Thursday, October 15, 2015

Treating Vegetables Like Meat

Last Spring, chef April Bloomfield was all over the Williams Sonoma website. The site featured her recipe for something of a pea mash and told her backstory of a British upbringing (it was here that I learned of London's River Café and immediately subscribed to their YouTube channel). And I was surprised that for a chef renown for her work with meat (her first cookbook is entitled A Girl and Her Pig) Bloomfield seems just at home in the world of veggies. Indeed, her most recent cookbook is entitled A Girl And Her Greens. But like many successful people, this particular chef does not reinvent the wheel when switching between the taxonomic kingdoms of animalia and plantae. Indeed, I've read in The New York Times that Bloomfield essentially, "treats a vegetable as if it were meat," her first love. This notion got me thinking that while I love my veggies, I often miss out on the savory sauces and methodical methods employed in the creation of a meat dish. So along with a review of Bloomfield's recipe for "Whole Pot Roasted Cauliflower With Tomatoes and Anchovies", I've also listed some of my favorite veggies and the cuts of meat with which they compare (in my opinion). I've also addresses ways in which such veggies may be prepared when treated like meat. Enjoy!

The Breslin: one of Bloomfield's several restaurants in the United States.

Whole Pot Roasted Cauliflower with Tomatoes and Anchovies: As stated before, Bloomfield essentially, "treats a vegetable as if it were meat." In the above recipe, Bloomfield calls for the cook to brown both sides of a cauliflower head in a pan, much like one might brown a breast of chicken before roasting it in the oven. An just as one creates a sauce which incorporates meat drippings for added flavor, the recipe's next step calls for the cook to add garlic, diced tomatoes, white wine and chilies (among other things) to the pot to form a savory sauce that will later be used to braise the cauliflower as it roasts in the oven. All in all, this recipe reminds me of another one of my favorites from the New York Times: Daniel Boulud's Chicken Tagine. Like Boulud, Bloomfield uses a similar process of cooking of but no meat. C'est bien!

Vegetable Dijonnaise: For me, broth is a cornerstone of my cooking. I love basting things in it, reducing it for sauce and using it to make soups. And while cubes of chicken bullion are generally a (dietary) luxury I afford myself, I often try to make broth on my own. Partly, I love the challenge of making anything taste as good as bullion and partly, I like trying to sneak herbs into my dishes in ways other than an ancillary garnish. So I was intrigued when I read a menu at Bar Bouchée in Connecticut which featured mussels in a Dijon mustard broth. Could this be a broth that contained more flavor than parsley and onions boiled in water? Unfortunately, when I searched for the broth's recipe online, I only met with recipes for mussels containing some variation of a mustard sauce or broth. However, some vegetables, such as peppers, leeks or even cabbage can be treated more as seafood than meat, proper. With a similar delicacy that strays from high temperatures and/or harsh cooking methods, I though vegetables would work as a great substitution for mussels in Food52's Mussles Dijonnaise

The recipe (link here) starts simply enough by sauteing onions, garlic and shallots in butter (although, I substituted the butter for oil) and proceeds to have chefs add, "mussels, salt, pepper, bay leaf, thyme, white wine and cream," to the pot (the last of which I omitted). Following the recipe's simplicity, the chef is to let the ingredients simmer for several minutes, remove the mussels and let the sauce boil down further. Here, however, instead of using the recipe's requisite three quarts of mussels, I substituted three bell peppers (of any color) and two leeks but I'd imagine any combination of vegetables would be just as lovely... and tasty.

Bean Cassoulet: When you learn about cooking from scratch (no pun intended) it's hard to escape learning about the French style. And while this style originated from Italian influences (see The New Yorker's Secret Ingredients) it is simply the standard bearer of (Western) cuisine. I don't cook much in the French style but I do like to look at certain recipes. It's hard not to be intrigued by a ragout over a stew, even though they're essentially the same thing. So when I came across a recipe for a cassoulet, I was intrigued indeed.

Cassouleeeeeet, as Will Ferrell (impersonating Robert Gouleeeeet) might say.

