Your Weekly Diversion, Week 29

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On week 29, I’m wearying of the ongoing drama. Aren’t you? I guess the interviews with people who picked the current leader and still believe they did the right thing, that all their needs will be met, has done me in for now. So I’ll choose “Cake Boss” or “Waterfront Bargain Hunt” for now and leave the political punditry for another day.

Rice field

This week I want to bring a health threat to your attention. I have become aware that much if not most of the rice sold in North America contains high levels of arsenic. Arsenic is a carcinogen and very dangerous. The main reason it’s so high in rice is that in the American South and other areas where cotton was raised, arsenic was used as a pesticide and contaminated the soil. Those areas are also good for growing rice. Although pesticides with arsenic were banned in the US decades ago, the soil in these areas remains contaminated. The problem exists in many other rice-producing areas around the globe, too.

9/24/12 Daily Dose arsenic in rice CREDIT: Globe staff; iStockphoto

Dr. Michael Greger of the website Nutrition Facts has devoted a number of his videos to this topic. He urges against drinking rice milk or giving it to children. He said that crisped rice cereal isn’t safe for children, as it is probably the food highest in arsenic in a typical child’s diet. He warns against using brown rice syrup, a popular substitute for high fructose corn syrup in health store treats. Washing raw rice, as well as boiling it and then draining off the cooking water the way you cook pasta, greatly reduces the amount of arsenic in the cooked rice. And as you can guess, where the rice you buy was grown makes a huge difference. Consumer Reports addresses this issue as well. Both sites say the safest sources of rice are California, India and Pakistan because the arsenic levels are lowest in rice from these locales.

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Today we went food shopping at Aldi. Do you know about the Aldi stores? If not, see which Aldi store is closest to you and check it out. We have one here, and the prices are amazing and the quality of the products is first rate. I’ve shopped there three times in the past three weeks and still haven’t spent $100. That’s not per week. That’s adding the three trips together! I do stop elsewhere to pick up a few items they don’t carry, but that’s okay. They maintain low prices by not advertising or playing mood music, by charging for plastic bags so people bring their own, and charging a quarter to release a shopping cart from their corral, which you get back when you bring it back and connect it to the next one in line. They pay their employees pretty well and give decent benefits. Aldi plans to open 900 more stores in the US by 2022. They are in Europe as well as North America and are based in Germany.  The Aldi corporation also owns the more tony and well-known Trader Joe’s. Today I looked for safe rice, and they had a nice-sized bag of brown basmati rice from India, so I bought it.

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We’ll end with “Sunnier Days” by Diego Garcia. Let us enjoy the good in each of these days, and have faith that even sunnier days are ahead.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 26

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Welcome to Week 26 of our circus. Our monkeys have been swinging wildly from tree to tree, spinning, obfuscating, flirting, lying, blaming, chattering about nonsense, and it all makes my eyes roll in my head.

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I need diversions, and I’m sure you do as well so here we go. First, we need cake! Yes, we do, and we need confetti cake, with or without Elmo and friends.

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Or maybe we need Iced Lemon Pound Cake (vegan). I’m not sure which I’ll make first.

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Now that we’re drooling, I have good news and bad news for us. The bad news: Cheese is addicting. Dr. Neal Barnard has been exploding our craving with facts we don’t want to hear. Apparently certain aspects of cheese are transformed into a morphine-like chemical that reinforces our desire to have more cheese. The advertising world and restaurants know this. Witness the oozy, cheesy ads for pizza and other foods. As a vegan who began eating cheese again, and I feel guilty about it because I do know about the pseudomorphine stuff, and I know dairy is inherently cruel. A calf has to be taken from his mother so humans can have the milk. There’s a lot of suffering in that unnatural separation. The good news:  Miyoko’s Kitchen. She’s making cultured Buffalo Style Mozzarella we need to try.

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We can also enjoy Field Roast Chao cheeses that are produced  in Greece from coconut milk and tofu. I know it sounds weird, but it’s the tastiest, meltiest, sliced vegan cheese available in most supermarkets. It makes great grilled cheese sandwiches, especially when the bread is slathered with Just Mayo egg-free mayonnaise before grilling. And I totally trust this product which we use exclusively at home.

Who knew this would be another food blog? Well, it is what it is, and food is a great diversion, isn’t it? Yummy food isn’t called comfort food for nothing. So, we have to eat, so why not eat healthy and eat happy, too!

This week we sold all the CDs that Decluttr.com would buy and donated the rest. We listen to satellite radio at home and in our cars, and Amazon Music via iPad and Bluetooth speaker, so they’ve just gathered dust. I saved one out to give a friend. It was “Shteyt Oyf (Rise Up)” by the  Klezmatics, and I’m going to share now “I Ain’t Afraid” in English and Yiddish, originally written by Holly Near, that I’ve loved since I first heard it. Don’t you think the world needs to hear this? Please share!!!

