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Fun Food Facts with Recipes


Food, clothing and shelter are the three basic necessities of life. Of these, food is the most dear because while clothing and shelter, once acquired, last for a period of time, food must be acquired (and consumed) every day if we are to live. Food also perishes within limited periods of time. Financial planners often equate the cost of food to the cost of shelter in family budgets (depending upon the size of the family, of course. For large families, the food budget might even be more.).

I do not know when I actually started cooking. My mother told me that I was already preparing my own meals by the time I was four years of age. Those meals were often just a baked potato prepared in my little electric stove. That may not have seemed much. In fact, however, potatoes are one of the most nutritionally perfect vegetables (one potato contains 100 calories, no fat, 26 grams of carbohydrates, 720 mg. of potassium, 3 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein, 2% of our minimum daily requirement of calcium, 45% of our daily Vitamin C requirement, 6% of our Iron, 8% of our Thiamin, 2% of our Riboflavin, 10% of our Vitamin B6, 8% of our Niacin, 6% of our Folate, Phosphorous and Magnesium, 2% of our Zinc and 4% of our Copper daily requirements). It was a good choice by me - and a wise move by my parents. Twenty-five years later I was successfully teaching other young children to prepare their own meals. According to the parents of my students, as a result of taking my classes, their children not only knew how to safely use kitchen utensils and appliances, how to plan, prepare and serve a meal but also, often exhibited no additional eating problems. As my parents taught me, allowing children to be involved in the choosing and preparation of their own meals, can have positive nutritional benefits.
By the time I entered primary school, I was a whiz in the kitchen (for my age). I could and did regularly prepare lunches and assist in the preparation of other meals for family members. Cooking was more than a childhood chore, it was an outlet for my creativity and my early kitchen activities began a lifelong fascination with food, its origins, nutritional values, medicinal uses, cultural influence and preparation. The result was my syndicated column the Valley Gourmet and my current series of mini-cookbooks published by Sirius Publications.

The Origins of the Valley Gourmet

I do not know which I find the most fascinating, the origins of the individual foods we consume, their impact on the cultures, how foods and their preparation reflect our lifestyles and traditions, how our diets have evolved, the medicinal and nutritional uses or the research, development, reading and preparation of food and recipes.
For those with religious or spiritual inquiries or beliefs, nothing evidences the idea of a personal omniscent being as much as the wealth of fruits and vegetables that grow on and from this earth. Man may have learned to eat bananas from watching birds or competed with the orangutangs for durian, but in either case, the result was a delicious, nutritious meal.
In the mini-book series, I have continued my integrated approach to individual foods for I believe that it is how we should be selecting and managing our diets. As a word, diet means only what we as individuals choose to consume or not consume. In a true sense of the word, all of us are on a diet every day. What we choose to include or exclude from that diet should be based on individual needs and tastes (as our scientists are now confirming) and not on some standardized requirements. We are each individual and unique. The same is true for the requirements of our bodies. Given the current energy crisis, we might equate our daily requirements to those of the automobiles we drive. We know that our current automobiles require gasoline in order to run. However, how much, what grade, how often, etc. are a matter of an individual car's consumption. The mileage and requirements that are given as standardized indications aside, each car, as any experienced driver will attest, quickly establishes its own individual requirements and history. The same is true for our bodies. We may know what an idealized or standardized version needs, but such standards are subject to individual deviations and tastes.
Many different grades, quality and mixes of additives, chemicals and refined fuel oil are included under the title of gas. Not all work or suit our individual needs or tastes. The same is true of the foods we eat.
This example may seem simplistic, but, too often, we accept the advertisements and prejudices of the market without critically evaluating what is being said. In doing so, we limit our options or even frustrate ourselves in reaching our goals. We carry on the prejudices when we believe that a food can only taste one way, be included in our diets or served in certain ways or has only conveys only certain limited benefits to us (i.e. is used only for its nutritional value, not its medicinal, ceremonial, lifestyle or cultural contribution). One of the constant themes of my writing is to help the reader learn to look at the foods he or she is eating in new ways, to appreciate its origins and meaning within his or her family history, lifestyle, culture or religious traditons, to understand the choices and benefits food offers and to approach the selection and preparation of foods and meals with a fresh sense of adventure and challenge to creativity. From those first baked potatoes prepared in my own little oven, I have never forgotten the sense of pride and satisfaction that cooking my own food and meeting my own needs conveyed. It is that wonder, sense of adventure and satisfaction that is available to all who grow, prepare or eat the many foods avaialable to us on this earth.