As Winter is fast approaching, I've been intrigued not only by the idea of a cassoulet but with the concept of eating cleaner meats, ones that have been raised humanely and without much antibiotics or added hormones (see Days Between Days for John Oliver's update on what you might be eating). I remember reading in Bill Buford's Heat (where he details his tenure in a high-class kitchen) about preparing a pork shoulder by allowing the heat to slowly tenderize it over the course of many hours. Such an image seems symbiotic with the cold days of Winter. So when I saw that pork shoulder was included in a cassoulet, I knew it was a recipe I wanted to try. The thing is, a cassoulet calls for a lot of meat; not just pork shoulder but bacon and chorizo as well (depending on the recipe). Essentially, a cassoulet requires a lot of meat for someone who doesn't eat much of it and doesn't make much money. But the recipe also calls for beans: Great Northern or small white beans. And with the dish's method of slowly simmering ingredients in a wine and tomato broth with onions and herbs, I figured that adjusting ingredients and using beans alone would make for a satisfying, hearty dish. Thomas Keller provides a great cassoulet recipe through the Williams-Sonoma website (found here). Simply adjust ingredients as you see fit to make your own version of a cassoulet. 

So there you have it: a post that took me way too long to write. Hope you enjoy the recipes and that they are just as satisfying as any meat dish. And for shits and giggles, here is the New York Times recipe for roasted cauliflower in which you are instructed to, "eat.. like a good steak." Enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Is it Less Healthy to be a Girl?

It is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. A month which focuses on a disease that is, according to the National Breast Cancer Awareness Foundation, "the second leading cause of death among women," (around 2,190 men are diagnosed each year according to the same source). But while we engage in walks, galas or watch telecasts devoted to the issue, a few simple questions can be asked in our own lives to see if we are doing our best to prevent (all types of) cancers in ourselves or in those around us. Of course, there are the well known adages that we not smoke or spend time in the sun unprotected but as I wrote Antiperspirants, Alternatives this summer, I seemed to come across new ideas that lent knowledge to other possible causes of the disease.

Note: Like all posts, this one in particular is to be noted as opinion, not as medical fact.

 Even the NFL celebrates Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In Antiperspirants, Alternatives, I addressed the rumor that antiperspirants play a role in the development of (most often breast) cancer. While some research showed that women who used antiperspirants from an earlier age (as well as began shaving their underarms at an earlier age and more often) were more likely to develop breast cancer than others, there were issues with control groups in the experiment and generally agreed upon that antiperspirants do not lead to cancers. While I was relived to learn my bottle of Ban was not bad on the breasts, the notion of women being more susceptible to cancer because of their shaving practices left me a little stunned.

"Cleopatra, coming at ya."

Since time immemorial, women have likely devoted more energy to their appearance than men. Yesterday, I read on Into the Gloss that olive and sesame oils were favored in Cleopatra's beauty routine thousands of years ago. In general, women rid themselves of their body hair, wear makeup and lotion and wear tighter clothing (compared to men). And while these elements may make us feel good, I believe it's important to ask ourselves, "at  what cost?" Below, I address the three practices above (removal of body hair, the application of makeup and tight clothing) as well as how they can affect our health. Enjoy!

Body Hair Removal: A few Februaries ago, I read a hilarious story in The Onion entitled, "20000 Tons of Pubic Hair Trimmed in Preparation for Valentine's Day." Indeed, this practice, particularly among women, seems more ubiquitous than ever before. But what is the effect of such a process that removes something meant to protect us? While many of us no longer live in the wild bush (no pun intended), "[h]uman body hairs... collectively serve as a protective warning device," according to Indeed, in 2013, the Huffington Post ran an article quoting dermatologist Jessica Krant, who claimed that, "hairs really are attached very firmly to their roots and are a part of our body." To this extent, the article explains that when our skin is damaged (in this case through the practice of waxing) it can make us more susceptible to infection, either sexually transmitted or otherwise. And while the study referenced in Antiperspirants, Alternatives was disregarded because it seemed to lack a control group of women who did not have cancer, the shaving of one's underarms seemed to be a variable in the process. Not fact. Just food for thought.

Makeup: In You Go Daddy-O, I spoke of how my father was and is still very anti-makeup. When I was young, he would say, "you don't need that stuff. You're a natural beauty." And today, he simply says something akin to, "that shit is bad for you." Indeed, most makeup is loaded with chemicals. Even the brands that claim to be "natural" contain ingredients like Bismuth Oxychloride. According to another article published by the Huffington Post in 2013, makeup artist Katey Denno claimed that, "[o]ut of 1,000 carcinogens the EU has banned, the US only banned 9 of them." Furthermore, scientists have "improved" chemicals in makeup which have made them "smaller and stronger" thus making it easier for them to penetrate our skin. And for a culture that lauded Amy Schumer's SNL monologue this weekend which claimed young women need role models other than the Kardashians who, "take the faces they were born with as, like, a light suggestion," we also spend billions of dollars on makeup (and healthcare) annually. Coincidence?

