Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Facebook Experiment – Day 8

Update on my life without Facebook.

Day 1 to 5 – complete success and a few learnings:

What I don’t like about Facebook:

1) Major distraction with too much going on: 
I really enjoyed not processing any of this.  I wasn’t emotionally distracted with anything.  I focused on my real life. I didn’t see Facebook cliques.

Implication:  When I resume Facebook, I need to refine settings and “un-follow”  many so I don’t see a lot of activity and updates on my newsfeed.  It’s not that I have a disdain for my Facebook friends, but it’s seriously impossible to keep up with everyone and truly process what’s going on.   I do like Facebook for keeping track of what's new with people, so I will occasionally look in on their pages.  This selective browsing will reduce the time of useless scrolling. It's sort of like having a fence around your house, I like my privacy and no distractions, and when I come out, it's on my terms.

2) "Idle time" distraction  (waiting in line at grocery store) by hitting the Facebook icon on my mobile device because this became a habit.  Then, in turn, I would subconsciously process whatever I saw and my thoughts would go off in multiple directions based on what I read. For the first few days I actually did this, I would find myself hitting the Facebook app icon on my phone just out of pure habit.

Implication: When I resume Facebook (actually before I resume it), I will move the Facebook app icon to the second page of my iPhone and iPad.  It will be less tempting to check Facebook so frequently.  I will use this ‘idle’ time for better focus or simply not think about anything.

Overall I thought the experiment was going great.  I survived the holidays without posting my usual food photos of the holiday feast I prepared.  I didn’t share my joy of the holidays or my fatigue of endless cooking with the Facebook world.  I was pretty proud of myself.  I used Instagram to post an occasional photo.  This actually seemed more effective because it’s a public page and the hashtags denoted the subject of the photo.  I used Twitter to keep current on the news or developing stories. 

The experiment was a success until day six, a Saturday.  On this day, one of my kids had a happy major life event and he posted a photo of this on Facebook.  I wanted to share in the joy of this event and watch the comments. This was a day not to be missed by a Facebook experiment.  It was time to admit that there are a few things I do like about Facebook and that with proper use management I can follow it.  I put my experiment on hold.  I reactivated my account and posted a photo of this major event as well.  I felt like the Godfather “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”  I caught up with a few other events and decided that I will hold off on the experiment until next month (year).  So I kept Facebook on and now the experiment was to see if I could use it effectively since I learned a lot about my preferences during those first six days.  I use it to check some favorite restaurant specials, use the messenger app to communicate with some friends. 

But on day three, I  decided to deactivate it again.   Why?  It was still distracting.  It takes a month to make a behavior a habit. In the meantime, I’m still learning what I like and don’t like about Facebook. I believe this tool is useful, if I use it right.

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Monday, December 21, 2015

The Facebook Experiment - Day 1

Social media can be a powerful tool.  But Facebook has recently turned into a draining experience.  I used to enjoy my occasional Facebook break.  Checking photos, status updates  and ‘keeping in touch.’ With 450+ Facebook friends this turned into a very different venture that mostly comprised of scrolling.  As the saying goes ‘go with your instinct.’ The chaotic noise of Facebook interactions was drowning out my own thoughts and focus.  It was time to deactivate my account; take a break.

I do find some valuable aspects of this tool but it’s gotten to the point of a fractured and disjointed Borg collective with Borg cliques. 

I found myself taking occasional Facebook breaks during the day to supposedly relieve stress or take the focus off of some more intense and stressful situation.  It was supposed to be a mindless activity. Instead it turned out to be not only a time waster, but at some subconscious level a total distraction made up of noise that was affecting me negatively, It was time to deactivate the account. 

My goal is that by being completely cut off from Facebook, I will figure out the best way to use this tool. For example,  the optimal frequency-once a week, twice a week?  Optimize the settings so I don’t hear the noise.   By being away for a month, I will break the habit of mindless scrolling and that bad effect.

Results of day 1 – success, the noise is gone.  I thought I would miss the periodic checks but I didn’t.   This experiment is also a great way to see who the real ‘friends’ are.  

And  it’s not addiction after all.  

