What happened to the REAL food in recipes?

1,006
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
I noticed something when thumbing through one of those recipe booklets that are strategically located at the checkout aisle at the supermarket. You know, the ones that scream "Low Fat/Low Calorie" recipes. Lots of people are grabbing these things on the way out the door. I guess $2.50 is a bargin for a cookbooklet. Must be the title that is reeling em in.

I noticed that most of the ingredients are either, canned condensed soup, frozen veggies, seasoning mixes and bouillon. How nutritious is this stuff really? And does it really eliminate the fat or sodium for that matter?

I've always found bouillon and seasoning packets to be rather salty.

Here is a sample recipe:

Fish Fillets Supreme With Orange Sauce

Orange Sauce
1T cornstarch
1t chicken-flavor instant bouillon
1t sugar
1/2 c water
1T orange juice
1T margarine or butter
1/2t grated orange peel

Fish and Vegetables
2 1/2c Green Giant American Mixtures
1 LB fresh or frozen cod fillets, thawed
1/2t salt-free naturan seasoning mix, if desired
Orange Slices, if desired

Looking at the ingredient list....what do you think? Does the eating public find it that much of a hassle to use fresh ingredients? I wouldn't have minded much if they had said "low sodium chicken broth". I think that would have been better than the bouillon. Which by the way is only chicken FLAVORED!

Jodi
 
579
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Joined May 6, 2001
Jodi,
I have an entire group of family members that cooks this way. Every family gathering includes various casseroles that have condensed suop as its base with other canned/boxed items mixed in. I have one cousin in particular who is proud of herself when she "bakes" a freeze-dried au gratin potato mix in the MICROWAVE. I get funny looks from them when I bring food because my cakes aren't from mixes and I use organic ingredients. I get alot of comments about how I spend my time like "Well, I don't have all day to spend in the kitchen.....". They seem to believe that because I am a stay at home mom, I have all the time in the world to cook and bake and that because they are mothers who work outside the home as well they need the mixes and canned foods. I don't believe that but I know that I will never be able to convince them to change.
 
9,209
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Joined Aug 29, 2000
If you look closely, many of these are published by food processing companies (Campbell's, Kraft, etc.). Others don't say so plainly, but they are not much more than advertisements. If you're looking for something to make for dinner and you're in the store at the last minute AND you are accustomed to using processed foods, this type of publication is meant to send you flying down the aisles to buy more processed food. I have one booklet like this published in France, and it also has processed foods in its recipes.

That's my take on such "cookbooks".
 
846
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
These are usually sold by the manufacturer of the foods that are used in the "quick" recipes.

For a real laugh, you should peek into Best of the Best of Colorado. So help me, if I see another recipe that includes a can of Coke, I'm going to scream.

:rolleyes: . o O (Don'tcha just LOVE those recipes that call for a box of cake mix??)
 
7,375
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Joined Aug 11, 2000
I taught a private class yesterday to a couple that we're pushing 70. They cook without sodium and extreme low fat......AND they rely on recipes!!! He adores cooking shows and gave himself a cooking class for his birthday. He wanted to learn how to make:
Chicken Caccatori, Chicken Marsala, Putenesca, fruit salsa, red pepper sauce....
It was again interesting to work with people who enjoy cooking, but seriously don't do it without recipes. They have whiz bang tools in the kitchen, but don't know to freeze basil. *** I hand people recipes at every class I teach, after asking there is always 2 or 3 that rely so much on recipes that they will NOT cook without them, I'm not going to insist that their learning curve evaporate....it's taking someone from where they are at and moving them forward.
Soooo, there is a lost generation that did not learn how to cook from scratch. When you have great ingrediants you don't have to adulterate them to eat them....
What's cool is my almost 20 year old is on his own and learning to cook.....he is paying attention to sauces these days....took moving away to increase desire to learn.
 
1,006
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
Instead of Low Fat/Calorie they should be calling this stuff Low Nutrient Recipes. All that processed food doesn't leave much for your body. May as well just buy that Mega bag of Cheese Doodles and Nachos. I just can't find a can of condensed soup appetizing.