Namasté 

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Capers, Good and Good for You

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I love capers! I bought some for a delish pasta recipe a few weeks ago and now that I have them in the house, I’ve put them in other things. Last night I dolled up a bottle of organic Muir Glen tomato basil pasta sauce with a generous dose of capers, plus some chopped olives, and sautéed onion, garlic and whole package of mixed mushrooms with all sorts of interesting types along with the sliced buttons and portobellos. What a yummy mix!

In the 2006 article, “Importance of functional foods in the Mediterranean diet” (Public Health Nutrition: 9(8A), 1136–1140 DOI: 10.1017/S1368980007668530) available here, we learn that capers are good for you, too (emphasis mine):

Garlic, onions, herbs and spices are used as condiments in the [Mediterranean Diet], and may increase the nutritional value of food. Some also contain large quantities of flavonoids (fennel, chives, etc.) or allicin (raw garlic and onion); the latter may have cardiovascular benefits and help improve cognitive function3. The caper, Capparis spinosa L., which is found all over the Mediterranean basin and is consumed in salads or on pizzas, etc. has been used in traditional medicine for its diuretic and anti- hypertensive effects, and to treat certain conditions related to uncontrolled lipid peroxidation15. Caper extract contains flavonoids (kaempferol and quercetin derivatives) and hydrocinnamic acids with known anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. Panico et al.15 concluded capers to have a chondroprotective effect; they might therefore be of use in the management of cartilage damage during the inflammatory phase (p. 1137).

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If you want some great recipes exploring the flavor and versatility of capers, check out this HuffPost article. That yummy-looking photo is from Recipe Number 18! The article credits this one to Cafe Johnsonia.

And I predict that capers might just feature in a tasty meal on your table very soon!

Buon Appetito!

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For the Daily Post

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 24

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It’s week 24 and I’m in Tennessee watching my cousins and friends play gin rummy at my aunt’s 92nd birthday party. I bask in the warmth of family love. It helps to offset the insulting rhetoric that one who probably knows better is slinging toward folk who don’t deserve it. No people deserve to be insulted in schoolyard fashion, especially by the purported leader of their nation. Then someone shoots several of his former medical colleagues and kills one, and then kills himself, in a hospital where people are try to get well and live. Yikes!

Diversions on the way….

 

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Photo from pixabay.com

Are you interested in learning about Zen meditation? Norman Fisher explains it well in Lion’s Roar.

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Photo from Smitten Kitchen

This is the season for gardening and for grilling, and when you can combine a margherita pizza grilled outside with a salad of tomatoes and greens from your own garden, why wouldn’t you? We had a great Tennessee BBQ with my cousin’s husband serving as grillmaster, presiding over grilling hamburgers, artisan chicken sausages, and for the vegetarians, Fieldburgers, chipotle marinated tofu steaks and veggie skewers wth homegrown veggies. We didn’t grill any pizza, but the idea is really intriguing, so here’s how.

 

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A week or so ago, I covered the Danish concept of hygge,  what I interpret to include a rather enchanting sense of comfort, simplicity, beauty and cozy utility. There are many interpretations of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah). While in an independent Tennessee bookstore filled with special finds, I found Meik Wiking’s book, pictured above.

And for some music to bring some hygge into your world, you might find this Hawaiian song by Kason Gomes helpful.

Namasté

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Potato and Beet Salad with Navy Beans

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Photo courtesy of and recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Hungry?

This isn’t a recipe blog, but sometimes I just have to share something great! Since I’m a vegetarian eating mostly vegan, plus my recent hospital stay and admonition to eat more high fiber foods, and my husband enjoying loaded summer salads for dinner, this recipe was promising. The recipe I used is here.

I made a lot of changes due to what was available. I couldn’t find white or yellow beets. Red ones were discouraged for how they’d look in this recipe. So I swapped in a can of artichoke bottoms in water, cut up and roasted with the potatoes. My dill, bought two weeks ago, went bad so I used dried dill. I didn’t feel like spending the money for shallots when I still had half a bag of small boiling onions, so I used some of those instead. They were great! I didn’t have champagne vinegar and probably wouldn’t buy it, so I swapped in some light red wine vinegar. I would have used my Bragg’s apple cider vinegar but it’s getting low and the mother is pretty thick. Time to buy a new bottle!

This was so good it was all we had for dinner, served with a crusty, seeded whole grain bread and some organic extra virgin olive oil for dipping. The only thing I’d do differently next time would be to add roasted pine nuts.

Bon Appetít!

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