A little tip, free of charge. No really, allow me.

Today’s words of wisdom:

Do not. I repeat, Do not, rely on your GPS when making dining decision after a long day in an unfamiliar area. In particular, I advise giving said GPS one shot then either stop and ask for advice or go home.

The consequence, if you choose not to heed me? Well, you may just end up going to 6 different locations, criss-crossing a beachy resort town, only to fail at every turn. In the end, you find yourself at a large national chain paying way too much for frozen seafood. Downtown restaurants: not open Sunday evening. Beach side inn: only has BBQ outside, ended at 7pm.  Pub/Grille place: a mystery as we could not find a sign. The gourmet hot dog place would have won, if Chris was in charge. But I am not in favor of eating a corn dog at all, much less for dinner. No fewer than 3 places had changed their names/genres/focus. The focus seemed to be all on beer and bar instead of food, unfortunately.

At last, as we got closer to Grand Rapids, Joey’s Seafood appeared in our list of nearby restaurants. We both like Joey’s and even though its pricy, I didn’t care anymore. The hour was growing later and I still had a paper to finish write from scratch for my class, due before bedtime (I think I’ve written this same sentence before, hmm). The GPS is a little ahead and she starts saying “arriving at destination” about 500 feet before the driveway. A little confusion here as we don’t see a Joey’s but there was a blue sign (Joey’s has a blue & yellow theme) in front of the strip mall. Best we can tell, Joey’s is now an Asian Buffet. Which Chris was willing to eat at but I shot down, not wanting a meal of fried Chinese anymore than I wanted a fried hot dog (note to Chris: wedding, less than 1 month away, dress to fit less than 10 days away).

We traced back to what ended up being our “choice”, the national chain steakhouse. Honestly, my food was just fine and I had some tasty leftovers today. Chris was disappoined when his lobster tails tasted fishy and the rice pilaf was really just rice. I guess I’m spoiling him with the addition of the frozen mixed veggies at home. Also, we learned that while the ketchup bottle caps are cleaned nightly, the peanut buckets only get a wash once per week. Not that this knowledge stopped me from eating the peanuts: I’ve worked in commercial kitchens, I don’t scare that easily.

The pluses on the day: we found two quiet, secluded, sandy beaches for future reference. And, if we ever decide to open a boutique restaurant in Michigan, we know exactly which beach/resort town is most in dire need of our services.


On returning home, I did a little research. Seem’s Joey’s Seafood is a Canadian company and they never really hit it big here in the US and now the crappy economy has done them in, at least stateside. They did have two locations in Minneapolis (how Chris knew of them) and one in Michigan’s UP (my experience). The Twin Cities locatoins are gone but I couldn’t find a reference to the one in Houghton. It was there in May, packed with people and quite tasty too.

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Michigan Food Stamp Challenge

What can you buy with $5.87?  What can you eat for that amount of cash?  Well, most fast food value meals are still under $6.  And a sandwich from Tim Horton’s is just three dollars. But what if that $5.87 was for an entire day’s meals?  Breakfast, lunch and dinner plus maybe a snack?

The Michigan Department of Human Services is “sponsoring” a Food Stamp Challenge this week to bring attention to poverty and hunger in the state and hopefully increase donations to area food banks.  About 300 people including Governor Granholm, Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, automotive execs and a number of regular citizens are participating in the challenge.

The Michigan Food Stamp Challenge encourages people to spend just $29.35 for food per person in a five-day period, equivalent to the maximum amount a Michigan resident who has no income might receive in food assistance benefits. The minimum amount of benefits is $14 a month with the average benefit being about $100 a month.

Half the recipients of food stamps in Michigan are children.  With the slowing economy. Okay, I’ll say it. With the economy in a recession, more people will file for food stamps in the near future. Especially as home heating bills come in.  Did you know that the poverty level income for a family of four is just 21,000 dollars?

One of the comments I read about the Challenge came from Governer Granholm. She said she bought a lot of mac n’ cheese for this week.  Don’t get me wrong, mac n’ cheese or ramen noodles are a good way to stretch out your dollar. I certainly ate more than my fair share of ramen in college.  But healthy? Not so much.  Besides being high in sodium and processed food chemicals, these are not well-balanced meals. Where is the protein? Where are the vegetables?

The reality is that many families receiving food stamps can’t afford to buy a large selection of fruits, vegetables and meat.  Whole foods cost more.

Michigan has this really great program called Project Fresh. It provides coupons to at-risk persons to buy fresh locally grown produce at Farmers Markets.  I completely 100% agree that this is a wonderful program. Too bad only women and children in the WIC program are eligible.  In 2005, that was 38,000 Michigan residents.  And only 70% of the coupons were redeemed. More than 1.3 million residents get some level of food stamp assistance.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those people were being educated on the importance of a well-balanced nutritionally dense diet?  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if those people could redeem food stamps at the farmer’s market?

The reality is, how does someone who can barely afford to eat choose a one or two apples over 6 boxes of mac n’ cheese for $2.00?

