Vegetables Every Day

Vegetables Every Day
Carrot Tarator with Beets

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American

First, I have to say that The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite is the most highly hyped book I have read in a long time.  I heard about it on some blogs and twitter, bought it, and since then have heard the author at least three times on NPR (considering how little I drive, that seems impossible… maybe NPR has some stock in the publisher).

The book gives a credible story about the explosion of obesity it the US.  Basically, the problem is a combination of 4 things:

1. The food companies have optimized the sugar-salt-fat ratios in food to have the most appeal to our basic instincts (using sophisticated design of experiments and chemicals… seems I could have made better use of my ChemE degree than semiconductors.)

2. The above mentioned foods are cheap and easily available, heavily advertised, and easy to eat.
3. It is acceptable by society to eat anywhere, anytime – no need to stick to strict breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal times

4. The above factors have resulted in conditioned overeating, where the body is no longer able to give the brain credible input as to whether its hungry or full, rather, eating is triggered by the same biological factors as smoking, drug addiction, or alcoholism.

The author (a former head of the FDA) takes it a step further to recommend how to fix the problem of cue induced automatic eating. 

1. Understand that we are being manipulated by Big Food.
2. Become conscious of the cues that lead to over eating and avoid situations that lead to overeating.
3. Exercise – mostly as a substitute award, not just for calorie burning.
4. Develop a structured eating plan: have rules about when, what and how much to eat. Avoid highly processed food.

The content of the book is good – there are a lot of interesting studies cited.  It provides some understanding why the simple solution – eat less and exercise more – is so profanely difficult for some people.  Unfortunately, the book itself is not a great read. The writing style is choppy and redundant.
Basically – food is new cigarette, and the solutions aren’t much different – except that you have to eat.  I think it also gives some insight on how difficult a problem this will be. There probably cannot be enough hype.

Saturday, May 16, 2009


I didn’t tell a lot of people, but one of the things I got for Christmas was a composter (you get really strange looks).  But I finally have a finished batch of compost, which I mixed into my herb garden last week, including around my new basil plants.

I got a barrel composter, a relatively neat (as in tidy) solution for our yard.  I have been putting all of the kitchen vegetable scraps (including a lot of citrus rind) plus paper towels and coffee grounds in it, along with some trimmings from the herb garden since January.  I have a plastic square container (which I think was originally intended for washing dishes) that I fill up ~ 3 times a week and dump in (then rotate to mix, it’s on a little stand that makes this easy to do).  I quit putting anything new in before we went to Hawaii to let it finish.  I have to say, nature is pretty amazing.   There has been a succession of bugs, starting with fungus gnats, then a type of small fly and assorted beetles, and ending with a whole bunch of worms – including a whole bunch of baby worms that appeared the day before I unloaded it.  All of this is good according to my friend the retired etymology professor.  The only time it got nasty was at the end –  it was too wet, so I had the lid off to let it dry out, which the only time it was a bit stinky and attracted house flies.   It mixed into the garden dirt just fine (it would just kind of disappear as you mixed).   Also amazing is volume reduction – when I was done, the amount of compost would have fit into the container that I dumped probably 50 times into the barrel.

This should result in some good basil this year (and if you are having Pesto Pizza at the house, remember, you don’t want to know how the sausage was made either).  Meanwhile, I am hoping the worms are happy in the garden, and I have started another batch.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Spring... really

Yes, it is still technically spring, no matter how many days in a row it’s been over 100F.

I can hardly believe that I have not yet posted one of my long time favorite recipes, Shrimp and Asparagus.  There is still some good California asparagus in the markets, use that if you can.  The asparagus from Mexico is usually OK, and skip it if you can only get asparagus from Peru.  During the fall and winter months, you can substitute sugar or snap peas.  And as long as I am being a snob on food sources, I would also like to suggest skipping any non – American (or Canadian) shrimp.  There are lots of problems with farm raised shrimp from Asia (both environmental and health issues), as well as environmental issues with non-North American wild shrimp.  Unfortunately, the only place I have been able to buy US-sourced shrimp is Whole Foods.  Buy frozen raw shrimp (medium to large size) in the shell.  Thaw in a colander by running some water over them (on and off, takes about 15 minutes).  Or, if you are the type to plan ahead, you can thaw in the refrigerator.

