Monday, January 26, 2009

Cooking connects you to your food and protects your health

After two months of effort, I published my newest website last night. I call it Recipe River with the motto "a good life flows from cooking food." It is a recipes website with supplemental articles meant to help people start cooking more of their own food. Cooking is an important skill that has slid off the plates of many people's lives. Cooking your own food the majority of the time is so important because it allows you to know what ingredients you are using and increases the likelihood that you will prepare proper portion sizes. Food from restaurants and fast food restaurants tends to have portions that are way too large and the fat and sugar contents are generally larger as well.

I also believe that cooking causes you to appreciate your food more because you have been involved in the preparation. You put in an effort and get a reward. This is in contrast to slapping down some cash, getting some food, and shoveling it into your mouth without a thought of where it came from or what exactly it is. Being able to cook also breeds a sense of independence and competence. When you are hungry, you know what to do. If you don't know how to cook, then all you can do is look to others to provide for you.

Our society has many barriers that discourage people from cooking. Long work hours and commute times make people think they don't have time to cook. An overabundance of fast food outlets, especially in low income neighborhoods, entice people with convenient albeit unhealthy food. Many people simply don't know how to cook anymore. Schools have cut basic home economics classes and many young people are coming out of families where their parents did not cook.

My goals at Recipe River are to present solutions to these common societal problems by:

Providing recipes for easy dishes that use readily available ingredients.

Informing people about the bad health effects associated with not cooking your food.

Emphasizing the fact that cooking does not really need to take up that much of your time.

I even tackle the issue of single people who are notorious for not cooking very much. I understand that it's hard to cook for just yourself, but once upon a time I was single too, and I cooked my dinner and packed my lunches to bring to work far more often than I ate out. I could not afford to eat out all the time, and I was always amazed to see my co-workers buying their take out lunches every day. What a waste of cash that could have been spent on something nice. (For advice for singles, see my article: Overcoming cooking challenges for single people)

Now for my main point at Recipe River which concerns the subject of obesity. Considered an epidemic at this point, obesity is researched from many different angles, and data are starting to come in that reveal two things:

1. People who cook most of their own meals have a lower incidence of obesity.
2. People who do not cook most of their own meals have a higher incidence of obesity.

Although research on the cooking angle is only beginning, cooking or not cooking is emerging as a greater indicator of obesity than education or ethnicity or income level. (See my article: Not cooking your own food is a recipe for obesity)

I had always suspected this to be the case. To be honest I have some fat friends, who of course lament their condition. I have also noticed that they frequently eat out and I have pointed out to them how unhealthy it is to eat restaurant food so much. These same friends don't even know how to cook. Coincidence? Apparently not.

As for Recipe River, I intend it to become a reference website for all types of recipes for both experienced cooks and novices. It has bread recipes, dessert recipes, main dish recipes, and side dish recipes. I will be adding recipes regularly, which should be easy because I cook constantly and am always looking over new recipes. In the recipes I write, I also try to be clear about how to do certain tasks because I realize that some people don't automatically understand every cooking term.

Although I've been preachy about cooking, I grant that everyone needs to go to restaurants sometimes. I do so myself, but it is important to limit your restaurant use for the sake of your health (and your wallet). If you cook more of your meals, you can save your money and go out someplace nice once in a while.

Before you get hungry again, paddle your canoe over to Recipe River and get cooking.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Recommended Ice Age adventure for winter reading

I just finished reading The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel. It is the third book in her Earth's Children series that I have been enjoying immensely. I read the first book Clan of the Cave Bear about twenty years ago when I was in high school. That is a profoundly gripping novel, especially if you are like me and find yourself wondering what Neanderthals were like.

Although I really thought Clan of the Cave Bear was great, I never continued reading the series until the past few months when I ran across The Valley of the Horses at the library. After almost twenty years, it was like I had just put down the first novel days before. I remembered Ayla like a dear friend and was once again hunting and gathering at her side as she suffered extreme trials in the Neolithic world. Then I quickly proceeded to the third novel, which was utterly fascinating. My full review of The Mammoth Hunters is now at my website the Fantasy Tavern that includes some book reviews.