What happens to the kid that only eats pasta and cheese with artificial coloring and flavorings and chemicals galore?  If he’s missing vitamins and minerals vital to brain development, how is supposed to excel in school?  If she’s hungry because there was no milk or cereal at home this morning, how can she concentrate on her biology quiz? Poor nutrition has a serious impact on education and the ability to learn. Kid grows up lagging behind and malnourished then 15 years later Bill Gates is on TV complaining that he can’t find qualified candidates for technical jobs without going overseas.

Hunger in America pisses me off. I know many people have made poor choices or found themselves in horrible positions through no fault of their own. Some people are starving but refuse to accept help. I can’t fix everything. But US food supply is large enough to feed every American two times over.  And that’s presuming the average adult American eats 2100 calories a day. There is no reason on earth why a child should ever be starving in this country.

What to do?

Encourage families to grow their own food crops either at home or through a Community Garden Project.

Earthworks thru Capuchin Soup Kitchen
In Ann Arbor
More Detroit options
Lansing’s Garden Project by the Lansing Food Bank

Donate money and goods to the local food bank/pantry, soup kitchen:

MidMichigan Food Bank
Lansing Food Bank
Find a Food Bank thru Feeding America (formerly America’s 2nd Harvest)

Other ways to contribute:

  • Set aside a portion of your home garden for Grow a Row a national program that encourages gardeners to grow extra produce for donation, usually through your local Farmer’s Market.
  • Even if you aren’t trying, you might end up with extra tomatoes or zucchini, etc., in your garden. Contact your local food bank to donate the veggies.
  • Give the Food Stamp Challenge a try. Spending a day or two in the shoes of someone less fortunate can be an invaluable lesson.
  • Encourage Congress and the legislatures to incorporate nutritional counseling and cost-cutting tips in to new Food Stamp Rules and to make it easier for recipients to buy fresh healthy whole foods instead of processed garbage.
  • Get educated on hunger in America through sites like FRAC, Bread for the World and the 2006 Hunger Study (sponsored by Altria of all companies).

I’m sure there are other things too.  Remember all the times your parents said “Clean your plate. Think of the starving kids in China, Africa, India?”  Those kids are still starving but so are children in this country.


*Today is Blog Action Day and this year’s subject is Poverty. I had started writing this post yesterday, not knowing a thing about Blog Action Day. When I discovered the event, I hurried up the writing of this post as it could not be more appropriate.

Filed under DUH! Kid’s Cereals Are High in Sugar

Shocking news report today! Cereals marketed to children are high in sugar and low in fiber!


I saw a number of articles on Google News this morning about sugar content in cereal. Apparently Consumer Reports did an analysis of popular cereals among the kiddie set (and probably popular among the teens and adults too). Not surprisingly, they found that many of the cerals were high in sugar and low in nutritional value and/or fiber. At the bottom of the list were such fine choices as Apple Jacks, Corn Pops and Cap’n Crunch.

Honey Smacks and Golden Crisp are both more than 50% sugar. More sugar than a glazed doughnut. And a nice assortment of artificial sweetners and colors plus some big long words that purport to be food. Funny thing about Honey Smacks: If you don’t remember that one from childhood, its because it used to be called SUGAR Smacks. Hello Marketing Genius! Everyone knows honey is much less political than sugar. Just don’t read the ingredient list or you’ll discover the cereal has more sugar and corn syrup than honey.

As a kid, I loooved Cheerios. And Fruity Pebbles but mostly Cheerios. I’ll still eat them now, grabbing a handful from the box to munch on. I also eat frosted shredded wheat (Trader Joe brand is an awesome deal) the same way although in general I don’t eat cereal very often for breakfast or snacking. Fortunately, Cheerios was one of the recommended brands- low in sugar and high in fiber.

Consumer Reports full ratings are available to subscribers only (which I am not) but US News and World Report has some helpful tips for parents looking to boost the nutritional quality of their kid’s morning meal.

I particularly liked the suggestion to be unconventional. Leftover pizza makes an awesome breakfast

Seriously, this should not be news. Walk in to your local grocery store- any of them- and walk down the cereal aisle. If you are less than five feet tall or you ride around in the front seat of a shopping buggy, you only see a world of brightly colored boxes with cartoon characters calling your name and pointing out the awesome prizes in the bottom of the box of candy cereal.

Cheerios might be on the main shelf but even Life and Kix are often relegated to the margins of the average sight-line of a 6 year old. Grape Nuts, Kashi? Please, who wants a boring ole white box with just words on it?

And all you adults who thinking you are being smart n’ healthy with your Special K? Pay no attention to the HFCS behind the curtain.

Quickie Dinner & A Complaint

I just wanted to cook something, anything for dinner tonight. Something easy and fast. We are in desperate need of a fridge clean-out so I just grabbed a few things I knew weren’t very old.

