Some spice blending tips to spice up your pandemic cooking

Having a local source of great spices, I’m not talking about the pre-packaged kind in the supermarket, but fresher and specially blended spices, is a great aid in coming up with fun dinner options, even during this pandemic.

In the Chicago area, we have The Spice House, which has a variety of blends, including an entire section of salt-free mixtures for people like me trying to cut salt from our diets.

Salt-free spices are a must-have for any kitchen.
Salt-free spices are a must-have for any kitchen.

If you don’t have such a place, you can get creative and make your own blends. Here are a few from The Spice House to get you started. How much of each you blend is the art of it, experiment and see what works for you and the people at your table. Continue reading “Some spice blending tips to spice up your pandemic cooking”

A Pandemic binge-eating tip — try pre-portioning your snacks

The longer we’re home, the more we seem to eat in these Covid days. Indeed, the Covid 19 has come to refer to the weight people are gaining from being at home. So here’s a tip to try to limit the snacking damage you’re doing to yourself.

How many chips can you eat? Likely the whole bag if you keep it handy.

This site is a little too happy-talk for my taste, but it makes a valid point about pre-portioning your snacks (it talks a lot about healthy snacks, not the potato chips, ice cream, etc people are actually eating). Still, you might find some of the points it makes helpful.

If you search online, you can find some helpful gadgets to help you see what portion sizes are.

I wrote about one such system back in 2013. The point is, don’t eat out of an open bag of chips or container of ice cream. Take a snack-size portion and eat that.

I know it’s easier said than done but give it a try.

Pandemic peach recall — check peaches you bought

Food recalls have popped up everywhere this summer, more nuggets of grief in this pandemic world we live in. The latest recall is for peaches, sold in a variety of retailers across the country.

“Do not eat, serve, or sell recalled loose or bagged peaches packed or supplied by Prima Wawona or Wawona Packing Company LLC, or food made with these peaches” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported August 27.

Image by _Alicja_ from Pixabay

The peaches were sold at retailers such as Target, Walmart, Wegman’s, a variety of Kroeger stores, Food Lion and Hannaford stores. Continue reading “Pandemic peach recall — check peaches you bought”

More good news for olive oil — cook away with it!

Olive oil is on the ‘good food’ list these days and thanks for that. I love it on salads of all kinds, fish and veggies I grill on my barbecue. But even with all the praise it’s gotten nutritionally, there’s been a long-held caution about cooking with it.

“Many healthy chefs exclusively use it as a finishing oil because of the oil’s low “smoke point.” The concern was that if olive oil gets too hot, it starts to burn and smoke—which can mess with the flavor of the finished dish as well as degrade some of the oil’s health benefits,” recounts Wellandgood.com in a recent article.

A sampling of the amazing olive oil we brought back from Italy.

 

I never believed that, by the way. Now thankfully, it’s being called a false bit of information.

A recent study, “debunks a lot of people’s concerns about olive oil’s smoke points. For one thing, researchers found that both regular olive oil and extra-virgin olive oil can withstand temperatures over 475℉, whether on the stove or in the oven. (When sautéing, the temperature is typically 248℉.),” the article notes.

So cook away with olive oil at your side!

Hold the onions: 34 states impacted by salmonella-tainted onions

As if cooking during this Covid-19 pandemic has;t been difficult enough, what with various food shortages and the difficulties associated with grocery shopping, now there’s another worry — several types of onions are being recalled as people become sick from salmonella-laced red onions.

Roughly 400 people in 34 states have become sick because of tainted red onions, California producer Thomson International is recalling red, white, yellow and sweet onions. The problem so far has been with red onions, but the company is recalling other varieties “that could have come in contact with potentially contaminated red onions, due to the risk of cross-contamination,” the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement.

It’s almost impossible to know if onions you bought come from Thomson, the FDA announcement does not list retailers that may have stocked the contaminated onions. So it advises, “if you cannot tell if your onion is from Thomson International Inc., or your food product contains such onions, you should not eat, sell, or serve it, and should throw it out.”

The outbreak has spread to Canada as well.

Here’s a look at states that have been affected, the various shades of blue indicate how many people have become sick because of the tainted onions:

Pandemic binge eating: foods to avoid before bedtime

A lot has been written about people overeating during the Covid-19 pandemic. And why not, with all the tension and changes in routine the pandemic has brought into our lives?

My low-fat, low-salt home-made pizza.

If you’re trying to get a grip on your pandemic eating, try starting with not eating for at least two hours before you go to bed. And, according to this piece on Foodnetwork.com, avoid these eight foods before bedtime:

  • Pizza
  • Coffee
  • Soda
  • Orange Juice
  • Wine
  • Spicy foods
  • Burgers
  • Sugary cereal

Why? Read all about it by clicking here.

