Friday, January 18, 2008

A New Kind of Junk Food

Fast food, boxed food, fried food, 100% “sugar-food”, foods made with hydrogenated oils, chemically-laced foods, foods so far removed from actual food that they’re causing an epidemic of obesity. What to do? What to do? Why, cut out the Junk Food, and eat Real Food, of course.

But what is Real Food? All of the fish on our planet are potentially contaminated, many of our most basic crops are genetically modified then irradiated, livestock is injected with hormones and antibiotics, the majority of our crops are sprayed and fertilized with harsh chemicals and stripped of vitamins and minerals, our water is “fortified”, and now – we have to deal with unlabeled, cloned meat and milk. Even if we never eat conventional “junk food” the food we do eat could easily qualify as a new kind of junk food. Junk Food disguised as Real Food that is causing an epidemic of diseases this planet has never encountered before.

What to do, indeed! I can tell you that as a population, we are faced with some mighty overwhelming obstacles. I feel like I’m part of a giant science experiment that couldn’t possibly have a good outcome…even vegetarians have to think about the sources of the food they eat. When I look down the road to the end of my personal science experiment, I wonder how I could possibly remain healthy if everything I eat is modified to this unheard-of degree. And the problem gets bigger every day.

What we can do about this predicament is to vote with our pocketbooks. I know that sounds like the long way ‘round to this goal, but when we consume clean, organic food we get an immediate benefit to our own bodies, and we begin to detoxify and strengthen our cells, muscles, tissues and so forth. We also give an immediate benefit to the planet: as more people insist on Real Food, the effect is to detoxify depleted farmland. Farmland that has been overworked and soaked with chemicals is allowed to transition to healthy, certified organic farmland producing clean, nutrition-packed food the way our parents and grandparents enjoyed it. Real Food, if you will.

If you eat Real Food, you can enjoy more of those foods we’ve been conditioned to avoid. And a prime example (no pun intended) is organic meat. Grass-fed organic meat is higher in CLAs than any conventional meat. CLAs are the beef-protein version of the Omega-3s found in fatty fish such as salmon. Even non-grass-fed organic meat is preferable to conventional meat because it is fed with organic hay, grains and legumes and corn – not the genetically modified, pesticide saturated feed that factory cattle are fed. Let’s not even mention the steroids they’re injected with to produce more muscle, and the antibiotics that follow the steroids because of the problems the steroids produce, and now the cloning for who-knows-what-reason...

I will probably never give up meat altogether. I love comfort food, and on these winter weekends I love to braise organic short ribs for hours in the oven, or get the slow cooker out for a great soup idea. And I love the reassurance I feel that the food I’m eating is REAL. Let’s take the “guilt” out of “guilty pleasure with a recipe that makes a Real winner of a weekend dinner:


This recipe is very, very freeform. You cannot mess it up, ingredient-wise. This is one of my many, many versions, but feel free to go to the comments section with your ideas, too.

2# Sirloin or Round Steak cut in strips

Flour to coat

1 med. Yellow Onion, chopped

6 cloves Garlic, chopped

Olive Oil

2 Green Peppers cut in strips

1 lg. can Whole Tomatoes and maybe a smaller one, too

2 Tb. Tomato Paste

½ C Dry Sherry, Red Wine or Water

Salt and Pepper


First, chop up the onion and garlic and slice up the meat. In a stockpot, heat a little olive oil and drop in the onion and garlic. Reduce the heat to med. high and stir fairly constantly. You do not want the onions or garlic to brown. If they’re starting to brown, turn the heat down. (I sound like Johnnie Cochran). While that’s cooking, toss the meat strips in flour and shake off the excess.

When the veggies have a nice sheen, remove them from the pan, add a little more oil and drop in the meat. Stir that meat constantly or it will stick, stick, stick – and then burn. While that’s cooking, grind up the tomatoes in your blender. When the meat is evenly browned (about 7 min.) remove it from the pan and pour in the sherry. Stir the sherry and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Let it reduce to “almost invisible”. Now, pour in the ground tomatoes, the meat and the onions and garlic. Bring the pot up to a low simmer, partially cover and stir it occasionally for about an hour.

While that’s going on, cut up the green peppers in strips. After the hour has gone by, heat up a pan to very high, put in some olive oil and drop in the peppers. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Constantly stir them and let them get a bit browned, but don’t go overboard or they’ll disintegrate in the sauce later. Then add the tomato paste and keep that stirring action going until the peppers are coated and the paste is beginning to cook.

I’d like to stop here and make a note about tomato paste. I use it frequently. A little cooked tomato paste will thicken and enrich any dish, and it doesn’t have to be a tomato dish. I use it for beef sauces, chicken sauces and even vegetable sauces. So, rather than open a can of tomato paste and use a Tb. or two just to throw the rest out, I buy it in tubes. It’s a little more expensive, but I use all of it, so the cost works out for me.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled recipe method:

Time to add the peppers to the sauce. Just pop them in and stir well. It’s also time to start the pasta water (now that I have a free burner. I don’t consider the little burners on my stove as burners, actually, but more like holding areas). I was considering making homemade spaetzle for this dish last night because I had a taste for gnocchi (figure that one out!), but I was feeling kinda lazy (or maybe kinda crazy!), so I opted for the factory-made kind. Any kind of pasta will work here, but I prefer egg-y noodles, myself.

Now. Taste the sauce. What does it need? Salt? Pepper? Basil? Oregano? Parsley? How do you like your gravy to taste? Adjust the seasonings to make yourself smile, cook and drain the pasta, and get ready to serve. At the end of the process I grated Pecorino Romano on top instead of Parmesan. Why? Because it’s made from sheep’s’ milk and it has a more complex flavor than Parm.

A note about the pictures. We got a new camera for Christmas, and I can see that I need to start standing on a ladder to take pictures for this blog. Either that, or get a little taller, somehow. They all came out a little blurry, but they all still look yummy – to me, at least.

Send me your recipes. I’ll make them and blog them. Otherwise, you’re stuck with mine. =)