Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Bad Ass

Love this little coffee shop on old #98 along the beach.
Although I have to admit I like the name and free WiFi better than the coffee.
(Click to enlarge)

If you don't want to sit at the cafe and sip your morning java, you can board the van and imbibe as it traverses the beach!

Ha ha....not really.  I just made that up.  I like that idea, though!

What a Dope

The creator of this "game" should have his head examined, IMHO.  What do you think?

Web Game Creator: Buying Condoms, Adopting Orphans is 'Stylish' Fun
by Amy Hatch  Jan 27th 2010 3:45PM

The controversial new My Minx Web craze has outraged parents' groups.
Credit: Tim Stewart News / Rex USA

An online game designed to let young girls create a character based on breast size, adopt third-world orphans a la Angelina Jolie and take "anti-baby pills" has parents up in arms.  The "My Minx" Web game encourages young girls to buy condoms and engage in all kinds of scandalous virtual antics, London's Daily Mail reports. They also can visit an "adoption agency" -- where orphans are named after the adopted children of celeb parents such as Jolie -- to choose a child as an accessory to make their avatar more fashionable.  The paper goes on to report that 4-year-old Zahara is said to be Ethiopian and a fan of eating guinea pigs, while Maddox enjoys cockroaches. Actor Ewan McGregor's adopted Mongolian daughter, Jamiyah, doesn't escape unscathed, either. She, apparently, prefers a diet of rats.

Chris Evans is the founder of Blighty Arts, the UK-based company that created "My Minx." He tells ParentDish that the game is intended for users ages 11 and up. He says the kerfuffle over the Web site is the work of "rogue journalists" who don't have their facts straight.

"It is not aimed at children," Evans says. "This is for teens or early 20s. When you register, you can't register if you are under the age of 11, and even so, there is nothing on there that would offend any child who might play the game."

When we signed up for our personal "My Minx" character, we were able to select from a drop-down menu description that included "single," "unhinged" and "horney [sic.]." We were unable to shop for fashions in the game's "boutique" section, because the game requires users to pay for the privilege of dressing their characters. Boys can play, too -- a male avatar is available.

A page from My Minx. Credit: Tim Stewart News / Rex USA

Any kid with a PayPal account can buy "pounds," which can then be used for purchasing "anti-baby pills," condoms and lingerie. When pressed on these facts, Evans maintains that the average age of "My Minx" users is "19.1" according to Blighty Arts' database.

"This is a stylish game for stylish ladies," Evans says. "This is a fantasy world and there is no way that we are going to get customers that young. I can't see how an 11-year-old would have any interest in it."  He adds that the company has no intention of lowering the minimum age requirement and points out that the site is closely monitored. "I don't think there is anything on that site that [a child] would be damaged by," he says. "We have a strong team of moderators making sure that there is no bullying going on, and if anyone is causing trouble we ban them."  It is, he says, "a responsible site."

Blighty Arts has been criticized in the past for its "Miss Bimbo" game, which lets girls give their virtual characters breast augmentation and diet pills.

Parents' groups in the UK are outraged, according to the Mail. Andy Hibberd is the spokesman for parents' rights group Parentkind. He tells the paper that parents won't have "any idea" that their kids are playing the game and that they are too young to appreciate its irony.  "Having them getting virtual condoms or morning after pills will not make them any less promiscuous," he tells the Mail. "As regards child adoption, this game encourages them to think that they don't need to worry about morals or ethics."

According to the Web site, "My Minx" is a beta version of the game. What will the final version include? Evans refused to answer, calling the update's features a "secret."

Ta Dah!

Hold onto your hats and sit down if you are standing up......

Today we are making the long-talked-about, now nearly reknown Carrot and Red Pepper Soup (or is the official title Red Pepper and Carrot Soup?  Whatever....)

Oh, yes, after I tossed the first roasted red peppers, I went out and got more.  I stubbornly refuse to quit on the idea (and after all, I have all the other ingredients still...)  And what better time for soup than when it is uncharacteristically cold in FL and I have a virus?!  (It's been downgraded from a Category 2 Upper Respiratory Virus to just an Irritating Cough now...)