While the form may change, the female figure has been valued for quite some time.

Tight Clothes: There's an old adage that tight clothing (and 7UP) harm the family jewels in men but not much is talked about the effect such clothing has on women. Indeed, it was at an all girl's camp, where I first heard that eschewing undergarments while you slept was actually good for your health. As I got older, I began to hear similar words spouted by those in the medical field. And even in the hazy world of conspiracy theories, I've found it entertaining to read that some think the handbag industry plays a role in maintaining tight clothes for women so that they don't begin carrying around wallets in their pockets.

Like makeup, the female form as been valued for ages. And why not? It's quite beautiful. But, like makeup, at what cost do we feature it as part of an unspoken trend? This area gets a bit sticky. I truly believe women should wear what they want (subscribing, like men, to the general rules of formality and informality depending on the occasion). I don't think women should hide their figures or feel pressure to flaunt them. It's all about choice. And "wear" our health is concerned, information is key.

C'est possible?

According to an article (read here) published by CBS News, garments such as Spanx and skinny jeans can go so far as to cause nerve damage or simply meralgia paresthetica which is a general numbness in the thigh. Abdominal pain can also occur, according to Dr. John Michael Li, a neurologist featured in the article. In general, I find it hard to believe that anyone would want to put up with such discomfort for the sake of fashion.

In conclusion, is it less healthy to be a girl? I suppose the decision is up to the individual. We all face choices as men and women. Making the choice that's best for us should not be something gender specific. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

Tinier Vessels

Thus far, I've written two articles on the topic of (beauty) bottles... particularly on the materials from which they are composed. In Oil My Goodness, I spoke about a greater reliance on glass bottles over plastic ones. In Poppin' Bottles, I spoke about the best way to use glass bottles in transit (often to and from yoga class). And while, from a political perspective, I may be seen as poo-pooing oil and favoring glass bottles while I enjoy my soy-latte and wear my thick rimmed glasses (they're real, I swear!) it really comes down to a matter of price.

From an environmental perspective, I do favor glass bottles over plastic ones. While I realize that a local-craftsman is likely not hand-blowing each jar I use from recycled sea-glass, I enjoy the fact that glass jars tend to leach less chemicals into their contents and, as price may tell, such aforementioned contents tend to be of better quality than those delivered in plastic bottles. Indeed, Into the Gloss has published articles informing readers how to best display their often high-end, glass-encased contents in the bathroom (see What To Do When The Lighting In Your Bathroom Sucks). For myself, these articles go a bit too far in the vanity of showcasing expensive products (and in simply owning them). Baking soda and vinegar work just fine as an exfoliant or de-greaser (respectively) but we still need something to keep these products in. And, while I sometimes roll my eyes about articles which help one showcase the fact they have high amounts of discretionary income, most articles on Into the Gloss are extremely helpful including the piece of beauty advice which suggests that one buy products in bulk and decant them into smaller containers (that particular author relied on Muji containers). Indeed, since I like getting a bargain (and natural beauty products) I tend to buy said baking soda and vinegar in bulk and decant them into smaller (glass) containers. Therefore, it's truly a crescendo of cost-saving fireworks when I can place these products in reusable glass bottles for free (and, you know, help the environment at the same time). As such, below is a list of several products contained in nice glass bottles which can be reused and applied to your beauty routine. Enjoy!

Argo Tea: top shelf to the right and straight on 'till morning.

Argo Tea: On the first day of school this year, I was running late yet still found time to get into a gas station in search of a caffeine fix. As I browsed the shelves of sugary sodas, I came across a bottle of iced, green tea. While it wasn't caffeinated, I was intrigued by its slender, glass bottle which I couldn't believe I could keep afterwards. While it could easily be reused as a water bottle, I use it to hold essential oils whilst I'm in the shower. Just a few drops of eucalyptus or lavender oil and some steam from the shower can transform your morning (or evening) routine into some next level shit.

