wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)
My dad sent me a picture of a Sweet-N-Low package and I thought he was sending multiple warnings and "doom and gloom" statements, as he normally does; alas, when I first responded to his note, it was as though he was promoting falsified sensationlism. Glad to say that wasn't the case.

Since saccharin was commercialized in the late 1800s (that's 135 years ago -->
saccharin was first discovered in 1878), no one human has ever died from using saccharin. The lab rat/mice tests in the 70s that created the sensationalized cancer scare were from the development of rodent bladder cancer due, a reaction that only occurs in rodents and not in humans. So, in 2000, the warnings were removed.
However, Nutrasweet or Equal in the blue packets (aspartame) is most absolutely a neuro-toxin; it was originally discovered while scientists were inventing a new anti-ulcer drug and has been the subject of many scientific and nutritional studies. There are distinct warnings on the package because people with phenylketonuria (PKU) - it can kill you.  If such a small thing can definitely kill people, I choose not to ingest it as much as possible. Thing is, that crap is everywhere.
Now, Splenda (sucralose) has been around for at least 20 years, but hasn't gone through nearly as many ringers as saccharin or aspartame, yet.  Sucralose is basically bleached sugar; the process of making sucralose removes the nutritive values of sugar and leaves the sweetness.
Erythritol, Lactitol, Isomalt, Mannitol, Maltitol, Sorbitol, and Xylitol are all different non-nutritive sweeteners that have been used in no-sugar, diabetic sweets for years. Collectively, they've been used in products for diabetics for probably 30+ years.
Stevia was deemed only an herbal supplement for years because the non-nutritive sweetener industries lobbied against its promotion as a low-calorie sweetener. Thankfully, those lobbies have finally lost and it's on the market in better forms.
So, if you don't want to use saccharin, please just don't use aspartame. There are LOTS and LOTS of other, better choices. Read up, educate yourself, and don't believe hype.
wwcitizen: (Biting Into Food)
Cheese is one of the worst things to have around for me when beginning a weight loss program. This fact came to mind this morning because next week starts our countdown to a summer-fit figure. Actually, it's really high time to halt all our (awesome and delicious) debauchery anyway.  Of course, around the holidays, everyone's going to have sweet and savory treats. Then there's the food: the dinners, the brunches, the parties with finger foods, the gifts of food plates and baskets. One of the staples during the holidays is cheese, which must go on holiday from my belly. 

Cheese and I have a special relationship. I absolutely love all of it. Actually, the stinkier a cheese is, the better it is for me. Plus, cheeses go well with wine! How many countless bottles of Zinfandel, Chianti, or Shiraz have passed these lips with delicious Morbier, Gorgonzola, or Stilton?

When Matthew and I put together a grocery list and we go shopping for dinner party preparations, he must think I'm insane when the (obviously) magnetized cheese displays just pull me in. Noteworthy is the fact that the word, "cheese" rarely, if ever, appears on our grocery lists. Anywhere. Matthew's reaction to my glazed over eyes is so sweet: "Yes, we forgot to include cheese, dear. My mistake." And then I go about my cheese hunt.

I want cheese on everything when I'm not on a diet.  However, I find that cheese and seafood don't really work well together. Perhaps as with a cold antipasti and with cubes of Provolone, Caciocavallo, Mozarella, or Parmesan, but not as a gooey, melted topping for a seafood dish. Gruyère might be possible, say with shrimp, but doesn't it all become too rich?  In the end, who cares??  It's just more cheese after all, right?  YAY!  Cheese!

Next week, I'll have to start steering clear of Manhattan cheese boutiques (e.g. Murray's Cheese) and the cheese counters in nearby grocery stores. I heard that one of specialty grocery stores we went to over the holidays about 20 minutes from here will become a Wegmans. When I heard that, my heart skipped a beat and my soul soared thinking, "Awesome cheese!" 

Wegman's was the grocery store that helped me return to America culturally when I moved to NJ from Austria over 15 years ago.  The store felt like a European home where I could get good breads, cold cuts, and, above all, excellent cheese.  Their cheese displays are the most mesmerizing and beautiful. Happily for now, there's Whole Foods down the hill from us, German and Italian markets around the corner from our place, and other local stores that carry a nice array of cheese.