So here we have the ingredients waiting to be used:
(Most photos on my blog are enlarged by clicking on them)
Yes, you are seeing correctly:  prechopped onion in a package.  I don't "do" onions myself.

And here is the second batch of red peppers roasting away:
To be continued when the final product is finished....

Ta Dah!!!
I added toasted garlic rounds...

Now for the review:    

I never realized carrots were so sweet.  I expected a tangier soup what with the balsamic vinegar, red peppers, onions, and pepper added!  It's kind of sweet.  I don't think I really like that so much.  Anyone know what I should do if I ever make it again to achieve a tangier flavor?  More onion?  Different kind of onion?  (I used white.)  More balsamic?  All of you cooks out there, I'm open to suggestions!

Oh.  And as for "slipping the charred skins off of the roasted peppers"............"slipping" my eye!  What a royal pain.  Flakes off in chunks and it takes forever.  Messy and nasty chore.

Wonder if I used store-bought roasted red peppers I could squeeze the oil out of them and save myself the roasting step?

Anyway, it's damn nutritious and low in calories and fat, that's for sure.  So I'll probably eat it afterall.

(It doesn't compare to the yummy homemade chicken soup my sweet snowbird neighbor, Julie, brought me when I was at the height of my that's a recipe I need to get!)

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Eight Days a Week

Isn't that an old Beatles' song?

Yeah, well, I'm afraid eight days of hangin' out in the fridge is too long for my roasted peppers.  I hesitate to unwrap and even look at them.  Sad to say, it's into the garbage disposal with the roasted red peppers.  (Hey, at least I learned how to roast them.  It's not a total loss!)

See?  That's another thing about cooking.  You have to cook the dang food you bring home fairly quickly, whether you are in the mood for it or not (and by "it", I mean not only the cooking, but that particular food).  And whether your social plans allow for dinner at home or not.  I can't commit to that.  I'm a "P" on the Myers-Briggs, for gosh sakes.

Schedule?  Schedule?  We don't want no stinkin' schedule!

Sick in the Sun

Ever notice how a cold doesn't feel quite so bad when you can sit in the sun?  That was me today.

Have a bit of congestion, a cough, and general blahs.  Not so bad to keep me in bed;  in fact, one of my snowbird friends this morning suggested I sit in the sun a while to feel better.  Knowing how nice that sun feels on the face of a sniffles victim, I acquiesced.

So I packed my new mini-backpack (bought at the Goodwill for $3.99) with Benadryl and water, my phone and camera, Kleenex, hand wipes, and Discman and CD's (I know, I'm out of music IPod).

And here I sat for an hour and a half.

With my little one-webfooted friend:

Watching those who braved the 60F to feel some solar warmth on a few unexposed skin areas:

Although colors aren't as spectacular in the photos as they are in real life, the ocean was vivid green-blue.....

After a while, one of my new friends spotted me on the beach and came over with her granddaughter:

But in that cool, damp wind (10-13mph), even the sun couldn't lessen my cold symptoms, so I cancelled my happy hour with the snowbirds in favor of this:

It's only 4:38PM, but I can't keep my eyes open.  Thanks to the Benadryl.  So I think I need to nap.  Nighty night.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

See, Here's the Thing.....

with this snowbird singles group, it's actually hard to find time to much brunching, cocktailing and dinners out.  We all went out to dinner tonight at the Ocean Club (dinner and dancing) so again, no carrot and red pepper soup.

Hang in there.

Maybe tomorrow.  Night. 

Saturday, January 23, 2010


peppers still in the fridge. 

How long will roasted peppers last? 

(Have I mentioned I'm not wild about cooking?)

Friday, January 22, 2010

And I Say to Myself....

"What a wonderful world!"