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Old World nut free delights that I don't have to bake

Nut free delights from Shalom Kosher Bakery (sold at some grocery stores)
Time for changes, yes, that's still my intention for this blog.  But with all the holiday eating, I was reminded how limited the ‘ready made’ baked good choices are for those with peanut and nut allergies.  Sure, I will be baking all kinds of home made desserts this season, but while shopping for groceries, I couldn’t pass up these items.  I blogged about this a few years ago, but here is a reminder that some Kosher baked items are perfect for people with nut and peanut allergies (and dairy allergies).
Nut free Nutella like spread also available at your grocery store's Kosher section

Time to make some crepes,  the 'nut free nutella is the perfect substitute  (there is also one without dairy). If you want a slightly nutty taste, stir in some tahini (sesame based) and have a truly 'nut free nutella' thrill.

someone couldn't wait
Many breads are cross contaminated with nuts and peanuts and often dairy - we've had this challah bread for years.  It's delicious for french toast as well.

And some other fun baked stuff.  Yes, baking season is upon us, but these tasty traditional desserts are great and have an old world taste without the old world worrying of an allergic reaction.

Also, a reminder, for those with some gluten and soy allergies, Kosher for Passover is a great choice.  When my son couldn't have wheat or soy, we stocked up on those items as well.   Kosher doesn't imply nut free, these items just happen to be.  

Shellfish allergies?  Again, we have often shopped in the kosher seafood section so we don't have to worry about cross contamination with shellfish (still dealing with this allergy).

Dairy allergies?  Dealt with that too, and kosher meats do not have lactic acid based in dairy either-you can't mix meat and dairy in the kosher diet.

So while you may not have religious reasons to follow a kosher diet, it is actually a very allergy friendly diet.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Dispersion of light  - Spectrum on the floor created by a prism

"Ch ch  ch ch changes...."

While this blog has been a great way for me to share some expertise around creating some foods in unique ways, it’s time to change things up.

I initially started this blog almost five years ago to share techniques on how to create delicious food while avoiding the usual pitfalls of processed foods and the diseases that accompany them. Working full time, driving a sizable commute and having a  full blown career would have been perfect excuses to ditch the kitchen and home cooking.  But I couldn’t and wouldn’t for various reasons.  So over time, I recorded my recipes and have gotten encouraging feedback from readers. I have even used my blog to refresh my memory of a certain dish preparation.  But I didn’t keep up with the blog.  I cooked and cooked, but writing down portions and photographing was somewhat tedious. 

These cooking techniques were initially necessitated by my son’s food issues (which we still have some of) and my refusal to succumb to processed food in my kitchen.  No, I won’t use high sodium cream of mushroom soup for a casserole.  I refuse to use use ‘food like’ ingredients.  This blog is a way to show that yes, you can have a career, and not feed your kids processed garbage or bland boring food (the image of what a healthy meal consists of).  It proved that if you chose to consume some ingredients (or can’t), there is a way to introduce flavor.  And ultimately nothing inspires one to go in the kitchen after long workday like photos of a great home cooked meal and tips on how it was accomplished. 

Will I ever post more recipes on this blog?  Yes, maybe.  Why the shift in direction of this blog then?  Because food is just one ingredient in life,  One element in that spectrum, it’s time to include other elements.    Much like processed food can kill our bodies and destroy our ability to reach our full potential, complacent thinking does the same.

So what will I blog about now?  Not fully defined yet, but it will include a broader spectrum of managing and creating change beyond food. It will need to have enough focus to be useful, applicable and helpful too.

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Monday, March 30, 2015

Hungarian Meatloaf

Who doesn't like meatloaf?  If you are not a vegetarian or vegan, this is comfort food in many cultures.  This meatloaf is sort of  like scotch eggs.  The top gets a slightly crisp texture from the caramelized spices too. 

Everyone has their favorite meatloaf recipe.  I like this one because it's very taste and not overly salty.  There are multiple flavors in here. 

You can make this with meats you choose.  This time used pork  and turkey.  I added pork because it adds a nice flavor to turkey.

The quantity of spices are guides, I usually judge visually.

1 pound ground turkey
1 pound ground pork
¾ of a can of organic tomato paste
½ red onion
1.5 tsp Italian Seasoning (I use Glorioso's)
1/2 teaspoon authentic Hungarian paprika for the meatloaf mixture (will sprinkle more on top)
1.25 cups bread crumbs
2 uncooked eggs
1.5 tsp or so of Worcester sauce
½ tsp salt
½ tsp red pepper flakes (just sprinkle)
Generous sprinkling of garlic powder
3-4 boiled eggs
freshly ground pepper to taste
1 tbs finely chopped parsley
½ cup of chicken stock

Preheat oven at 375 degrees.