Ingredients

3 boneless chicken thighs (1/2 a package, left over from camping)
1/2 jar tomato sauce
2 portabella mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red onion, chopped
Garlic seasoning mix
balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
fresh basil
parmesan cheese

Directions

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pan. Season thighs with garlic seasoning mix or mix of your choice.  Brown thighs on both sides then remove to a plate.  Add onion and mushrooms to pan and saute for 3-5 minutes, until starting to soften.  Add 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar to pan and use wooden spoon to scrape any bits up off the bottom.  Add tomato sauce and another 1 tsp garlic seasoning plus 1/2 tsp rosemary then return chicken to pan. Reduce heat to medium-low and cover. Let cook until chicken is cooked through and sauce thickens slightly.

While chicken with sauce is cooking, prepare pasta of your choice. When ready, serve chicken and sauce over pasta, garnish with fresh basil and shredded cheese. This made two servings for dinner plus one for leftovers.


It was quick. Since we have nice bright 100 watt lights in our house, versus the lantern and firelight I used on Saturday night, I was able to see these chicken thighs a little better. And I was appalled at how fatty they were. Fat on all sides plus some gristle on one. I tried to trim it off but this was seriously cutting in to my time limit. I almost gave up and used the chicken breasts we have instead. And I didn’t want to waste food just because I felt ripped off. I HATE paying for fat on chicken. Which is why I normally buy Miller Farms Amish Chicken. It is consistently the best looking pre-packaged chicken in any store that carries it. And you don’t get the fatty surprise when you open the package at home. I have purchased other brands (one that may or may not be named after a squeaky voiced boxer in particular) and ended up throwing out 1/4 pound or more in fat. Really, if I am buying boneless skinless chicken breasts, what makes you think I’d want it covered in fat?

I told Chris that next week I’m buying some chicken from the City Market. And otherwise, no more major mega-brands.

The garlic seasoning mix I used is from Garlic Festival Foods. We picked up the all-purpose seasoning plus some salsa at the Michigan Renaissance Festival on Sunday.

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, good night

I know this is really off-topic but I just had to take a moment.  A moment to say good-bye to an important ritual in my life.  It is my habit to read a few news websites everyday, CNN, Drudge Report, Google News and the Detroit Free Press mostly.  Of late, my visits to the Free Press site have increased exponentially. Between constant developments in mayoral text-messaging scandal and the Synagro sludge contract investigation, I’ve had to check in several times a day.

Like a rubbernecker passing a wreck, I just could not look away, with one important difference. When I pass an accident in real life, I always send out some good vibes for the people involved. In the case of “King” Kwame and his stunning hubris, I was hoping for carnage. I was hoping for the downfall of a man who thought he was above it all, too good to fail, appointed by God to save the city of Detroit. 

I am saddened by all the ways Kwame wasted the most amazing opportunities of his life.  Elected as Mayor of Detroit in 2001, only 31 years old, Kwame brought with him a vigor and vitality to City Hall. He brought energy and big, bright ideas. Unfortunately, he also brought a lifetime of buddies and friends and peeps to fill positions and do favors for.  He took advantage of the trust Detroiters invested in him.  His ego grew and grew to rock star status complete with fancy cars, entourages and women. 

I am equally saddened by the choices Detroiters made when it came time to choose a mayor.  In 2001, his first election, I liked Kwame. I would have voted for him, had I been a resident.  By the time his re-election came around in 2005, I knew the truth.  I grew up in and around Flint. I’ve seen corrupt mayors/leaders. And I’ve seen the people just keep coming back for more abuse and deception and plain bullshit.  I don’t get it.  Its like the teenage girl that keeps hanging aroudd with the mean girls at school despite the pranks and teasing and mistreatment, all to be part of the “in” crowd. 

 

Today, it has ended. Or begun to end. I am not so naive as to believe this is really over.  There will be more fallout, there will be more scandal and more people, both the deserving and the not, will lose their jobs.

Today, Kwame Kilpatrick pled guilty to two felony counts relating to his perjury and obstruction of justice charges.  His sentence will include:

  • 120 days in jail
  • 5 years probation
  • $1 million in restitution
  • Resignation as mayor
  • Surrendering his license to practice law in Michigan
  • Agreeing not to run for elected office for five years

The scary part: in five years he could be on a ballot again.  I don’t, for a second, believe that Kwame is done, that he’s given up and will happily live the rest of his life quietly away from the public eye.  It is for the people of Detroit to remember the black eye they received the last time this “leader” was around and choose otherwise.

An equally fond farewell to Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings, who announced her retirement shortly after Kwame pled out and Sharon McPhail, the one woman I still haven’t figured out.  First she hated Kwame, ran against him in 2005 and later became one of his most ardent supporters. 

 

Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

 

For me, fortunately, I still have the Synagro investigation to keep me going. I know we’ll keep seeing Kwame in the news as that FBI probe moves forward- his father being a key player. I continue to look forward to the day when I no longer have to see that mopey hound-dog face pleading to us all from the Freep homepage. Ditto for that pained, wrinkled brow look that Christine Beatty (mayor’s former deputy chief of staff/paramour) sports in all her pictures