If I want soup, I check my fridge. A little chicken here, some dry peas from my pantry, veggies from the crisper, maybe some chopped bacon or if I haven't cooked and eaten it as soon as I got it home, a hamhock. Some seasonings and that's it. What is so hard about that. Ive watched my aunt in law cook and she's got one of those cookbooklets up to her nose while shaking a seasoning packet into her watered down condense soup! Ugh!

Everyone is so obsessed with shortcuts. Can't get them to believe me that cooking is all about taste. Freshness and taste. You don't need a recipe to teach you that about cooking. Baking however is another matter. Give me the formula first, then when Im comfortable with it Ill do some tweaking.
 
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Joined Jun 1, 2001
Oh, my, yes, this drives me mad. All these recipes with prepackaged gunk -- they taste packaged and fake and horrid, and I don't think they even really save much time.

I, too, particularly loathe those "box of cake mix" recipes. Why bother? I admit, I do sometimes use those mixtures of frozen vegetables (specially this year; with the weather, the prices for real, raw vegetables were COMPLETELY outrageous most of the winter. Broccoli hit $5 a head at one point -- I kid you not!)

But I love kitchen tweakery. I'll change or alter or adapt any recipe freely -- even baking. Not that I don't have recipes; I have cookbooks and clippings overflowing out of their corner of the kitchen. They're my inspiration, though, not my chains. (I love to cook!)

Yes, it does amaze me, though, how many people are so shocked by the stuff I make. Granted, sometimes I do get very very fiddly (I made a fancy Mother's Day Lunch on Saturday, with little individual tomato tarts and a layered mousse cake, among other things, and yes, it was pretty labour-intensive) but very often, jeesh! But so many people don't even know what to do with stuff. I've had the CHECKOUT CLERKS at the supermarket ask me occasionally what some slightly obscure vegetable I'm buying (parsnips, once!) actually is, and what you do with it.
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2002
First let me say I use practically no processed foods and I think they are from a nutritional and cost point of view a rip-off. All the real bread has disappeared into the profits of the food manufacturers and the advertising companies that sell us on those "foods." For the last 50-75 years we have been, as a nation, brainwashed into thinking that it is not only easier to buy this stuff but also healthier. After all, it is ENRICHED, defatted, preserved, etc. Someone has taken the work out of it for us and put our health into it. After all the advertisements tell us so.

And there is some truth in it. If I buy a can of soup, it can sit on the shelf for a year, more even. If I make stock it can sit in my freezer 3 months, 6 months tops. Furthermore I can buy my canned soup every so many months, fresh fruit and produce must be bought every day or two to be served optimally.

But there is another side to the use of these foods. There is an army of women out there who can barely keep up with family and work responsibilities even using these foods where everthing has been diced and sliced for them (or at least that is what they have been taught to think). And a substantial number of them have never been educated in how to cook or in nutrition and household economy. There are battalions of single folk who don't think it's worthwhile going to all that fuss for themselves: from learning to cook, frequent shopping, to spending some time in the kitchen. Others the ailing or arthritic, have physical difficulties that lead them to choose the way that takes the least effort even though they, like growing children, are most in need of the nutritional punch of real food.

Lastly, there's the issue of cost. For many people their skills, budget, and time stretch to either tuna noodle casserole or hamburgers and hot dogs. Their children are demanding the $3+/box cereals and other overpriced foods I don't even know the name of that advertising targets them with (even PSB to my horror has Fruit Loops "sponsering" Sesame Street). Few people know or care that by eliminating these things from their market baskets they could eat real foods at less cost and greater nutrition. (Organic oatmeal at my coop costs .67/lb, for example.) But because they don't know how to plan menus and basic cooking skills, they wind up spending perhaps 1/2 again or even several times more on their food budget to less advantage nutritionally or gastronomically.

