Monday, February 21, 2011

What about all of those Food Terms? And - A Great Recipe for Meatless Mondays

First of all, I apologize for the gap in postings, but we have a new member of our family - a 10 week old Dachshund named "Harold".  Harold has been the focus of almost all of our energies for the past two weeks.  He is getting into a schedule now and he is a joy - more about the wonder our furry friends bring to our lives at another time - anyhow, life is slowly getting back into a somewhat more predictable reality.

During late night/early morning walks and playtime with Harold, I have been doing a lot of Food Reading.  It seems that over the past couple of months, every major publication has felt the need to run some articles, and often publish cover stories, about topics that those of us who consider ourselves Foodies care deeply about.  These issues have run the gamut of favorite Foodie topics including,   Sustainability/Seasonal; Vegan/Flexitarian; Organic; Free Range; Humanely Raised; Urban Farming/Victory Gardens (redux);  Government Subsidized "Food"; and my recent favorite:  "Emotionally Sterile" Food (that which has been totally factory manufactured thus, untouched by human hands).

It's scary to see so much out there in everything from Newsweek to the New York Times to CNN - scary to me because, in my opinion, when the mainstream media gets its talons into something, and edits it for what they believe to be the American attention span,  it gets dummied down so much that meaning - and potential usefulness - are lost.  A prime example of this is the word "Organic".  Now, when a farmer I meet tells me that his tomatoes are organic and explains to me what he had to do to maintain his products without spraying chemicals all over them, I tend to believe that he is selling me "Organic" tomatoes.  I have also learned enough over recent years to know how real, not chemically soaked tomatoes, should look. However, when Wal-Mart says it's now selling "Organic" produce - and I go check it out, and the cucumbers are waxed within an inch of their lives, and nothing looks organically raised,  I am dubious.

Whole Foods has recently announced that they will "color code" their meat and chicken products based on how the animal was raised.  Huh? Right - and that will be an accurate reading of Free Range vs. Tortured now, won't it?  Be suspect of this use of language, not practices; advertising not substance, designed to dupe us into thinking we are shopping and eating better.

Another recent example of "Big Stories" in the media was the run of pieces demonizing - again - Salt!  "Salt is bad".  "Recent reports indicate that Americans are eating too much salt".  "Eliminate salt from your diet".  OH COME ON!!!!  The problem is that Americans have guzzled the Kool Aid and literally exist on processed, factory produced food and fast food at nearly every meal!! That stuff is loaded with Salt!  Is that news?That's what the fast food chains use to get people hooked - salt.  So, does this mean that Salt is the enemy?  Does it actually mean that Salt is "bad for you"?   Or . . . , hang in there now, does it actually mean that Americans eat way too much processed and fast food and it's killing them?!?  So far, I can say that in all of the junk writing I pored through when the "Salt Scare" became a big story, I saw nothing by way of discussion of this very obvious fact.  Protecting advertisers, I can only assume.

I don't think of myself as seeing a conspiracy around every corner, but I am so aware - even in folks close to me - confusion and misunderstanding around these all important issues.  When that continues to happen, most of us have a tendency to throw our hands up in the air and give up.  Somehow, I am wondering if that's the goal of all of this mis - use of terms and mis - information. 

Continue to ask - ask for more than the surface information, ask for sources and practices.  Demand to know more.  And be suspect of any "all of nothing" fix touted in the media.  And without a doubt, stay away from processed, factory produced and fast food as the mainstay of your diet.  Yes, we are all time challenged; learn how to use some of your precious time being selective about what you eat!

And the good news is that soon we'll be planting and tending and anxiously waiting for our own urban produce to provide us with some really healthy eating!  I can't get enough of the seed catalogs and so far I have done a ton of garden layout grids - very sustaining in this cold weather!

If you are observing "Meatless Mondays" - and I hope you are for so many reasons - here's a real winner of a dish.  I LOVE Meatloaf.  I love it at the first meal, I love sandwiches from it, I just love it.  This recipe satisfies even my meatloaf loving soul!  Enjoy!

Lentil Cheese Loaf

3/4 chopped onion
3/4 chopped celery
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
3 cups well drained, cooked lentils (Brown lentils contribute to that "meatloaf look")
8 oz coarsely shredded sharp cheddar cheese (this is not the time for the microplane/rasp; use a box grater)
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (avoid breadcrumbs in cardboard boxes!  Make your own and it is not necessary to use stale bread - stale bread makes stale bread crumbs)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon Worchestershire Sauce
3/4 teaspoon crumbled dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
Dash of Hot Pepper Sauce
Bottled Chili Sauce for Serving

Cook onion and celery in the vegetable oil in a heavy sauce pan - medium heat - about 4 - 5 minutes
Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute longer
Mix remaining ingredients -  except for Chili Sauce - until well blended

Add onion mixture and mix well

Pack into a well buttered 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch glass loaf pan

Bake in a preheated 325 oven for 50 minutes or until the loaf is firm to the touch.

Cool - in the pan - for about 10 minutes
Run the tip of a knife around the edges of the loaf and unmold onto a serving dish

Cut in slices and serve with chili sauce

You can serve this with the fixin's you would use with "meat" meat loaf; it is delicious!  Enjoy!