Fun Food Facts

Recently I encountered some shoppers in the supermarket. We started to talk about food (of course). They were mature consumers and were consciously attempting to select foods in accordance with what they had read and accepted as a healthy regimen for them to follow. The husband noted that his wife, however, sometimes forgot to take her vitamin supplements. He had given up leavened bread and was attempting to include more fruits and vegetables in his diet. I applauded their efforts. I also advised that the wife would do just as well using meeting her nutritional requirements from foods rather than pills. I asked the husband about his health. He reported that he has arthritis. Eat twenty sour cherries a day, I advised. He seemed surprised. I noted that studies showed that eating the cherries would reduce the effects of his arthritis. Although we were standing in the produce section of a supermarket, neither the husband nor the wife knew where to find sour cherries. I pointed a direction. I also suggested that some ways to prepare and consume the cherries and noted that while scientists spend a great deal of money trying to develop a cherry pill to meet the requirement of twenty sour cherries a day, they might enjoy the real cherries. The husband quickly agreed. He loves cherry pie. However, I noted since his wife may not wish to prepare a cherry pie every day, look at the challenge they have been provided. Think of more ways to serve the cherries. Given that the cherries are sour, I suggested that they think of combining them with foods or in foods that would balance the sourness with something sweet.
One way is the recipe that follows. It can be made with other fruits, berries, nuts or toppings or with a variety of them. It is a great way to use leftover rice and to have fun experimenting with the flavor and texture variations provided by using different rice, nuts or combinations of nuts and fruits. Low or non-fat whipping creams can be used to reduce the fat content for those seeking to adhere to low-fat diets. However one chooses to prepare it, be certain to make a large quantity for one thing I have found every time I have served this dish is that it is quickly and completely devoured by my guests.

Rice Cream

According to package directions, measure and prepare in a heavy saucpan (or microwave),

3/4 cup uncooked (long grain,medium white or other favorite) Rice

When rice is fully cooked, remove from heat, rinse with cold water and drain well. Refrigerate if time allows.
Measure into a separate mixing bowl and whip until cream stands in peaks,

1 cup Heavy cream

(or 1 small container or packet of nonfat dreamwhip or other whipped cream toppings)
Gradually add

3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

to the cream. Fold the whipped cream mixture into the cold rice.

1/4 cup blanched almonds, slivered (other slivered nuts may be substituted)

Pour or spoon lightly into serving dish and refrigerate for at least one or more hours before serving. Just prior to serving, remove from the refrigerator and ring top with

Fresh sour cherries*
Fruit or berries

in favorite pattern or design. Return to refrigerator until ready to serve.
*Canned or frozen cherries or cherry sauce may also be used. If using canned cherries, drain the cherries first. Serve sauce on the side as a topping. Other canned or frozen berries or fruits may also be used alone or in combination.)
For holiday celebrations, the above dish makes a great centerpiece when topped with a variety of colorful fresh, frozen or canned fruits (for instance, strawberries or cherries with melon balls for patriotic holidays).
The recipe is supposed to yield six servings, but I have found that at times the first one served consumes the whole dish! Enjoy.

Apple Carrot Cake

Preheat oven to 350-degrees F.
Grease and flour
a 9 by 13-inch rectangular cake pan. Set aside.

Peel, core and chop or grate:

4 cups Apples (about 4-6 large Apples, use Granny Smith, McIntosh, Golden Delicious, Rome, Baking Apples or for a more interesting taste, mix one or more types of apples)


1 cup Grated Carrot (1 large Carrot)

Add and mix through the fruit mixture:

1/2 cup Sugar

In a medium size bowl or large measuring cup, beat:

2 Extra Large or 3 Large Eggs


1/2 cup Salad Oil (Canola, Corn, Olive, Vegetable or blended)
2 tsps. vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts, pecans or mixed nuts

Add oil and egg mixture to fruit and blend well. In medium size mixing bowl, stir together:

2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsps. baking soda
2 tsps. cinnamon
1/2 to 1 tsp. salt

Add all at once to the fruit and oil mixture and stir until all ingredients are well mixed. Pour into the greased baking pan and bake in oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream or plain.

This cake is moist and keeps well. Beware, however, that this cake is a cake "to die for". I made it for the grand opening of a client's business. When the client called to thank me for sending him the cake and other baked goods to serve his customers, I was left speechless when I heard him yell at one of his workers: "The Apple Cake is Mine. Touch it and you die."