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    Copyright 2008-2018Slow Food Fast. All writing and images on this blog unless otherwise attributed or set in quotes are the sole property of Slow Food Fast. Please contact DebbieN via the comments form for permissions before reprinting or reproducing any of the material on this blog.


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    SlowFoodFast sometimes addresses general public health topics related to nutrition, heart disease, blood pressure, and diabetes. Because this is a blog with a personal point of view, my health and food politics entries often include my opinions on the trends I see, and I try to be as blatant as possible about that. None of these articles should be construed as specific medical advice for an individual case. I do try to keep to findings from well-vetted research sources and large, well-controlled studies, and I try not to sensationalize the science (though if they actually come up with a real cure for Type I diabetes in the next couple of years, I'm gonna be dancing in the streets with a hat that would put Carmen Miranda to shame. Consider yourself warned).

Microwave Tricks: Brown Rice Resolution

Resolution #15 from my last post was to figure out a decent “quick” method for cooking tougher grains like brown rice and pearl barley. These grains still have the skin on, which forms a barrier to quick absorption, so they take 45-50 minutes to cook on the stovetop, which is simply too much for me to babysit. Apparently I’m not alone on this–I see vacuum-packed packets of precooked brown rice at the Trader Joe’s (and similar bowls in the freezer both there and at Whole Foods).

To say the least, this is not the right way to go if you’re earnest about spending less on staples while going a little bit greener in the new year (think of all the freezer energy cost and coolant leaks, the cooking energy expended, the plastic packaging, etc.)

According to Nina Shen Rastogi of Slate.com, microwaving can be the greener cooking option as long as you don’t leave your microwave plugged in when you’re not using it–apparently the little digital clock display thingy takes up a surprising amount of energy (and do you really need a microwave to tell you the time? Hang a battery-operated clock in view of the kitchen and you’ve got it…)

So microwaving should be the way to go with brown rice, as it is for pasta (plain or whole-grain) and white rice. But unfortunately, microwaving brown rice, with its tough outer skin, really doesn’t work well at all if you just dump the raw rice into some water and try to nuke it straight up, the way you can with these quicker-soaking grains. Certainly not in 3-5 minutes of cooking time. Not without babysitting and worrying about boilover. Feh.

And it’s never a good idea to nuke something starchy more than a few minutes at a time, at least not without a lot of water in it–you could end up with plastic (think about what happens to bagels if you microwave them for more than 15-20 seconds).

But you know I don’t like to give up once I decide something should work. So–I thought about something I posted a couple of years ago on nuking oatmeal successfully and decided to try the presoak idea that had worked for steelcut oats. Only who wants to presoak rice overnight if they don’t have to? Steelcut oats–you know you’re going to make them for the next morning’s brunch (only do it on a weekend). Stick ’em in a bowl with water and a lid, let it sit overnight, nuke a few minutes in the morning and you’ve got it. It’s perfect.

Rice? I never know what I’m making for supper until about an hour before.

But a hot presoak worked pretty well to get things started, and it only took about 15 minutes (because I was impatient). The whole thing still took about an hour–well, maybe less in the strict sense, I wasn’t paying attention Continue reading

How to Eat Vegetables and Lose Weight and Save the Planet (Without Really Trying)

One of my favorite stops at the New York Times online is Mark Bittman’s “The Minimalist” column, a series of 5-minute videos in which he demonstrates simple but pretty good cooking with clear and manageable directions and an easy close-up view of the pots and pans in action.

I’d say he takes a no-nonsense approach to cooking, but that would be misleading. He takes a full-nonsense, marble rye approach to the patter while doing some very basic common sense things like cutting up, mixing, and sauteing. And he features vegetables prominently.

Bittman,  recently seen schmoozing around Spain in a top-down convertible,on PBS yet, with Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Stipe and occasionally Mario Batali and trying to look interested in the food (which somehow got upstaged, can’t imagine how), is the author of several big yellow cookbooks, notably How to Cook Everything in both meat-eater and vegetarian editions.

This year he’s come out with a new, slimmer volume called Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating* (and the asterisk leads to: *With More than 75 Recipes).

Unfortunately, we have to disregard the fact that Bittman’s title manages to evoke both Phil McGraw’s Self Matters and David Reuben, M.D.’s 1970s classic romp, Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex* … *But Were Afraid to Ask (or, more happily, Woody Allen’s movie send-up of same). This is a Serious Book. And like many Serious Books today (and anything at all with a “go green” theme), it’s a hybrid vehicle.

Between the asterisks on the cover sits a Granny Smith apple photoshopped with a map of the world and a red label, “Lose Weight, Heal the Planet.” The back blurb reads, “…the same lifestyle choice could help you lose weight, reduce your risk of many long-term or chronic diseases, save you real money, and help stop global warming…”

Food Matters is Bittman’s argument for getting the lard out and the greens in, for the sake of health, looks, and planet (quick, look holistic and place your hands reverently over your heart, if you can find it). The first half of the book is a set of essays reporting on the state of Big Food in the U.S., the state of obesity, the state of greenhouse gases and the global cost of raising a serving of beef as opposed to a serving of broccoli or tomatoes or whole grains.

Following Michael Pollan’s now-famous dictum “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” and citing him heavily, Bittman sets out to encourage readers to replace at least some of the earth-taxing meat and dairy in their daily eating with…plants. Which makes sense, of course.

The second half is a primer, with recipes, on how to eat more vegetation. Given that his pitch is geared at least partly to a male audience (he also writes a food column for Men’s Health, and the tone here is similar), you’d think his advice on the quickest route to getting vegetables into one’s diet would involve the least fuss: just wash and nosh. But no.

Bittman used to edit Cook’s magazine and the cookbooks he writes today do tend to feature recipes. It’s a common downfall, but what can you do? Continue reading

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