Dressing Your Salad Kindly

“Pour the dressing around the sides of the bowl, and then, using your hands, gently push the greens into the dressing to coat them. You want the greens glistening, not limp. Once the leaves are dressed to your liking, gently transfer them to a plate.” – Bobby Flay

There’s this strange ritual I’ve seen people go through when they get a salad at, say, a cafeteria or takeout lunch spot. These are the salads that come in a clear plastic container, along with the dressing in a sealed pouch or cup. The customer opens the container, opens the dressing pouch, pours the dressing on the salad, closes the container, and then proceeds to shake the bejeezus out of the container, turning it every which way during the process. Then they reopen the container and proceed to gracefully eat the poor scrambled salad.

I tried this once and it’s certainly more efficient than using a flimsy plastic fork to stir in the dressing, which usually results in a lot of the salad ending up on the table or floor. The solution I prefer is to pour some of the dressing on the salad, mix that little part and eat it, and then pour some more of the dressing on, rinse and repeat. A little more time consuming but it gets the job done and seems like a more respectful way to treat your food.

When at home however, with plenty of time and a big enough bowl, Bobby Flay’s gentle massaging method is definitely the most loving and artistic way to dress a salad that I’ve ever come across.

And don’t you just love his description? The word “glistening” is so perfect — you can just see the gorgeous leafy greens and smell the aroma of the imported olive oil coating them. Mmmm.

Broths and Stocks

Maybe you’ve had an experience like this: You go down the soup aisle at the grocery store and see a multitude of cartons and cans of chicken, fish, and beef stocks and broths. What’s the difference and which one should I use for what? I often wondered this myself so I researched it and here’s what I found.

Broth is made by simmering meat in water with some vegetables and herbs added for seasoning. They are more strongly flavored than stocks so are commonly used for quick clear soups and rice dishes.

Stock is made by simmering leftover meaty bones and carcasses, with aromatic vegetables for depth of flavor.  Best uses are soup bases, stews and making reductions for sauces.

Free-range, Cage-free, Vegetarian-fed, Pasture-raised Poultry

When it comes to buying chicken, you have lots of options available. If you’re trying to eat healthy, it can be very confusing which one you should choose. What do all these labels mean anyway? Sometimes I think these labels are marketing-driven, intended to make people think it’s healthy. Read on and decide for yourself.

Free-range
The minimum standard to meet this label is that the chickens must “have access” to and be able to forage over an open area for an unspecified amount of time during each day. It could be as little as 5 minutes, and the “access” could be a 12” square panel that gets opened from the chicken house to an outdoor area.  It doesn’t mean the chicken actually spent time outside. It’s true that many farmers will go above and beyond the minimum requirements and if you research the company and believe they use humane practices then this is probably fine.  Especially if it’s also labeled organic. But it doesn’t mean that the chickens were fed an all-natural diet, so keep reading for more info on that.

Cage-free
This means the same thing as Free-range.

Vegetarian-fed
These chickens were fed a plant-based diet. This is very interesting because chickens’ natural diet is bugs and grass plus whatever else they can get their little beaks on (they’re not too discerning according to my friend who raises them).  Chickens don’t naturally eat corn and soy but that’s  what they’ll eat when vegetarian fed. Since most corn and soy in this country is genetically modified, unless the chicken is labeled organic that’s probably what it ate. On the upside, at least the chickens weren’t fed recycled chicken parts.

Pasture-raised
This, to me, is the real deal. This wonderful creature that just made up my evening meal actually spend the majority of its life in a field eating bugs and grass and other chicken-food stuff.  Organic pasture-raised chicken is the only kind I recommend.

Bottom line: Don’t fall for the marketing copy that makes it sound healthy when it’s really not. Buy organic pasture-raised chickens, preferably from a local farm.

Photo credit:  Kirsten Carr on Unsplash

Pros and Cons of Non-Stick Pans (and which kind is best for health)

I grew up in the era of better living through chemistry. When teflon-coated pans came out they were a life-saver for busy moms everywhere. Non-stick pans have evolved over the years and the days of little bits of chemical coating scraping off and entering your food are mostly behind us. Mostly.

In ths post you’ll learn about the five types of non-stick pans to help you make your next purchase a more informed one.

Based on my research, types of non-stick pans include teflon, copper, anodized aluminum, diamond, and thermolon.

 

Teflon
Pretty much everyone agrees that this is the worst kind of non-stick pan you can buy. First, it scratches easily, and second, the chemicals can get into your food. No brainer that this is a no-go.

Copper
A common concern with copper pans is that copper can leach into your food during cooking. However if you use copper pans that are lined with stainless steel on the inside, you get the benefits of copper (heat conduction and aesthetics) without the safety concerns. The relatively new Red Copper pans are lined with ceramic and so are reported to be safe (and beautiful too).

Anodized Aluminum
There is much conflicting information about this type of cookware. Although the anodizing process stops the aluminum from leaching into food, there’s evidence that the additional coating on some brands of anodized pans is similar to the chemical used in Teflon. Therefore I’m not recommending this type of pan without further research.

Diamond
Developed by a German company in the late 70’s, this cookware is made using one of the best non-stick technologies available. It uses diamonds and specially made steel to create an extremely durable piece of cooking equipment. You can find it on Amazon (but beware of sticker shock): Woll Non-Stick Diamond

Thermolon
This is a ceramic-based “green” non-stick coating technology that is considered safe as long as the brand states it’s PFO-free. The one downside seems to be that the non-stick properties of the ceramic coating degrade relatively quickly (some say within about a year), requiring regular replacement.

So there you have it! Personally I’ll stick to mostly cast iron, but when I need something lighter I’ll go with a ceramic lined pan.

[Note: When I get a chance to do further research into the anodized aluminum materials I’ll update this post.]

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