I'm going to miss cheese next week, starting Jan. 2. *sniff*
wwcitizen: (Uuuuuuh)

Matthew did a fantastic job again this year with the Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.  It's an Italian, Catholic, Christmas Eve tradition. I'm not Catholic. I'm not Italian. But I LOVE this tradition!!  Matthew is holding to most of his mother's recipes and has added a couple of things (or tried out a couple of new things) for a bit of a flare to keep the interest in the affair going. There's nothing difficult about picking out fish - truly. We all love seafood.  But, to prepare them in such a way that there are different dishes with at least 7 different fishes, that's the ultimate challenge.

For example, we made an octopus salad with roasted potatoes and onions. Matthew slow-cooked the octopus overnight in red wine vinegar and white wine with spices, pulled off the suckers, and marinated the octopus meat for 2-3 days. Then I roasted the potatoes and pearl onions and mixed in the octopus, which warmed up the octopus and olive oil marinade. YUM!!

Then we made the standard (and VERY scrumptious) seafood salad with squid (calamari), shrimp, cuttlefish, scallops, and baby octopus. Matthew made a lemon/olive oil marinade for the mixture and they sat in the fridge for about 2 days. I chopped up red, yellow, and orange peppers, celery, two garlic cloves, and parsley and mixed it all together on Christmas Eve. DELICIOUS!! And so fresh.

Matthew worked extra hard on battering and sauteeing soft shell crabs. I never liked soft shell crabs that much until I met Matthew. Also, his prep is by far the tastiest I've ever had. I could not stop eating these this year - and we were able to glean about 10 for leftovers.  He also made stuffed calamari, which might fall off the list next year.  Also, he did the shrimp with lemon and basil and I learned how to chiffonade basil for the preparation!

That's 6 fishes so far (yes, arthropods (crustacea), mollusks, and cephalopods are included as fish since squid, octopus, mussels, and shrimp are all from the sea). Then, we got lobsters steamed and removed the meat from the shell for a "raw bar", which included mussels, lump crab meat, and snow crab claws. He also added a beurre blanc sauce and a minuet, of course, for dipping.  On Christmas day, Matthew's brother-in-law steamed clams (littlenecks). YUM!! 

As for actual fish, Matthew prepped smelts, which I always love. Smelts are similar to sardines. Matthew rolls them in a flour/salt & pepper covering mixture, I sprayed them with olive oil, and then we baked them.  Once they're out, they get tossed in a lemon/olive oil sauce to bring out the flavor of the fish. On Christmas Eve, Matthew grilled Chilean sea bass steaks, which he had carefully tied into round filet "mignons" of fish. Typically, there's a Baccala salad (salt cod), which is a smelly, disgusting, but ultimately tasty (albeit kinda dry) dish, but this year, the Baccala didn't happen - no one likes it that much and the prep is such a PITA, that it's just not worth making.

Matthew really wanted to make quenelles escoffier (Jacques Pépin) - a French fish preparation of one or two fishes blended into a mouse, poached, and baked with a white cream sauce. We made a haddock-based "test run" for ourselves about 6 days early, which turned out wonderful. THAT dish would have been an amazing addition to the array of fishes dishes, but the blend we made with turbot and cod for the Christmas Eve feast bombed for some reason - maybe because the fishes weren't as fresh as the haddock we had used earlier.  :-( 

Of course, he made broccoli rabe and green beans for veg, and with leftover stuffing from the stuffed calamari, he stuffed some PEI green shell mussels.  For dessert, everyone whipped out chocolates, store-bought cream puffs and sfogliatelles, but the biggest hit were Matthew's cookies, which he finished baking about 2 weeks before Christmas.  He made two kinds of biscottis, rainbow cookies, and pignoli nut cookies. Those are the basic standards and about all he could muster with all the other stuff going on throughout the holiday season.

Everyone truly enjoyed all the preparations and were fully amazed - again - at Matthew's cooking and gourmet cheffing of the Feast.  Enjoy the pictures!!

wwcitizen: (Dancing Steve)
This past Sunday, Matthew and I went out shopping for our diet provisions. Our tour always takes us to Costco (bulk items), ShopRite (a local grocery store - diet drinks), and HMart, a Korean market (fish, greens, and unusual stuff). Yesterday, I posted a receipt from HMart of "ottopus" for $18 a package, which ultimately is pretty inexpensive for, eh-hem, octopus.

