Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Feast Ideas from Around the World

By Lisa Cericola 
Every culture has traditional foods believed to bring good fortune in the New Year. From Hopping' John to soba noodles, these luck-bringing dishes can be served buffet-style to help celebrate the New Year with friends and family. Start a new tradition for your own household with our own suggestions of lucky foods.
Pass the pig
Pork is served at New Year's celebrations all over the world. Some cultures believe pigs symbolize prosperity and abundance because of their plump bodies and high fat content, while others say pigs symbolize progress because they push themselves forward as they root around in the dirt for food. Traditional dishes include roast suckling pig (Ireland, Cuba, Austria), roast pork and sausages with cabbage (Germany), ham and collard greens (United States), and pig's feet (Sweden). Roasting a one-pound tenderloin at 400 degrees or higher takes only about 20 minutes. Because the flavor of the meat is so neutral, you can use any type of rub or marinade.
Slurp on soba 

Buckwheat soba noodles are served at New Year's festivities in Japan to ensure a long life. The amazingly long noodles are meant to symbolize long life, but only if you slurp them up without breaking the noodles! The Japanese also eat shrimp for longevity, saying that the curve of the shrimp resembles the hunched back of an elderly person.

Bring on the beans 

Like most round foods, beans symbolize money and prosperity in many cultures. But the type of legume traditionally consumed for the New Year depends on where you live. Italians eat pork sausages and green lentils, Brazilians serve lentils and rice, and the Japanese eat sweet black beans called kuro-mame. Black-eyed peas are a traditional part of New Year's meals in the southern United States. The legumes are a key ingredient in many dishes, including Hopping' John, a New Year's staple in the South. Another Southern favorite is Texas Caviar, a salsa like dip of black-eyed peas, minced tomatoes, green peppers, cilantro, and jalapenos.

Feast on fruit

 In Mexico and many South American countries, instead of doing a champagne toast, New Year's Eve revelers eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight, one for each month in the coming year. If a grape is sweet, it will be a good month, and if it's sour, well, you get the idea. Just remember to chew well, or make sure someone around you knows the Heimlich maneuver.
Citrus is a positive symbol for the Chinese New Year, observed on the first day of the first lunar month. Tangerines represent good luck, and oranges represent wealth. In Turkey, pomegranates symbolize good luck because of their red color and round seeds, which represent money and prosperity. For an easy centerpiece that symbolizes bounty in the coming year, place bowls of citrus and pomegranates around your party area, or create a runner of them down the center of your dinner table.
And what not to eat- Steering clear of "unlucky" foods is just as important as serving the good stuff. You wouldn’t want to ruin someone's entire year by serving them something as unlucky as chicken, would you? According to many cultures, eating anything with wings is a no-no for New Year's because it could fly away, taking all your luck. Chicken is especially bad because the bird scratches backwards (unlike the forward-thinking pig), possibly leading to setbacks. Backwards-swimming lobsters are also a bad omen for the same reason. The color white is a symbol of death in the Chinese culture, so avoid eggs, tofu, or white cheese. And above all, don't clean your plate too thoroughly — many cultures believe that leaving a little leftover food on your plate will usher in a year of plenty.

From Angelique & Joyce Perrin - What ever it is you decide to do/make for the new year, keep it Safe and Healthy!

  Happy New Year!

Monday, December 27, 2010

7 Foods That Should Never Cross Your Lips

Is your food loaded with toxins and chemicals? Here, simple swaps to protect yourself

original article
By Anne Underwood from


Which foods should you avoid?

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.

1. Canned Tomatoes

Fredrick Vom Saal, PhD, an endocrinologist at the University of Missouri who studies bisphenol-A, gives us the scoop:

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.

2. Corn-Fed Beef

Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farms and author of half a dozen books on sustainable farming, gives us the scoop:

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,

3. Microwave Popcorn

Olga Naidenko, PhD, a senior scientist for the Environmental Working Group, gives us the scoop:

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 popcornwill 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.

4. Nonorganic Potatoes

Jeffrey Moyer, chair of the National Organic Standards Board, gives us the scoop:

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.

5. Farmed Salmon

David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University at Albany and publisher of a major study in the journalScience on contamination in fish, gives us the scoop:

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.

6. Milk Produced with Artificial Hormones

Rick North, 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, gives us the scoop:

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% 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. 

7. Conventional Apples

Mark Kastel, former executive for agribusiness and codirector of the Cornucopia Institute, a farm-policy research group that supports organic foods, gives us the scoop:

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." 

Saturday, December 25, 2010

A New Rub for the New Year


This Week's Recipe's
No matter what meat you prepare this holiday, the ultimate seasonings for meat, poultry or fish are Rubs!

Let's face it, if you don't know how to season your food than you're not a very good cook.  We all know there's more to seasoning than salt and pepper.  Once you master rubs, you will take your food to a brand new level. So now Ma, break down the rub for us.

A rub is a mixture of herbs and spices both fresh and dry.  The most common rubs used are dry rubs.  The process of rubbing seasoning into the meat actually releases the flavors of the rub.  Lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, curry powder or any type of seasoning blend can be used as a rub.  Fresh herbs like, parsley, oregano, sage, thyme, etc. can be chopped and combined with a little oil and dried spices then rubbed over poultry, lamb, fish or beef.

So what you are saying is that we can take basic spices like salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder or any other combination we can conjure up and make a rub.

That is correct.  I like my rubs a little coarser than that but it will work either way.  Rubbed meats should sit in the refrigerator a few hours or over night to allow the flavors to intensify but if you don't have the time, you can begin cooking as soon as you apply the rub.