I mostly read fantasy, but I really enjoy stories set in our real prehistoric times. I think that some fantasy literature even owes its inspiration to our prehistory that beckons our imaginations but left no written records. For example, fantasy fiction usually contains races other than humans, like elves, dwarves, gnomes, etc. This interest in alternative races could be derived from the distant past in which humans actually did encounter and sometimes live in competition with other humanoid species that have gone extinct. Also the common motif of dragons and fighting monsters prevalent in fantasy fiction likely emerges from a time when humans shared the landscape with megafauna and did have to fight or at lease avoid monsters on a regular basis.

For more of my thoughts on various fantasy books and the Earth's Children series, please visit the book review pages at the Fantasy Tavern.

A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin
The Briar King by Greg Keyes
The Charnel Prince by Greg Keyes
Shadowmarch by Tad Williams
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
The Valley of the Horses by Jean M. Auel
The Mammoth Hunters by Jean M. Auel
A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Barack Obama tattoo trend

Even during the long presidential campaign, supporters were getting tattoos of Barack Obama. With his inauguration about to break out like Fat Tuesday, the latest face for Prez-tige tattoos is the leader of the Free World himself. Hey, it's better than getting a tat of the ziz zag man.

In Washington D.C. right now Fatty's Custom Tattoos is offering a free Barack Obama tattoo with a purchase of another tattoo. See article.

Because I just could not resist, I added a Barack Obama tattoo to my free design listing at Destination Tattoo. When people get a Barack Obama tattoo, I imagine they will be simulating the pain felt by many Republicans as the new President takes the oath of office.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Expand your consumption of local food with home canning and food preservation

Focusing on local food products has become increasingly popular as people seek healthier food and try to reduce global warming pollution. Growing gardens is on the rise again as people see the potential for fresh fruit and vegetables out their back doors. Even modest gardens and one or two fruit trees can create tremendous bounty for one family, but does anyone really want to eat 40 pounds of tomatoes before they go bad? The answer is home canning with Mason jars. Canning used to be very common a couple generations ago, and it is on the rise again as people reallize they must take more control of their food sources instead of leaving it solely to mega-polluting agribusiness.

Last summer in cooperation with a local urban farming and environmental group ( I was the instructor for a home canning seminar. I had taught myself the year before how to do it, and I was amazed at how many people, young and old, turned out for what I considered one of my nerd hobbies. About 25 people showed up to watch me boil water! Actually I discussed many technical details, but it was hardly the sexiest show in town.

Home canning fits in well with the local food movement because it allows people to fully take advantage of local crops, instead of only having them in season. For example if you can locally grown apples, then you are using local apples for most of the year for your desserts, fruit salads, and applesauce instead of buying what is at the grocery store.

Consuming locally grown food is an important way to reduce global warming pollution. A common figure tossed around is that the average American meal has traveled 1,500 miles. A great deal of the transport is caused by shipping foods to places where they are out of season, like tomatoes from warm growing regions (California, Florida, and Mexico) to winter regions. Another large source of all the food travels are centralized processing facilities that have replaced smaller regional operations over the years. This massive shipping of food back and forth across continents and even around the world causes tremendous amounts of fossil fuels to be burned, which exacerbates global warming. Of course some food transport is necessary with coffee being a glaring example, but most of it is unnecessary.

You can reduce the amount of fossil fuel pollution associated with your food by selecting local food whenever possible. When something you like is in season, find a canning recipe, buy a bunch of it, and preserve it. Then you will be able to enjoy that local food for all or part of the year before resorting to the supermarket.

I have a website about home canning where I have assembled my knowledge. I've been working to get the website ready for the coming growing season. This week I added the following recipes:

Applesauce canning recipe
Tomato canning recipes

Whether you garden or only shop your local farmers' market, I encourage you to learn about home canning. The food quality is substantially better than mass produced food and it will connect you with your local food system.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Getting noticed online

Usually I have to search and work hard to seed the internet with links to my various websites. These are called backlinks and they are helpful for gaining popularity with search engines. But over the past two days, I've had two different owners of websites that are directories of free online novels and ebooks contact me about listing my fantasy novel Union of Renegades: The Rys Chronicles Book I.

Of course being listed in such directories is nothing momentous that will miraculously lead to success, but these new listings will help more people find my work and help search engines send more people to my websites. I'm hoping this is an auspicious start to 2009.

The free ebook directories are:

Finding Free eBooks - all free ebooks, all the time.


Online Novels - Free Novels Available on the Internet