Every time we go to HMart, we brace ourselves for the music. If we're both tired, we think twice about going in there for extended shopping because it's like going to a dance club. A dance club where no one dances. A dance club where you want to shake your groove thang. A dance club where you wanna lip-synch, but don't know the words to lip-synch. Why?? BECAUSE IT'S IN KOREAN!! Sometimes, the music is so FREAKIN loud and psychotic, if we're not together, we'll call each other (or I call my sister) and hold the phone over the oranges so we can hear the music. We don't say hi or even talk, really... just wait for the other to say, "Oh, at HMart, eh?"

This shopping day, we were both in really great spirits and went into HMart. The place was virtually empty for a Sunday and oddly there weren't many Koreans around. I literally danced around the corner into the "greens and veggies" section to get Yu Choy Sum and Gai Lan raising my hand up in the air and twirled a little, jiving to the anthem dance music. This song was in Engrish and I was so excited!! I got bagged dancing by a blond, Nordic woman at the bok choi. She had a BIG smile on her face as she watched me pass the spring onions and cauliflower. I stopped for a minute, but then started cutting a rug off and on while picking out radishes and Swiss chard.

By the time we had gotten to the fish and I started selecting our Kim Chee for the evening, the music was getting really good. I could feel the build-up of a Beyonce song edging closer to the hook, and then the song took off. It was all I could do to stay still.

A tall, thin Italian guy with a wool beanie walked by grinning from ear to ear and said, "It's good, right?"

I said, "Dude, I can't keep still!"

Matthew came over to me and said that other folks were watching me from behind, laughing, and starting to groove a little, too. How fun!!

I've heard that Leos have a tendency to make others dance. I guess that's true. Even in a Korean market that should seriously invest in a disco ball.
wwcitizen: (Open Wide-r)
Tonight we stopped off at the grocery store for apples. Even after a quite fun sushi dinner with Matt's family, we were kind of peckish for some reason. Maybe it was the IKEA shopping spree or the jaunt to Barnes & Noble that threw us back into hunger mode. Never go to the grocery store hungry.

We bought hummus, lettuce, celery, carrot slices, golden delicious apples, two beefsteak tomatoes, and four grapples. Grapples? Grapples, you say? WTF are GRAPPLES?

Grapples are grape-flavored apples. We didn't look at the package before we purchased them. Matt was taking them out of the package after we were well done with Tivo'd American Idol and The Real Housewives of NJ (yea, I know - bring it betches) and said, "Oh, no. Honey?! Um, look!" and showed me the package.

I said, "We have to try one! Right now!" Then I smelled them. They smell like the grape-scented whiteboard pens or grape Jolly Ranchers - the scent that no natural grape has ever coughed up. When Matt cut the one in half, the smell was even stronger, but the taste was oddly just apple. Or our minds were making us taste apple because of the standard crunch of the pulp and wouldn't compute "grape" out of the process - ever.

They're a novelty item and not long for this world. The packaging states, "Ingredients: Apples, natural and artificial grape flavor." So, at least there's no added sugar or corn syrup, but still.

wwcitizen: (Sexy Strawberry)
The exciting part of this article is that we eat strawberries almost every day!
Strawberries may save your life, and your blender will help you get 'em this winter.
The tasty news: Eat more strawberries, and you'll protect yourself from heart disease.
It's true. A new study finds that those little red finger-stainers may help lower blood vessel inflammation more than other fruits and veggies. And participants who reported consuming more scarlet berries enjoyed more of the benefit.
The bad news? Strawberries aren't in season.
Not to worry: Winter means frozen berries, and frozen berries mean smoothies, one of our favorite ways to get loads of nutrients from an 8-ounce glass — they're you're best bet for packing protein, multiple servings of fruit, yogurt, and whatever else you toss in for a relatively small caloric tally. (Oh, and we get to turn stuff into goo, too.) And with our brand-new Smoothie Selector tool, we've put all our favorite blendables in one place.
Just pick the time of day you want to puree — breakfast, pre-workout, or post-workout — and the selector spits our more recipes than your Oster will be able to handle. There are even dessert options to boost your memory and help your heart while you cure your sweet tooth.
Speaking of dessert, if you decide to get your heart-saving strawberries mixed into something from Baskin-Robbins, check out our Eat This, Not That tool to make ice cream choices that won't turn your gut into a ticking time bomb of its own.


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Stephen Lambeth

May 2017

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