Food-buying tips

My wife and I are fairly good grocery shoppers, or so we assume. There are criteria we obey when shopping, and we are conscious of purchasing foods that are preferably 1)local and/or responsibly grown 2)chemical and hormone free 3)minimally processed. This isn’t too hard, mostly involves just shopping around the periphery of the supermarket, avoiding the center aisles where all the big brand processed food dwells. Aside from those few rules, here’s 5 things that the average person should keep in mind…deceptions that we’ve fallen prey to.

 

1. Products with olive oil. Whether it’s mayonnaise, salad dressing, crackers, or frozen food, generally people will pay more for something with ‘olive oil’ emblazoned across the label. Truth is, most of these things could have 2% of the oil, with the 98% of other oils…canola, corn, cottonseed, hydrogenated oils, etc. Check the label. Even if olive oil is #1 on the ingredient list, there’s all sorts of issues with olive oil out there. Basically, be skeptical when paying more for something with olive oil as a selling point.

 

2. “Light”. This one has slowly become a no-brainer. For years now, things are branded as ‘light’ or ‘low fat’. In all honesty, how different is a light wheat thin compared to a regular one? You’re still eating a whole box of carbs, who cares if it’s got a bit less grease. For many products, the manufacturer exchanges fat for sugar (usually HFCS). A lowfat ice cream or salad dressing may be less fat, but it’ll be pure sugar. In the whole low calorie battle, it’s more about quality. A potato will always be a healthier purchase than a bag of Ore-Ida fries, a pack of preservative-free bacon is better than a box of low-fat JimmyDean frozen ‘sausages’.

 

3. Vanilla. This spice is damn-expensive, and nearly any big-brand processed product uses only something called vanillin, a synthetic compound used from everything from food to that car air freshener. This is not vanilla, and the jury is still out as to it’s health effects, as the majority of vanillin is now made synthetically, mostly in China. This fake vanilla can even have ‘all natural’ or ‘naturally flavored’ on its label, as those words are not regulated…which brings us onto the next issue.

 

4. “Natural”. This doesn’t mean shit. The term “Organic” does have quite a few federal guidelines, but ‘natural’ means nothing, only somewhat regulated in the meat and poultry industry. Even for meat, ‘natural’ just means that it has no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. This has nothing to do with hormones, genetically modification, living conditions, or any other chemicals or ingredients…and has no bearing in the non-meat industry. Long story short, if it’s not meat, and it says ‘natural’, there’s likely no difference between it and any other product on the shelf, don’t waste the extra money.

 

5. Vitamin C. Here’s the thing…pasteurization destroys vitamin C molecules. To compensate for this, juice companies that advertise ‘vitamin C’ prominently add ascorbic acid or other synthesized chemicals to the drink to bring the C back up to 100%. You might as well just buy vitamins, because that’s all this is. If you like juice or fruit snacks a lot, buy them, but the big flashy “Vitamin C” graphic on the label is crap. Don’t buy OJ or sugar-water just because you think you need vitamin C… If you want to fight scurvy, go grab yourself a grapefruit or something.

 

Chef Geof – eggy goodness

Breakfast this morning is a delightful concoctions that I call “mystery scramble”. It features pretty much anything I have in the fridge at the current moment, with a bunch of eggs dumped ontop and loosely scrambled.

Ingredients:

  • 1 small onion
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • swig of olive oil or chunk of butter…or both
  • a cup of eggplant cut into cubes
  • a cup of zucchini cut into cubes
  • handful of spinach, frozen of fresh
  • 8 tiny red potatoes, or around 2 big ones
  • 4 eggs
  • a little heap of chives and scallions
  • handful of goat cheese, crumbled
  • salt, pepper, etc.
  • Cholula, motherfucka!

For prep, you should precook the potatoes to get them fairly soft. I just threw them in the microwave for 3 minutes, in two batches, since I had a million little tiny ones. I’m sure you can pre-cut them to make them cook faster, boil them, whatever.

Get yourself a big-ass frying pan and throw in everything from the onion down to to the potatos. Crank up the heat to medium-high. We want this stuff to be crispy and browned, so make sure there’s enough oil/butter. I probably don’t recommend a lid, as everything might get soggy/steamed.

Once you’re happy with the golden crispness of the potatoes and zucchini (the two items that require the most time to brown up), you can kick the heat up to high, and crack in the eggs. Just pour or crack them right in there, don’t whisk or scramble first.

Give the concoction a few pokes or stirs, breaking the egg up into chunks the size of the potatoes/zucc. Some egg will also coat things like batter. This is okay, and makes the potato bites taste extra eggy and flavorful. Don’t beat the dish to death, keep a light touch when you’re stirring, combining.

Throw in the chives, salt, pepper, maybe crushed red pepper, whatever toppings. Give the pan a flip to mix everything, then turn off the heat (or take off heat if electric range). Crumble the goat cheese ontop.

Serve and enjoy. Oh, and now might be a good time for the Cholula to pay a visit.