechanism to allow your mind to rest, rejuvenate, and conclude all of the sentences you’ve left running on in the light of the sun.

This is the second phase of my reflections in the Wealth of Relations series: taking images from daily life to show how I make my days a little less banal, and how you can, too. Let me know if any of these ideas resonate with you in the comments below so we can be wealthy together.

To reflect on last week’s ideas about the sun, look here.