Back to the goodness of this dish…. It’s great to serve for company – a very nice looking dish, and except for the 5 minutes it takes to cook, you can do all the prep work ahead of time.  I generally serve with rice. 

Sesame Shrimp and Asparagus

4 - 6 servings
Time: 20 minutes

1 1/2 pounds asparagus
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
1/4 cup oil
2 small onions, sliced
1 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled and cleaned
4 teaspoons soy sauce

Trim asparagus and cut into 2-inch pieces.  Set aside.  In large skillet, toast sesame seeds over medium heat until golden, stirring and shake occasionally.  Remove seeds and set aside.  Add oil to skillet.  Over medium heat, stir-fry asparagus, onions, and shrimp until shrimp turn pink and vegetables are tender-crisp, about 5 minutes.  Stir in seeds and soy sauce. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Hawaii Trip

View from house at Puekea Ranch
We are back from the Big Island (Hawaii), were we had a fabulous time eating, snorkeling, hiking, and reading.  We rented a house in Hawi, a bit off the beaten path – not everywhere can you go to the annual “Trash Bash” to celebrate Earth Day. We will certainly consider the rental path on any future trips, especially where you have such an abundance of good markets with local food. Our house was really nice; it is part of an old property called Puakea Ranch (which was part of the Parker Ranch for a while). There are 3 rental houses plus the ranch manager’s home.  Emily the cow wonders around and provided almost daily entertainment. 

Bounty from orgainic farm visits
I posted a long review on Chowhound about our food adventures, including having Ashley Lueders with Safari Chefs set up 2 tours at organic farms in Hawi, then come to our house and do a cooking lesson us (what a treat!).

Snorkeling was quite fantastic; we ended up going out 3 times Kohala Divers.  The first time in, a pod of dolphins swam up just as got into the water.  There were lots of fish (including big schools of reef fish), and one little turtle.  The next time, we saw lots of turtles (at a spot called the turtle cleaning station, where turtles come and fish eat the algae off their shells), plus Moray eels (2 kinds – zebra stripe and the normal one) on both stops! 

Zebra strip morray eel
We also saw a big reef shark – we were following a turtle, kind of heading back to the boat, and about 30 feet down was a 5 foot reef shark.  The divers were just coming back, so we had a good reference on size.  On our 3rd trip (our last day there), we *only*  saw turtles, plus lots of fish, and some cool coral.  When we win the lottery, I want to move to Puako Bay, near where the turtle cleaning station is, so I could snorkel and sea kayak from my house.   Meanwhile, I will just try to recommend Kohala Divers , everyone on the staff was really nice, understood the local spots, and took care of you (including double counting to make sure everyone was back on the boat).

Beach at end of Pololu Valley
Our first hike was Pololu Valley. The trail head is at the end of the road (same one that Hawi is on), where we hiked down to a beach.

Beach at Waipio Valley, view from trailhead

We also hiked Waipio Valley (1000 feet up/down in a mile) which is where the road picks up at the other end.  Call us wimps, but we did not hike between them (our neighbor, who runs 10 hour Ironmans and used to live on the big island, said “it’s a tough hike”).  We also did the nature loop Kalopa State Park, a rain forest they are trying to return to native plants, plus a couple of other historic parks on the coast.

Ferns, moss, and other in the rain forest

Reading: its been a lot time since I have read so many books in a couple of weeks. But in addition to the long (but no stops!) flight, we had a few rainy days. Reads included The Lovely Bones, Asta in the Wings (this month’s book club book), and Daemon. Plus I am most of the way through another LONG book.  I’ll try to do some book blogs soon!

We "twittered" throughout the vacation, you can see more of a day-by-day view from both Roy and me (Firecooked).  I even posted a youtube (for the first time) of the cow trying to get into the hammock.
Too quickly I’m back in the normal routine (well, I quit working at 4:45 for a glass of wine and macadamia nuts!), but I do appreciate how nice it is where we live (and glad the cool weather is holding for a bit).  But its surprising how bright the light is here with 1-digit humidity!   Check out more pictures here    Aloha!