• Monday, October 26, 2015

    The sky is not falling on hotdogs and bacon

    According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) processed meats have been classified as a Class 1 Carcinogen. News stories are quick to point out that asbestos and tobacco are also Class 1 carcinogens. You might like to know that other things in that list include sunlight, birth control, alcohol, and hormone therapy. Red meat was classified as a Class 2A, along with working as a hairdresser and grilled food. The IARC has looked at hundreds of items and only one has made the ‘not carcinogenic’ category. Furthermore, just because a substance is in the same classification as tobacco and asbestos, it doesn’t mean that its relationship to cancer is as strong as those substances. 

    I’m not telling you this because I want you to spend the rest of your life eating bland food in the dark; I just want you to know that the sky is not falling.

    I’m not ‘that kind of doctor,’ but I know that cancer is a very complicated disease. Everyone wants to find that one silver-bullet prevention, but it’s just not out there. Genetics, exercise, medicine, whether or not you’ve had a baby, and diet can all affect your cancer risk. 

    Processed meats are important

    The ingredients and processes used to make hotdogs and bacon and sausage are about more than creating tasty treats to eat at tailgates. Processed meats help us to use meat more efficiently, waste less food and feed more people. 

    Processed meats allow us to use the whole animal. There are lots of cuts on the animal that wouldn’t taste very good if we just tried to cook them like fresh meat. They may be too tough, too small, or too fatty. Meat processors grind them up and mix them all together to make sausages and hotdogs. 

    Processed meats allow us to store meat for longer times. Ingredients like salt, sugar, and nitrites help fend off bacteria that cause it to go bad. They also keep it from becoming rancid. Think about how long hotdogs and ham last in the fridge in comparison to fresh steaks and burgers.

    Processed meats are a good source of inexpensive protein. Foods like hotdogs and sausages are inexpensive, but they provide protein. People need that protein, especially kids. Protein helps you feel fuller, longer after a meal. It also helps build and repair muscles as kids grow. Research has shown that kids fed protein perform better in school. In some poor families, processed meats are the only way they can afford to feed their kids protein.

    Processed meats help prevent food-borne illness. Ingredients like salt and lactates help keep dangerous bacteria, like Listeria, from growing, and nitrites are added to prevent the growth of Clostridium botulinum, the bacteria that causes Botulism.

    There is lots of good information circulating today about the benefits of processed meats and the complicated issues around this new classification.

    I really like this interview from CBS News this morning, looking at this study in the real world.

    So, think about the benefits of processed meats. Enjoy them.

    Tuesday, October 20, 2015

    Grannie Annie’s Pozole

    I don’t often do recipe posts. Honestly, I don’t often cook. But my friend Sarah Shotts is working on an awesome new adventure, Project STIR. She wants to create videos of families cooking together and passing down recipes and kitchen secrets.

    Her project really hit home for me as I lost my Mother in August and my Dad’s Mom last October. What I wouldn’t give for a few more hours in the kitchen with either one of them.

    So many of the things that make a dish delicious can’t be found on the recipe card. I hope Sarah’s project helps to preserve dishes for other families and cultures.

    I decided to share my Grannie Annie’s Pozole.

    Like most grandmas, Grannie Annie was happiest with a
     baby in her lap. That's Vallie at about 3 months.
    I grew up in Texas, but my Dad’s family lived for several years in New Mexico. In those years, my Grandmother picked up several culinary traits from the Hispanic and Native American cultures in the Jemez Mountains. She made homemade tortillas and sopapillas and put green chilies in everything.

    Pozole is a prehispanic soup traditionally made with pork and hominy. According to Dad (and verified by Wikipedia), the word pozole actually translates to simply ‘hominy’ in the native Aztec language.

    Our family always ate Pozole on New Year’s Day, but I wanted to share it because it’s one of the most unique dishes we eat.

    Bonus! It’s super easy and can be made in the crock pot!

    I had to call my Dad for a recipe. Turns out there’s not one written down, so he recalled the recipe from memory.


    3 big cans hominy (drained)
    2 cans of Green Chili Enchilada sauce
    1 can for chopped green chili
    Jar of chopped pimentos
    Pork or chicken cut to bite size
    Salt and pepper

    You may need to add a little water to cover all of the ingredients in the crock pot.

    It takes 3 to 4 hours for the meat to cook and it is ready to eat.

    He said Grandma used to make it with dried hominy that she soaked overnight, but it was just as good with canned hominy.  Grandma was very particular about how her dishes looked in the bowl, so she would buy some yellow and some white and then add pimento to make it look pretty.

    We fixed the Pozole late morning and let it cook for most of the afternoon.

    We made ours with chicken, but pork works just as well. I wanted to take a picture of the cut-up chicken, but I was chasing kids while Dad was doing the work.

    Even the kids enjoyed it.

    I love a good crock-pot recipe.
    So easy and great for this time of year.

    We topped it with shredded cheese and ate it
    with flour tortillas. Dad warmed the tortillas in the
    skillet to take the ‘store-bought’ taste out of them.