Know that song?  I share the songwriter's joy in nature almost daily, and I love the line about "friends meeting friends, saying 'How do you do'....they're really saying, 'I love you'".....but I wish I felt in general "What a wonderful world" more often, instead of lamenting all the ills of our world. 

I did feel that way on my birthday.  Fifteen of the snowbird women I've been getting to know down here came over for hors d'oeuvres and wine and birthday cake and coffee and it was an absolutely lovely evening.  Having lived as a single since age 28 (single mother, though, blessed with my son) I've come to the comforting realization that as long as there are people in the world, I am never really "alone."  So many friendly, caring people everywhere you go.

Here I've found an outstanding example of that.  The people I'm getting to know who also snowbird down here are all such fun, such varied individuals, every one of them with fascinating life stories.  (Discovered the same thing in other areas I've spent winters over the last five years, too...)

And while I hesitate to post the group photos of us all, not knowing them well enough to know whether they might have objections to their pictures appearing on a public blog like this, I can post the birthday cake....replete with sixty candles, because it's been a long time since I've had my own birthday cake and I wanted to blow them all out!  (And did so just in time to save the cake decorations from burning up!)

(Click to enlarge)
Chocolate with fudge layers and chocolate buttercream frosting...mmmmm!

So to those of you who haven't lived alone, but may find yourself so in years to come, know that there are so many caring people for you to find in the world, that you are never really alone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Today I am sixty!         Oh.  My.  God.

I don't feel sixty.  I don't even feel fifty.  And if you revert to my original blog post in September, you will recall that I feel some age "post-28."

I have never been bothered by age "numbers".....ever.....not even now.  (Do you believe I actually had a girlfriend who cried when she turned thirty?!  I mean, get a grip!)

But what did hit me back when I turned fifty was the realization of my mortality, no matter how young I felt.  And it's hitting me even more now.  If I am lucky, I only have 20 or so years left on this earth. (If I am not lucky, even fewer.)  Now that really is sobering and I don't like it one bit.

In many ways, I feel so blessed and content.  Blessed to have retired early.  Blessed to be healthy.  Blessed to have a healthy son and healthy grandchildren.  Blessed by friends and family.  Blessed to have been born in America.  Blessed to have lived through great strides being taken by women, which afforded me a career of my own and independence.

But I'm always looking for something to pour myself into.  Something that will "help the world."  So far, in my retirement, I haven't found it. And I start feeling a little panicky, like time is running out.  But then I get to thinking of my life and all of the students I taught and the ones who came back to visit or write and thank me for being their teacher (believe me, there are plenty who don't have one good thing to say about me, too....) and I realize in some small ways, maybe I did that already. 

On the heels of that thought, I muse that most of us aren't meant to help the world in big, earth-shattering ways anyway.  That most of us, by loving and guiding and setting as good as an example as we can for our own children and grandchildren, are doing something "for the world."  We are building a stable, ethical societal foundation.

And we can augment that by being active volunteering in our communities, donating goods and money to charitable organizations, lending our skills wherever they are needed.

So while I'm dabbling with volunteerism, but haven't found a "passion" for which to pour myself into yet, I will "keep on keeping on" (for you young-ins, that's a Sixties phrase) and be thankful for the sixty years I've lived and all that I am fortunate to have experienced.

Happy Birthday to Me

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Half of the Weekend Goal

You are probably wondering where the heck is my review and photo of the Carrot and Red Pepper Soup I vowed I'd make this past weekend.

Uh, well, um...............mostly still in the cookbook.

But hold on!  I did (for the first time ever) roast the red peppers in the broiler!  Hey now, that's a biggie for me.  (Rub skins with canola oil, place in broiler, turning until skins are blackened, put into glass bowl and cover tightly with foil to "steam" and after 20 minutes, peel off skins and scrape out seeds.)

That's as far as I got.  Because you see, I need to go get soy milk.  And I hate going to the grocery store.

So the red peppers are wrapped in the fridge, waiting for me to do that.

Then I'll make the soup.

