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Junk or Adjunct?

If you are allergic to milk products or have diabetes, if your bad cholesterol is high, or you have suffered-- or have a strong family history of-- coronary artery disease or heart attack, you can go away now.  This page probably isn't for you.

I scour the web for new ways to cook healthy food, receiving several newsletters (I did that even before starting The Sneaky Kitchen).  One objective is to share the best of it with you.  (I always give credit, even when I alter a recipe to make it healthier.)  Most of the recipes I receive or find are discarded as fast as possible.   Why?

I've always had a theory about a lot of famous chefs and restaurant menu planners: if you smother almost anything in enough cream, butter, sour cream or high-fat cheese, it will taste good.  Same for deep-fat fried stuff, liberally dusted with salt.   Also, in some circles, enough hot pepper or sauce (actually healthy additions) to disguise the taste.  Ditto for extremely fatty meats.    

Old shoes, deep fat fried, salted and smothered in cream would probably be edible!   But, take away butter, creams, fatty cheeses, salt, deep fat, meat fat and hot seasonings, and most of these experts couldn't cook at all!  

Are they at fault?  Not entirely.  They are in business to please their public, who, in general, is very, very happy with the average American diet.  In my recipe searches, the worst offenders are contributors to boards and newsletters.  Perhaps nine out of ten recipes have no redeeming value as far as nutrition is concerned.  When I see any recipe that calls for a cup of cream, 1/2 cup of butter, 2 cups of cheese, heavy on sugar or deep fried, with no veggies, fruits or fiber to speak of, it  gets quickly bypassed.  Judging by the recipes submitted, if job performances were given to family food managers in terms of nutrition, I'm convinced a large percentage would be rated as unsatisfactory.

One such recipe was offered the other day by a famous magazine's recipe division online.  One small pasta casserole--  with a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach and some endive-- looked good until I saw it called for 2 cups of full fat cheese and 1/3 cup of olive oil.  Not a disaster but hardly a healthy dish.   But even that pales in comparison with many recipes which consist of, for example, 1 stick of butter,  some ground meat, a little onion, a little of this and that (nothing remarkable), maybe some white pasta or rice, 2 cups of cheese, 1 cup of cream and a can of mushroom soup.  Really, people! 

One problem is that, apparently, too many Americans haven't yet learned the difference between satisfying simple hunger and satisfying the body's nutritional needs; otherwise we wouldn't have quick food outlets all over the place offering primarily junk.  You can, however, do both, taking pleasure in your edibles at the same time.   It's not the easiest road.  It means knowing the power foods and finding ways to stuff them into dishes your family will eat.  It means knowing the value to the body of items like cruciferous veggies, the use of herbs and spices, and importance of  whole grains and fiber and fruits, and the vital need to get sufficient calcium.    It means making meals a joyful experience while nourishing bodies for a better life.

Does this mean we have to forgo butter, cheese, fats, and so on?  Not at all!    Most veggie dishes are fine with a little olive oil;  some cry out for butter or cheese.  Use it sparingly.  Try 'lite' non-hydrogenated margarine for some dishes.  Try low-fat cheese, or a mixture of regular and fat free to taste.   Add herbs, spices, lemon or garlic so less fats and salt are required.

Make these items an adjunct to healthy foods.  There's a heck of a lot of difference between a tomato, eggplant and green pepper casserole with 2 or 3 tablespoons of olive oil, 1-1/2 cups of part-skim mozzarella cheese and some quality parmesan, and the same cheeses and oil with pasta, a few peas or some corn  and canned mushroom soup. 

A hearty white bean, turkey and vegetable soup, redolent with herbs and garlic, is a nutritional delight even with a dollop of sour cream, while blintzen with full-fat cottage cheese and egg yolks, fried in butter with the same dollop of sour cream is a nutritional disaster.  

A white-bread sandwich of bologna and processed cheese food  with full fat mayonnaise is hardly healthy, while a sandwich of white bread with reduced-fat mayonnaise, marinated onion, turkey slices, low-fat Swiss, tomato and romaine lettuce is bursting with stuff our bodies need.

The famous green-bean casserole, with fatty, salty mushroom soup and greasy canned fried onion rings can hardly compare with little onion, red bell pepper and sliced mushroom sautéed in a few tablespoons of olive oil and poured over crispy-tender beans.  

For most people a fat-free diet isn't a healthy choice anyway.  We need some fats, especially omega-3, found in oily fishes, flax, egg yolks and some other foods.   Although the popular Dr. Weil is against milk products for adults, he confirms in his latest writing that the fat-free diet isn't healthy for most people, and reaffirms the necessity of finding pleasure in our food. 

Personally, if the only way kids will eat their broccoli is drenched in cheese, or they'll scarf down salads only if covered in bleu cheese dressing, or only eat yams with butter and maple syrup, I'd go for it!  Meanwhile, keep checking out those healthy menus and dump the trash recipes and fast junk food.

The Sneaky Kitchen
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Web Site by Bess W. Metcalf   Copyright© April 1999 - 201
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