Now I can already hear certain people saying, "why I gotta make it when I can just buy McCormick's Lemon Pepper  blend."  I'll tell you why cause high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes are a real problem in this community.  Those pre-made seasoning blends are loaded with salt, sugar, preservatives and stuff you can't even pronounce.

Start out with the seasonings you already have in the house and once they are gone, go to a specialty market or the internet to start purchasing your seasonings.

You know we black folk love our Lawry's seasoning salt, but I would like to stress how important it is for us to eliminate as much salt as possible from our diet.  I hope that everyone is aware that the first ingredient in Lawry's is salt.  So mom, I am going to challenge you to create a salt free Lawry's rub for us in the upcoming year.

Sounds like a good challenge to me, I'll work on it as long as you'll be my guinea pig.

Now how could I not know that was coming?

Right now I am going to start out with  very basic rubs, hopefully it's seasonings that everyone already have in their cabinets.  Just make sure that the seasonings you use are fresh or no older than 6 months.

One thing I have to point out is many people may have garlic salt or onion salt in their cabinets.  Get rid of that stuff and get plain garlic powder and onion powder or the granulated versions.  I'm not saying don't put salt in your food, I'm asking you to be aware of how much salt you are putting in your food.  If you use garlic salt, Lawry's and then salt your food, you're just asking for high blood pressure.  These rubs will add flavor without the salt.

When choosing your seasons, they can be either whole, crushed, granulated, powder, flakes, ground, etc.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Stuffed Salmon

Stuffed Salmon
8 - 10 Servings
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
½ pound fresh spinach
2 ½ - 3 pound salmon fillet
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 teaspoons granulated garlic
1 – 2 teaspoons black pepper
½ pound roasted red peppers

Have the butcher cut a pocket the length of the salmon 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Heat olive oil in a sauté pan; add garlic and spinach and sauté just until spinach wilts.  
Immediately remove from heat and let it cool down as quickly as possible.    Combine salt, granulated garlic and black pepper in a small vessel then sprinkle it on the salmon inside the pocket and outside rubbing it in. 
Place salmon in a lined or oiled sheet pan, open the pocket and line the bottom half with the spinach then add a layer of the roasted peppers, close the salmon flap.  
Place the salmon in the preheated oven and roast 15 – 20 minutes depending upon how thick the fish is..
{Rule of thumb is to cook fish for 10 minutes per inch of thickness. i.e. If the thickest point is 1 1/2 inches, cook for 15 minutes}
If you want it browned, place it directly under the broiler 5 minutes prior to the elapse of the cooking period.   
Salmon will continue cooking anywhere from 8 - 10 minutes after it is removed from the heat, so let it sit undisturbed until cooking process is complete.

Salmon with Smoked Paprika

Salmon with Smoked Paprika
1 large orange, juiced
½ small lemon, juiced
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons thyme leaves, dried
1 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon granulated onion
2 ½ – 3 pound salmon fillet
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon orange rind grated
½ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 450 degrees

Add orange juice, lemon juice, oil, thyme, garlic and onion in a small bowl and mix thoroughly.  Place salmon filet in a large glass dish and pour on the marinade, making sure salmon is well coated with marinade, cover and refrigerate for 2 – 3 hours.

Mix paprika, cinnamon, ginger, oregano, grated orange rind and salt in a small bowl and sit aside.  Remove salmon from marinade and pat  with a paper towel to remove excess marinade.  Place filet on a lined or slightly oiled baking dish.  Coat the top of the salmon evenly with the smoked paprika mixture and bake in a preheated oven approximately 15 - 18 minutes.  Salmon will continue cooking anywhere from 8 - 10 minutes after it is removed from the heat, so let it sit undisturbed until cooking process is complete.

Note: The rule of thumb for cooking fish is that you cook it 10 minutes per inch of thickness.  So if the filet is 2 inches thick, you would cook it for 20 minutes.  Since the fillets are not the same thickness through out, deduct a few minutes of cooking time so that the thinner portion is not over cooked.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cajun Seasoning

 Cajun Seasoning
Approximately 3/4 Cup

2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon black pepper
3 tablespoons garlic, granulated
3 tablespoons onion, granulated
1 tablespoon oregano, dried

Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl.  Store in an airtight container up to six months.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Salmon the Other Red Meat


Mom you can't refer to salmon as the other red meat.  I know that you call any flesh meat but technically speaking, you know salmon is not considered a meat. 

Since it's our blog, I can call anything what I want to call it, but  you are correct, it's not a meat.  I just feel that since salmon is in such high demand, it could easily be considered as the other red meat.  Do you know that the salmon industry is  actually working diligently on getting genetically engineered species to the market?

Genetically engineered does that mean cloned?


You know mom a line has to be drawn somewhere.  It's bad enough that our bodies are being poluted with pesticides and that growth hormone crap now they're cloning our food?

Ange, they have been modifying our food supply for years, but that's a blog in itself, which we will discuss in detail after the holidays.   So in keeping with the spirit of the Holiday Season, for now let's just share these great salmon recipes.

Either of these recipes would be a great addition to the holiday meal.  Although the stuffed salmon is my favorite, both are tasty and colorful.  I found salmon to be a great replacement for that holiday ham or roast.

Speaking of holiday ham, try baking a salmon fillet with brown sugar, pineapples, cloves and cherries just as you  would do a ham.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe and love filled holiday season!

Angelique and Joyce Perrin