Seaside and Watercolor

Warning:  Be prepared for the reaction you might have reading this post, given that it occurs just chronologically after the post about the Haiti Earthquake rescue efforts.  What a world.  Such poverty and such wealth existing together.

My new friend (and also a retired English teacher from the snowbird group, who just happens to live down the same street in the resort where I'm renting this winter) and I took our bikes down to Seaside, Florida, which sits along #30A and the beach.  You can bike along #30A for miles and miles, although we only clocked in about 45 minutes before stopping at the Great Southern Cafe, where she ordered:  

Gritsà YaYa
Smoked Gouda cheese grits smothered with a sauté of applewood-smoked bacon, spinach, shallots, garlic, portobello mushrooms,and cream, finished with spiced shrimp and sweet potato hay,

and I ordered the:

Vegetable Plate 
which was cheddar mashed potatoes, fried green tomatoes, sauteed green beans and a choice of several other veggies that I didn't want, so I doubled the green beans choice.

Both were yummy, though I've resolved to order her choice next time I'm there.  It's what the cafe is reknown for and I can see why (she generously offered me a taste....smoked gouda cheese grits?!  Heaven!)

Seaside is an absolutely charming beach town.  Watercolor is an equally beautiful beach town development up the road from Seaside.  Both are fairly new (checked real estate listings and seems much of both was built within the last 5-10 years).  These towns are reminiscent of old beach towns, with cobblestoned and white picket-fenced streets lined with cottages, all with front porches holding lemonade tables and wicker furniture, separated by sandy paths leading through the neighborhoods down to the beach.

With one big exception:  Real estate in this town is rare below $1M and goes up past $3M.  For a "cottage"!

But wait until you see these cottages.  (Who are all of these people who can afford multi-million dollar beach cottages?  No one I know!  On top of that, it was absolutely rare that we saw any cottage looking inhabited!  Deserted, at least in winter.)

(Most can be enlarged by clicking on them)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Haiti Disaster

My laptop flashed a bright green screen at me this morning, telling me there was an attempt to change my registry or something like that.  I clicked and clicked the "don't allow", but it kept popping back up.  Before I could see the bubble on the desktop toolbar instructing me to click there to "fix" the problem, I had already hit "shut down" and it was going through its motions.  I tried in vain to stop the shutdown.

Alas, after rebooting, it would not even load my desktop.  And I tried for two hours, sitting patiently waiting (at last, ending by yelling my favorite swear word, of course).  Stomping out into the rain, I diverted my course from the local Best Buy (oh, how I hate the idea of those teen Geeksquaders touching my computer) to the local library to do email, print out Dell tech support numbers (which I stupidly did not bring with me for the winter) and search for local computer techs.

But my day has turned from bad to worse.  Online, I could not ignore today's news of the little 11-year-old Haitian girl, whom I watched for hours the other day, as rescuers tried to free her without resorting to leg amputation.  Happily, they succeeded and last I knew, she was free and alive and doing well.  One of the successful and hopeful rescue stories.

However, my computer greeted me this afternoon with news that she had died an hour later of severe wounds to her leg and shoulder (how does that happen?  blood loss?  blod clot?  a piece of bone marrow lodging in the heart?  what?!?)  Update:  How elementary of me not to recall -- infection, of course.  It's just so rare to hear of anyone in the U.S. dying from infection from a broken leg or that type of injury (Mersa, yes) because we take antibiotics for granted.  And antibiotics these first days of the rescue have been undersupplied.  Her last words were to her mother:  "Mother, don't let me die!"

Biting my lip hard, I escaped the computer station and ran to the ladies' room.  I am still undone by this turn of events and by the intensity of my reaction.  (And somewhat validated to see that Campbell Brown, reporting on the story, was moved to tears as well....what mother cannot be?)

My heart is broken.  For her and for her mother.  How does one ever go on after something like that?

Thank you, Lord, for my son's and grandchildren's lives.  I am blessed and I am grateful.   Please watch over them all.

Laptop problems?  Those aren't problems at all.

Not one bit.