There are even legions of people who are less sensitive to tastes. I kid you not. Apparently some people don't have as many taste buds and are literally less discerning in their taste according to some recent experiments. (How would like a job counting people's taste buds?) Unlike so many of us on this board, there are people who simply don't care WHAT they eat.

I agree with the premise that one can cook more healthfully and just as quickly, and probably more cheaply, whether for a family or oneself alone. What I suggest is that a lot of folks don't care very much what they put into their bodies either nutritionally or aesthetically. And a lot more simply don't know how to do it. And while there are legions of cookbooks out there that we all know and love, the majority of them focus on the aesthetics rather than nutrition and economy in the kitchen for working mothers, singles, and the ailing and elderly.

Of course, the irony is that all their nutritional (and economic) needs could be better met with real food and very little if any additional time. Who's going to advertise that? Who's going to make any money off that?
 

phatch

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Being single taught me to cook. No one else was going to make anything good for me to eat if it wasn't me.

One of the great cookbooks I read at the time was about cooking for a college student. The author had worked out a 5 week rotation on buying fresh real ingredients, cheaply, and cooking it so the leftovers cycled into meals later in the week. Great book. The library doesn't have it any more and I no longer remember the title. Learned a lot in that book.

Phil
 
1,310
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
The sad fact is, not everybody has a sophisticated palate. Some, who don't know any better will eat almost anything and think it's good. Some even prefer inferior food to better quality.
A friend tells the story of the time she had out of town visitors when she lived in California's central valley (Modesto for anybody who knows the area.) Our friend found a reasonably good restaurant to treat her guests who were obviously not enjoying the food at all. As a joke our friend said, "Perhaps we should have gone to Denny's". Immediately her guests' faces lit up and they said, "Yes please".
And there is the perpetual myth that fresh food is either too expensive and/or time consuming to prepare. When the majority of women were home makers, there was a basic expectation that they would prepare meals from scratch because they had the time. Since many women have joined the workforce, time available for cooking has diminished. (For most men that has always been the case.) But food and recipe ideas have developed to accommodate busy schedules so there is realy no excuse for processed food. The trick is to convince the masses of this. Alas, many are out of the habit of cooking and it's just too convenient to nuke processed food.

Jock
 
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Joined May 1, 2001
As far as time goes, my daily commute consumes four hours. That boils down to a basic 12-hour work day.

That said, I shop 3 or 4 times a week and cook 4 out of 5 weekday nights (one night is Rotary). Friday dinner is usually for 6-10.

If you want to do it (eat well, enjoy good food) you can make the time. It takes no longer to make a simple sauté, steam some fresh vegtables and boil some pasta than it does to make one of the various pre-packages abortions.

On top of that, the time spent cooking forms a pleasant transition from the tension of the day to a good meal and a relaxed evening (what's left of it).

:chef:
 
1,006
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
I have a wok and a few bamboo steamers. I just load my ingredients, stack the steamers and have a whole meal done virtually at the same time. Love my wok.
 
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Joined Jan 26, 2001
The cashiers always cringe when I go through the line- instead of prepackaged easily scanned items, I usually have tons of veggies and fruits in bags that have to be weighed. The thing is there are only two of us, so there might be 1-2 items in each one.

And then there was the bagger who was laughing at the fact that someone actually buys (or worse, eats!) eggplant....

Go figure.

~~SHimmer~~
 
846
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
This is MUCH more prevalent in the US where fast food and unrealistically crammed schedules prohibit the preparation of proper foods to really nourish the body. He11, if you live on McDonald's since childhood, who can blame a kid for growing up conditioned to believe it's "home cooking"? The astronomical salt and sugar content of "fast" and "prepared" food could make anybody sick. You would cringe if you knew how many kids think the most widely used tool for dinner preparation is the phone. :rolleyes:
 
1,006
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Joined Feb 6, 2002
Chiff, I winced at your post. My soon to be step-dad's kids came to visit (weird that Im 25 and his youngest is 7) my mom and him. They drove my mom nuts. My mom loves to cook....gets her vegetables from the Farmer's Market and nowhere else. Grows her own herbs on the apartment balcony, etc. etc. My step-dad is also a great cook.

