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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Value Meal?

In 6th grade, at Lanier Middle school, (go Purple Pups) I took Home Economics. I don't remember the decision making that planted me firmly in that class for an entire semester, and at this point, it probably doesn't matter. What resounds and sustains is this. I know how to make chicken nuggets, french fries and icecream. One day in that same year, I made this meal with my family. Dad, Mom, Big Bro and myself in the kitchen, breading, cutting 'taters and cranking an ancient machine provided by my grandma. Our nuggets and fries didn't drown in oil, our icecream lacked preservatives and artificial dyes and there was no soda. We drank water.
Do chicken nuggets really cost 4.99 for 10?!!! No. The entire meal set us back...less than $10
for a family of four.

Daily, I hear about how expensive it is to eat "healthy". Lies...pure, uncut and simple. Eating healthy cost the "quality time" that we like to say we allocate to our children, family and friends. My early caveat: If you find yourself in an occupation that does not allow a single day're in the wrong profession. Having said that, let's really examine the cost (financial, emotional, physical) that "fast food" demands.

The True Cost Of Value Meals...
Financially...This is some pretty simple math. Ground beef (if you're into that kind of thing), potatoes, oil, a sprig of lettuce, tomato and pickles.
Emotionally...The value of making a meal as a family. Priceless
Physical health...You do realize this is stuff has a playdoh like ingredients and is constructed to last through several nuclear explosions, right?!!! (I'm exaggerating...but only a bit.) To be cost effective, fast food has to have an extended shelf life. Natural foods decompose, whereas preservatives infused "fast foods" withstand long periods of exposure without much change to their consistency and nutritional value.
Is eating healthy really that much more expensive? isn't.
And that's just the carnivore breakdown. Vegetarians and raw diets can be less expensive financially. But these things require a time investment that our culture doesn't support. Consider this: working a 10 hour day negates the ability/opportunity to buy and utilize fresh fruits and vegetables, but it can be done with proper planning. A quick trip to your local farmer's market and breakfast, lunch and dinner can become a tool of refueling the body, not just another busy, rushed part of your already overwhelming day.
As always, I'm not content to just point out the problem.  I offer solutions...(I'm so considerate!).  Below, are some recipes to whet your appetite (and challenge you to invest in your physical and financial health through food).
Bon Apetit!

Stone Sushi
1/4 bell pepper (not green), julienned
1/2 teaspoon fresh jalepeno, julienned
1/2 avocado cut into thin strips/wedges
a few sprigs cilantro
3 marinated sun-dried tomatoes cut into strips
1 sheet nori (dried seaweed)
a bit of pickled ginger cut into small strips
2 tablespoons nama shoyu (cold processed organic soy sauce)
rice vinegar (optional)

CUT the nori with scissors into 1" wide strips and then cut them in half so you have a bunch of 1"x4" strips. Keep them dry until you're ready to use them.
Place one (shiny side down) on a dry surface and place a piece of bell pepper across it near the bottom so it forms an upside-down crucifix then pile on the avocado, sun-dried tomato, pickled ginger, or what-have-you in the same fashion. Stick a SMALL chunk of jalepeno in there somewhere. Place a small sprig of cilantro (this is VERY important) so that it may stick out once it's rolled up. Now just tightly roll it up away from you and seal it with a nama shoyu moistened finger and place on a platter seam down. After you use up all the nori, you might have some scraps left over which you can make into a good little side salad sprinkled with rice vinegar. Pour the nama shoyu into a small, shallow cup or bowl and you're all set.
*Substitute slices of plum, apple, dill, or bear as you see fit.*

Raw Spaghetti
2 medium green zuccini, as thick (fat) and straight as possible.
“Spiralize” or shredded zucchini
Arrange on plate similar to pasta.
Pasta Sauce
10-12 “sundried” tomatoes, allow to soak for several minutes in warm water to soften.
1 large fresh tomato
1 large red pepper
1-2 stalks of celery
1 clove garlic
(4-5 fresh basil leaves)
Blend all of the sauce ingredients in a blender or Food Processor. Add the soaked sundried tomatoes last, a few at a time.
Pour nicely over the zucchini “pasta”. Some fresh curly parsley sprinkled over the top adds a nice touch!

Carrot Fruit Cake
1 cup dried figs, soaked
1 cup raisins, soaked
1/2 cup pitted dates
4 cups shredded carrots
3 cups soaked nuts (almonds, walnut, or cashews)
1/2 teaspoon each: ginger, cloves, cardamom

1/2 cup dates
1/2 cup cashews
1/2 cup soaking water

Soak figs, raisins and dates in 3 1/2 cups of water for one hour, reserving liquid. Soak nuts in 5 cups of water for 8-12 hours.
Drain, rinse and drain nuts again. Place nut in food processor and chop finely, place in large bowl. Add figs, raisins, dates and spices to processor and process until smooth. Pour mixture into bowl with the nuts. Mix well.
Add carrots mix thoroughly. Form mixture into desired shape.
Process dates, cashews and soaking water until smooth. Spread on top of the cake.

Many thanks to the following websites, my kitchen and my official food taster ;^)

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