Friday, January 15, 2010

For Parents

A Grandparent's Advice to Parents

"Everyone should be a grandparent before they're a parent." I don't know who first penned this genetically impossible advice, but they're right. We grandparents have much better hindsight than foresight, and, if we could do it over again, most of us would make some adjustments. So just in case there are young parents reading this, who are wiser and more teachable than I was at their age, here is one grandparents' advice to parents:

Find a way every day to show your children that you love and believe in them. Do a lot of hugging and don't stop when they become teenagers.

Take time to know each of your children as individuals. What are their dreams and fears? What are they good at? What can you do to help them develop their own unique interests and abilities?

Set and enforce boundaries. Be willing to be the bad guy. Don't let your own guilt keep you from being tough when you must be.

Be candid about your own mistakes. Be willing to change your mind, admit wrong, and openly apologize.

Be patient. Remember that the path to success is paved with failures, and don't forget that one of the reasons kids have trouble being perfect is that they have imperfect parents.

Be accepting. Remind your children often that home is a place they can find forgiveness and new beginnings.

Remember that some opportunities come only once. Few of us grandparents feel regret because we once missed an important business meeting to spend time with a child.

Don't judge other parents or children. It will come back on you. Never say "never" (as in "My child would never do that").

Don't over-program. Leave your child room to be creative.

Begin at an early age to give children responsibility and don't be afraid to let them fail. Also don't cover for them when they do. Part of growing up is learning how to mend one's own mistakes.

Laugh a lot.

Be silly together.

Sing a lot.

Let your children know they live in a harsh world. Talk candidly of accidents and crime. Maybe let them role play how they would respond to each. Also things such as camping in the wilderness can help children develop resourcefulness and toughness.

Be concerned about the hearts and minds of children. Work on their "want-tos." If they develop a love for things that are good for them, you won't worry as much when they leave your home.

Help your children find mentors such as scout or school leaders, coaches, youth directors, summer camp counselors, and family friends (remember the times; you must do some investigating and screening on your own). Also develop your own mentors (can be your parents and grandparents) to help advise you about parenting.

Do things to keep yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy. If you allow your children to keep you from daily exercise, alone time, or regular times away from the children with a spouse and/or friends; you will find it hard to be a good parent.

Finally, give yourself permission to really enjoy your kids. What could you do right now that would give pleasure to both you and your child? Some day you will long for such an opportunity.

from Best Years, by Mike Bellah

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Cabernet sauvignon and Starbuck's dark chocolate-covered graham crackers go very well together.  Mmmmm.....

My Weekend Goal

It has been a while since I mentioned the Carrot and Red Pepper Soup I was going to make.  I think my red peppers are a little wrinkly in the crisper.  I'm afraid to look.  But since they are to be roasted until black and then peeled, I'll still use them.


Some time this weekend.  I promise.  And I'll photograph it and give you a review. 

I need this shortterm (really shortterm) goal to get me back to cooking again.  (How on earth did Julie Powell cook Julia Child's recipes so often -- not really daily -- I've read her blog -- on top of working fulltime?  I was dead on my feet at the end of a teaching day.  My poor son -- my ravioli-out-of-a-can son -- can attest to that.)  But then, she gave herself a deadline, too.  A year to work through the recipes. 

I watch that movie over and over.  I love it.  And Meryl is going to deserve an Oscar nomination.

10 Rules for Being Human

I am shamefully amiss.  Not only have I not posted in several days, I am empty of ideas.  Just a blank.

I refuse to inundate you anymore with foods-that-I-have-not-cooked posts.  I've included enough photos of the beach and resort area.  And all I've been doing is working out at my new health club, not extemely hard mind you (so I can reward myself at the end with a luscious, long soak in the spa);  reading March for my bookclub;  seeing all the film I can before the Golden Globes and Oscars; and cocktail partying and brunching with my new snowbird friends.  Throw in a few outside walks, but not too many, as though it is sunny, it is still not short sleeve weather.

Now, I'm not complaining.  I'm liking this routine immensely.  But I need some ideas to blog about. 