All these kids wanted was Frozen Corn Dogs, those frozen breakfast bacon and cheese muffins or pizza. They took one look at my mother's roast turkey with cranberry sauce, steamed carrots, and rice & peas and said (very impolitely I might add) "What the He11 is THAT! We don't eat that stuff. Ewww. Dad can we get McDonald's?" Let's just say my mom still gets ticked off thinking about it.

Did I also mention that his kids are on their way to being overweight? He has no idea what to do.

Jodi
 
846
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Joined Nov 29, 2001
Convenience products, like frozen veggies, are there for our convenience! If not buying frozen means our family does not get veggies as part of their daily diet, I say buy frozen! I especially like Green Giant whole frozen veggies. I've gotten the string beans and broccoli many times. They're unadulterated (no "flavoring" crap added) and ready to use.

I don't tweak baking much due to the chemical reactions necessary for baking to work. However, I'll toss a handful of chocolate chips or raisins or craisins into something if I think they'll improve it.

As for buying veggies and having a cashier give you the hairy eyeball...nearly every time I shopped for our restaurant, checkout time wound up being a produce lesson. (Try buying lemongrass, most have no clue what it is or how it's used :) )
 
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Joined Jun 1, 2001
:crazy: Chiffonade, the produce lesson? I hear you! I've given many a "how I use this" lecture over the conveyer belt at my local Zehrs.

On a related note -- do supermarkets other places use those verdammt CODE STICKERS on their produce? Loathe those things! Why do I have to strip half the skin off my pear because no one can be bothered to teach their clerks the difference between a Bosc and a Bartlett???
 

phatch

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The checkers who can't tell the difference between parsley, cilantro and italian parsley....

But for me to get lemongrass, I have to go the Chinese grocer. And there is a first time for buying everything and I didn't know exactly what it looked like. And all the labels are in Chinese. But the grocer there is very helpful. I mention what I'm cooking and she hauls me around the store pointing out the best brands of fish sauce, the lemon grass, the kafir lime leaves, the best coconut milk and all. Love that store.

Phil
 
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Joined Mar 3, 2002
While I agree with Shawtycat's original point about using real food, the question is WHAT we are to consider "real" food, today. To my thinking there is a difference between a bag of flash frozen broccali or peas that you use as an element (or ingredient) in a home made meal and those veggies used in some pre-fab stew in a box or can. And there is even some debate as to whether the flash frozen fruits and veggies have or have not retained their nutrition better than most supermarket fresh foods that have been carted in from all over the world, warehoused for who knows how long before getting onto our plates. Which is why I use a food coop and farmer's markets as much as possible and sympathize with those who are in parts of the country without such resources.

Even those of us who pride ourselves on being "scratch" cooks use all sorts of processed foods: bread (or at least flour), catsup, mayo, mustard, canned tomatoes, tuna, pasta, pickled herring, smoked bacon, chocolate, etc... You get the point. We are no longer self sufficient do-it-yourselfers of the prairie farm, growing our own. And even they had to can, smoke, etc. to preserve foods for the winter.

But I think most of us agree (even if we resort to them occasionally) that fast food take-out & canned, boxed, and frozen preparations of food that has been treated with artifical flavorings and preservatives is at the least questionable.

I think I'll start another thread about what we do make from scratch, thinking of such things as cheese, coffee roasting, liqueurs & wine, condiments such as catsup, pickles, etc.
 
1,310
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Joined Dec 4, 2001
I agree with Alexia that in our society it is virtually inevetable that we will consume some processed food. But I think ShawtyCat's point was that for many people that junk makes up the bulk of their diet. One simply needs the desire to prepare good food from scratch. People often ask me in wonder, Isn't that hard? I say, No, if it was hard I wouldn't do it! This cultural "convenience" habit is a hard one to break

Jock
 
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