Dessert Coupes (Dog Tag Bakery): This description is not about dessert coupes per se but about the vessels they are contained in. If you live in the D.C. area, the Dog Tag Bakery is a great place to visit. Not only does it provide its patrons with delicious baked goods, it also helps disabled veterans get back into the workforce! Several weeks ago, I was looking for something small and quick to provide a much needed afternoon snack and the bakery's dessert coupe certainly provided. At around $3.25, I received a delicious chocolate mouse, and as I got it to go, I was able to keep the small, glass container in it came. Long after the dessert had been devoured, I now use the jar to store my baking soda which I use as both a cleaning and beauty product in the bathroom.

Baking soda and its bottle.

So there you have it, a small list of products one can use to gain a glass jar in the process. While the list is edited and may only apply if you live in D.C., I hope it gets you thinking about (re)using glass bottles to "beautify" both your bathroom and the environment.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

"Eighty-percent" of life is just showing up." ~ Woody Allen

Friday, October 2, 2015

Spa (Week)days

I've always loved the jingle featured on Family Guy which contains the line, "why do you brush your teeth at work? Like you're gonna kiss someone at 3:00..." Indeed, I judge people who brush their teeth at work and I was dismayed when a group of dentists came to visit our school in third grade and told us we should brush after lunch (using those gunk-adhering tablets to display the amount of residue left behind after eating). I hate brushing my teeth even with my Sonicare toothbrush which makes them feel like they've experienced a Swedish massage after brushing. So I was happy to find that even if one refuses to brush their teeth at work there are alternate ways to extend one's beauty routines into the workday.

A long time ago, in Tervis, I wrote about how water serves as my main "food group". Indeed, we need proteins, vitamins and other things to survive but water carries such a multitude of benefits that it's the "product" I consume the most. According to WebMD, drinking around eight cups of water a day can help, "control calories... energize muscles... and/[or] keep your skin looking good." Accordingly, water can benefit us both inside and out. Below: a few ways in which I use water to help me both internally and externally during the (work)day.

Mouth Wash: As stated above, I hate brushing my teeth. Knowing I'm not one to use a toothbrush until dusk sets in  (and that I start my day with a double, soy espresso) my dentist suggested I simply rinse my mouth with water following my morning coffee. Indeed, as I sip coffee throughout the day, I am sure to follow it with a hefty swig of water to keep my pearly whites pearly until I can brush off any remaining residue.

"Steam Bath": As a teacher, the term "spa day" really isn't in my vocabulary. While I'm down for the occasional beauty treatment, spending an entire day and/or paycheck devoted to the spa seems unreasonable. Plus, the core of most spa treatments can be conducted at home (or at work) on the cheap. As such, the steam bath is a luxury one can access at work while sitting at the desk.

While I often judge people for brushing their teeth at work, I realize I am likely also judged for my tea station set up in the classroom of a coworker. A few years ago, I started bringing in honey to accompany the copious amounts of hot water obtained from the water cooler nearby. After bringing honey, I began to bring in loose tea... which needed and infuser and after reading Drink Pretty: The Morning Detox Tea on Into the Gloss, I now have a bar replete with turmeric and fresh ginger. Several days ago, I filled a glass with boiling water and as I let it cool, held it uncovered against my chest for several minutes. As I held my bkr bottle close, I noticed the steam rise up and moisten my face, giving me the sensation of a mini-facial. Indeed, states that, "[steam] loosens dirt and debris lodged in the pores." And while most at-home steam baths call for the recipient to place a towel over their head and their head directly over a bowl of hot water (see Steam Your Way to Clearer Skin), allowing steam to float up onto my face made it feel just as good. If you can, just try to give your face a "steam bath" before lunch so you can wipe your face with a towelette afterwards (to remove any remaining residue) and enjoy some tea with your lunch!

Muy caliente y muy bueno.

Un Digestif: Several days before my "steam bath" discovery, I held my warm bkr bottle to my sternum as I assisted students in P.E. class (where you do a lot of standing). As I did, I noticed my lunch, eaten just several minutes before class seemed to burn up in my stomach as though the hot water in the bottle boosted my metabolism into high-gear. Indeed, according to Dr. Michael Wald (via, "hot water may increase body temperature and may therefore increase the metabolic rates slightly." Paraphrasing his words, a metabolism kicked into high gear can burn more calories over the course of a day. Furthermore, Wald states that, "[t]he increased metabolic rate may help the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys function more effectively," ultimately leading to detoxification. To this extent, while I try to drink hot water throughout the day (mainly to raise my body temperature) I especially try to drink it after lunch (with some honey, of course).

So there you have it. A few ways you can add spa-like treatments to what can sometimes be an arduous workday while saving money on the way. Enjoy!