In the meantime, again, here is something I lifted from some other place, this time The Professional Hobo:

10 Rules for Being Human

Written by Cherie Carter-Scott in Life is a Game, These Are The Rules

1. You will receive a body. You may like it or hate it, but it’s yours to keep for the entire period.

2. You will learn lessons. You are enrolled in a full-time informal school called, “life.”

3. There are no mistakes, only lessons. Growth is a process of trial, error, and experimentation. The “failed” experiments are as much a part of the process as the experiments that ultimately “work.”

4. Lessons are repeated until they are learned. A lesson will be presented to you in various forms until you have learned it. When you have learned it, you can go on to the next lesson.

5. Learning lessons does not end. There’s no part of life that doesn’t contain its lessons. If you’re alive, that means there are still lessons to be learned.

6. “There” is no better a place than “here.” When your “there” has become a “here”, you will simply obtain another “there” that will again look better than “here.”

7. Other people are merely mirrors of you. You cannot love or hate something about another person unless it reflects to you something you love or hate about yourself.

8. What you make of your life is up to you. You have all the tools and resources you need. What you do with them is up to you. The choice is yours.

9. Your answers lie within you. The answers to life’s questions lie within you. All you need to do is look, listen, and trust.

10. You will forget all this.

And, boy, can I relate to #4. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ukraine's Got Talent

Amazing sand drawing moves judges to tears.   Mesmerizing artistic depiction of WWII.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I Can't Help Myself

I guess I shouldn't read the news online before I post each day, because when I read stuff like this, I just want to email everyone I know and spread the word.  And yes, another post about food.

7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips

Provided by Prevention

Clean eating means choosing fruits, vegetables and meats that are raised, grown and sold with minimal processing. Often they're organic, and rarely (if ever) should they contain additives. But in some cases, the methods of today's food producers are neither clean nor sustainable. The result is damage to our health, the environment, or both. So we decided to take a fresh look at food through the eyes of the people who spend their lives uncovering what's safe -- or not -- to eat. We asked them a simple question: "What foods do you avoid?" Their answers don't necessarily make up a "banned foods" list. But reaching for the suggested alternatives might bring you better health -- and peace of mind.

The Endocrinologist Won't Eat Canned Tomatoes
Fredrick Vom Saal, Ph.D., is an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A.

The problem: The resin linings of tin cans contain bisphenol-A, a synthetic estrogen that has been linked to ailments ranging from reproductive problems to heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Unfortunately, acidity (a prominent characteristic of tomatoes) causes BPA to leach into your food. Studies show that the BPA in most people's body exceeds the amount that suppresses sperm production or causes chromosomal damage to the eggs of animals. "You can get 50 mcg of BPA per liter out of a tomato can, and that's a level that is going to impact people, particularly the young," says Vom Saal. "I won't go near canned tomatoes."

The solution: Choose tomatoes in glass bottles (which do not need resin linings), such as the brands Bionaturae and Coluccio. You can also get several types in Tetra Pak boxes, like Trader Joe's and Pomi.

Budget tip: If your recipe allows, substitute bottled pasta sauce for canned tomatoes. Look for pasta sauces with low sodium and few added ingredients, or you may have to adjust the recipe.

The Farmer Won't Eat Corn-Fed Beef
Joel Salatin is co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming.

The problem: Cattle evolved to eat grass, not grains. But farmers today feed their animals corn and soybeans, which fatten up the animals faster for slaughter. But more money for cattle farmers (and lower prices at the grocery store) means a lot less nutrition for us. A recent comprehensive study conducted by the USDA and researchers from Clemson University found that compared with corn-fed beef, grass-fed beef is higher in beta-carotene, vitamin E, omega-3s, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), calcium, magnesium and potassium; lower in inflammatory omega-6s; and lower in saturated fats that have been linked to heart disease. "We need to respect the fact that cows are herbivores, and that does not mean feeding them corn and chicken manure," says Salatin.