 

More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses

Healthier food options have definitely been casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic. With demand up because people are eating at home more, food processors have stepped up production of their most popular offerings — normally the least healthy ones — and dropped healthier ones. The same is true for mainstream supermarkets which are having trouble keeping their shelves stocked, still today.

Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.
Preparing salmon with Mrs. Dash no-salt marinades.

The latest healthier product that’s become impossible to find in stores near me — Mrs. Dash sweet teriyaki sauce.

Mrs. Dash teriyaki is salt-free, a miracle when it comes to anything with an Asian flavor to it. I use it constantly on fish and in stir fry veggie, chicken and shrimp dishes I create.

In normal times, I could buy it locally at Food 4 Less, a Kroger store in my area.

But the pandemic has wiped it from the shelves here. Checking the store website, it’s not even listed for shipment. Continue reading “More pandemic food casualties: Salt-free teriyaki sauce, low- and no-fat cheeeses”

Foods to avoid to get the sugar out of your diet

I’ve written before about hidden sugars in foods where people least expect it. I’m always on the lookout for such lurking demons of food.

So I was interested in this piece from Ecowatch.com:  18 Foods and Drinks That Are Surprisingly High in Sugar

I've found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.
I’ve found two brands of low-sodium,low-sugar ketchup, Westbrae and LocalFolks Foods.

 

Some are ‘usual suspects” — fruit juice, ketchup, barbecue sauce, prepared spaghetti sauce. There are low- and no-sugar versions fo these you can track down. Check my ingredients page for some tips.

One managed to surprise me, like low-fat yogurt. Check the labels before you buy such offerings.

The Mediterranean Diet brings home the food gold again

You’ll likely hear about a million diet plans as 2020 begins, its national weight-loss time after all. Diet plans come and go more frequently than new car models these days.

But as with cars, it’s a buyer beware situation with diet plans.

Before you try any, do some serious research on its impact on your body and your health. As it happens, U.S. News does that every year, ranking popular diet plans.

The Mediterranean Diet has topped the list again this year. If you’re not sure what that is, click here to see what U.S. News says about it.

Basically, it means don’t eat like any ugly American. Cut out fatty meats, eat more fruits and vegetables and make olive oil your lifetime friend.

Th DASH Diet, which is basically a type of Mediterranean diet, came in second.

How did some of the big, commercial diet companies do? Weight Watchers (WW now) came in fourth, Jenny Craig came in 12th, and Nutrisystem came in 20th.

Good eating in 2020, avoid salt, fat and sugar and it all will be very simple for you.

First salad of 2020…and so it begins

The start of any year is notorious for people resolving to lose some weight. Indeed, all the major weight-loss programs already are running ads to attract new clients this time of year.

Like millions of others, I’m resolving to drop some pounds this year too. But I don’t use any commercial diet plans. Rather, I merely need to return to what I was eating after having my first angioplasty in 2012.

Following that surgery, I dropped 25 pounds by cutting out everything I enjoyed — red meat, candy, cookies, doughnuts, cake, rich, creamy ethnic foods (think most things from Europe), high-salt ethnic foods (think anything from Asia).

Sadly, after three years of that, I began slipping back, mainly with M&Ms and cream-filled doughnuts, until, in 2017, I was forced to have a second angioplasty to open yet another blocked artery.

That second surgery really had me questioning whether changing my diet had any impact on my artery-health, since it seemed like the answer was a resounding no.

So for the past two years, I’ve been eating much more junk food than before and have gained back that 25 pounds I lost. That officially makes me a fat old man these days and I don’t like that image. So I’m starting all over again.

Here’s today’s lunch salad which I made at home. Restaurant salads are normally load with salt, fat and sugar, avoid them or strip them down to their basics if you must eat one.

I try to add as much as possible to the basic spring greens lettuce mix to give the salad some texture. Here’s a look at ingredients before I built the salad. The only thing missing in this photo is the turkey I put on. That’s leftover from our low-salt Christmas turkey.

The feta cheese is fat-free and the olives (in that black liquid) are low-salt. The beets are sold at Costco, they’re sealed and shelf-stable, not the jarred ones that are loaded with salt.

The mushrooms, tomatoes, cucumbers and even the lettuce mix were on sale at a local supermarket. Eating healthy is expensive, so always shop the sales each week to find deals.

I topped all this with olive oil (a so-called good fat) and balsamic vinegar.

Happy 2020 eating everyone!!!

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