The solution: Buy grass-fed beef, which can be found at specialty grocers, farmers' markets and nationally at Whole Foods. It's usually labeled because it demands a premium, but if you don't see it, ask your butcher.

Budget tip: Cuts on the bone are cheaper because processors charge extra for deboning. You can also buy direct from a local farmer, which can be as cheap as $5 per pound. To find a farmer near you, search

The Toxicologist Won't Eat Microwave Popcorn
Olga Naidenko, Ph.D., is a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group.

The problem: Chemicals, including perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), in the lining of the bag, are part of a class of compounds that may be linked to infertility in humans, according to a recent study from UCLA. In animal testing, the chemicals cause liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer. Studies show that microwaving causes the chemicals to vaporize -- and migrate into your popcorn. "They stay in your body for years and accumulate there," says Naidenko, which is why researchers worry that levels in humans could approach the amounts causing cancers in laboratory animals. DuPont and other manufacturers have promised to phase out PFOA by 2015 under a voluntary EPA plan, but millions of bags of popcorn will be sold between now and then.

The solution: Pop natural kernels the old-fashioned way: in a skillet. For flavorings, you can add real butter or dried seasonings, such as dillweed, vegetable flakes or soup mix.

Budget tip: Popping your own popcorn is dirt cheap.

The Farm Director Won't Eat Nonorganic Potatoes
Jeffrey Moyer is the chair of the National Organic Standards Board.

The problem: Root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes -- the nation's most popular vegetable -- they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. "Try this experiment: Buy a conventional potato in a store, and try to get it to sprout. It won't," says Moyer, who is also farm director of the Rodale Institute (also owned by Rodale Inc., the publisher of Prevention). "I've talked with potato growers who say point-blank they would never eat the potatoes they sell. They have separate plots where they grow potatoes for themselves without all the chemicals."

The solution: Buy organic potatoes. Washing isn't good enough if you're trying to remove chemicals that have been absorbed into the flesh.

Budget tip: Organic potatoes are only $1 to $2 a pound, slightly more expensive than conventional spuds.

The Fisheries Expert Won't Eat Farmed Salmon
David Carpenter, M.D., director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany, published a major study in the journal Science on contamination in fish.

The problem: Nature didn't intend for salmon to be crammed into pens and fed soy, poultry litter and hydrolyzed chicken feathers. As a result, farmed salmon is lower in vitamin D and higher in contaminants, including carcinogens, PCBs, brominated flame retardants and pesticides such as dioxin and DDT. According to Carpenter, the most contaminated fish come from Northern Europe, which can be found on American menus. "You could eat one of these salmon dinners every 5 months without increasing your risk of cancer," says Carpenter, whose 2004 fish contamination study got broad media attention. "It's that bad." Preliminary science has also linked DDT to diabetes and obesity, but some nutritionists believe the benefits of omega-3s outweigh the risks. There is also concern about the high level of antibiotics and pesticides used to treat these fish. When you eat farmed salmon, you get dosed with the same drugs and chemicals.

The solution: Switch to wild-caught Alaska salmon. If the package says fresh Atlantic, it's farmed. There are no commercial fisheries left for wild Atlantic salmon.

Budget tip: Canned salmon, almost exclusively from wild catch, can be found for as little as $3 a can.

The Cancer Researcher Won't Drink Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones
Rick North is project director of the Campaign for Safe Food at the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility and former CEO of the Oregon division of the American Cancer Society.

The problem: Milk producers treat their dairy cattle with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST, as it is also known) to boost milk production. But rBGH also increases udder infections and even pus in the milk. It also leads to higher levels of a hormone called insulin-like growth factor in milk. In people, high levels of IGF-1 may contribute to breast, prostate and colon cancers. "When the government approved rBGH, it was thought that IGF-1 from milk would be broken down in the human digestive tract," says North. As it turns out, the casein in milk protects most of it, according to several independent studies. "There's not 100 percent proof that this is increasing cancer in humans," admits North. "However, it's banned in most industrialized countries."

The solution: Check labels for rBGH-free, rBST-free, produced without artificial hormones, or organic milk. These phrases indicate rBGH-free products.

Budget tip: Try Wal-Mart's Great Value label, which does not use rBGH.

The Organic-Foods Expert Won't Eat Conventional Apples
Mark Kastel, a former executive for agribusiness, is codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods.

The problem: If fall fruits held a "most doused in pesticides contest," apples would win. Why? They are individually grafted (descended from a single tree) so that each variety maintains its distinctive flavor. As such, apples don't develop resistance to pests and are sprayed frequently. The industry maintains that these residues are not harmful. But Kastel counters that it's just common sense to minimize exposure by avoiding the most doused produce, like apples. "Farm workers have higher rates of many cancers," he says. And increasing numbers of studies are starting to link a higher body burden of pesticides (from all sources) with Parkinson's disease.

The solution: Buy organic apples.

Budget tip: If you can't afford organic, be sure to wash and peel them. But Kastel personally refuses to compromise. "I would rather see the trade-off being that I don't buy that expensive electronic gadget," he says. "Just a few of these decisions will accommodate an organic diet for a family."

Friday, January 8, 2010

McGuire's Irish Pub

Oi vey, another post about FOOD?!  Um, well, yeah.  Just because McGuire's Irish Pub in Destin is really fun and I love the thousands of dollar bills (yes, I'm told 150 thousand) stapled to the ceiling and walls that patrons can donate and sign.  (Click photos to enlarge.)

At my booth


Bar area

And you can stay vegan if you want:  They have a great bean soup for only 18 cents!  Yep, 18 cents.  They say it's the same bean soup served back in like the 1930's in the Senate for the same price.  (Although the menu stipulates that if soup is the only thing you are ordering, it's price becomes $18.00!  ;))

Tofu Demystified

Ok, lots of people scrunch up their faces when they hear "tofu" and go "yechhh."  But I think most of those people (1) don't know what it is and (2) have never tasted it.  So to take the "yechhh" out of tofu, I'm here to tell you that tofu is to soymilk what cottage cheese is to cow's milk.   

Now, if you hate cottage cheese, you may not like tofu, but tofu has a big advantage over cottage cheese:  It will pick up any flavor you soak it in!  It is wonderful for marinating.  You can even just throw it into soy sauce and stir fry it with veggies.  You can blend up silken tofu with other ingredients and make the best salad dressings or dips!  I even made a chocolate-raspberry pie with silken tofu and it was delicious.  My guests didn't even know it was tofu!

So remember my marinating tofu from a few days ago?  It was the same Asian marinade I used for my first grilled tofu (the time I smoked up my kitchen with the cast iron skillet.) 

Here are the marinade ingredients:
1/2 c. mirin
3 T. tamari (Asian soy sauce)
2 T. rice vinegar
1 T. sesame oil
2 tsps. Asian chili sauce
1" chunk of ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, smashed

Well, this latest attempt turned out really well.  I sliced the tofu thinner and after marinating it overnight, baked it (instead of using my cast iron skillet to grill it) and it got a nice crispy brown on the outside edges.  Then I cut it up into small chunks.  I took the ginger out of the marinade, added a little water and cornstarch and heated it into a thick sauce.

I steamed broccoli and tossed it in with the tofu chunks and more sauce and it was a really healthy, tasty "Asian-flavored" dish!  The best way I can describe the tofu chunks is "little pieces of chewy flavor."  And if you freeze firm tofu first, then completely thaw it, it is wonderful crumbled into chilis and stews.  Replaces the ground beef nicely!

There you have it:  Tofu Demystified.

Tofu comes in firm, extra firm and silken textures


Marinated and cooked

Cashew-Tofu Stir Fry

Tofu Chocolate Mousse Pie

Tofu Chocolate Pie

Tofu Puddings

Chocolate Tofu Pudding

Tofu Pumpkin Pie

Tofu Eggless Cooking (Brownies)