Sauté chopped onion, set aside

In a large bowl mix everything (but the boiled eggs) very thoroughly Spray very sparingly the meatloaf pan with cooking spray
Gently lay out half the meat loaf mixture and line up peeled boiled eggs (just short of each end)
Place the rest of the meat mixture on top and pat to make it into a loaf form

Sprinkle the top of the meatloaf (slightly generously) with:
Hungarian red paprika
Freshly ground pepper

Sprinkle with a small amount of Smoked Spanish paprika and roasted garlic powder (I get both from Penzey) also on the top

Bake on 375 for about 1 hour and 20 minutes (check with meat thermometer).

Slightly tip the meatloaf pan and hold the meatloaf in place with a spoon and tilt to drain any fat rendered.

Let it rest for at least 10 minutes - if you don't, it will fall apart.

Remove from pan (I do it by placing a plate on top of the pan and turning the meatloaf pan).

Enjoy with some traditional side dishes like mashed potatoes and gravy.

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Monday, March 16, 2015

Asian Fusion Noodles with Smoked Tofu

Warm weather and more activity make me crave some healthier alternatives with a more refreshing flavor theme.  This dish has multiple influences: 

1.     Some new delicious spices I acquired at Penzeys Spices.  There is a Penzeys Spices 10 minutes from my house and I finally got a chance to stop there.  This store is heavenly.  Jars of fine spices to smell-a foodie’s aromatherapy.  Also, their cumin is not cross-contaminated with peanuts (some other brands are).  Penzeys Spices smell and taste delicious.  

2.     A local ramen restaurant called Tochi-they blend some great flavors.  Their Smoked Miso ramen is delicious (all their ramens are).  The tofu is smoked and the broth is a great blend of flavors.  My goal was not to replicate the flavor, but to produce a flavor that is in the same family.  Asian fusion is one way to describe this flavor.

3.     Vegan Black Metal Chef – his videos are truly inspiring.  He has some great and easy techniques to add flavor to tofu and sauces and other vegan dishes. The preparation and videos are motivating. His technique of dredging tofu in flour  and pan frying results in a great textured and flavorful tofu.  Valkyries and warriors feast on tasty and healthy food too.  After all, they need to be around for Ragnarok. Watch his YouTube videos for inspiration.


Note:  This looks like a lot of ingredients.  It is, but you can lay out all the spices on the counter and add as you stir fast.

Tofu (prefer Wildwood Sproutofu – super firm)
Sliced carrots (4-5)
1 large red onion cut in half then sliced
2 tbs. chopped garlic
2 tbs. chopped ginger
½ pack of oriental style noodle size S Erawan (cook 6 minutes and rinse with cold water to prevent from cooking further)
water chestnuts slivered
baby corn chopped in 1/3
Colgin Liquid Smoke
1 tsp. Smoked Spanish Paprika
¼ tsp Hungarian Paprika
¼ tsp. Orange peel (dried)
½ tsp. roasted garlic spice
¼ tsp. chilli powder
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tsp.  chili garlic sauce
2 tsp. black bean garlic sauce
2 tsp . hoisin sauce
¼ tsp sugar
2 cups organic chicken stock – vegetable stock if vegetarian (have to just visually watch)
2 tsp. corn starch with a little water – slurry
flour to dredge marinated tofu in
Canola oil or another oil with a high smoking point

Marinate chopped tofu for at least one hour in:
1 cup  Olive Oil
¼ cup liquid smoke
½ tsb garlic powder
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp corn starch
½ tsp Smoked Paprika Spanish Style
(mix ingredients in a bowl-put tofu in a ziplock bag and pour marinade over it and gently work it in).

You can cook the carrots separately to speed up the cooking

Dredge tofu in flour and pan fry. 
Toward the end of the frying process, sprinkle some smoked paprika on top.
You can also bake the tofu on 400, but pan-frying tastes the best

Add Oil to the wok and heat
Use a wok and fry onion for about 8 minutes
Add mostly cooked carrots, baby corn, dried orange peel, slivered water chestnuts and chopped ginger, fry for about 4 minutes
Add chopped garlic and stir for one minute
Add smoked Spanish paprika, Hungarian paprika, and Asian sauces
Stir, let it cook for a few minutes and add chicken stock, 1 tbs liquid smoke, 3 tbs of tofu marinade
Bring to a boil, and thicken with cornstarch slurry
Add roasted garlic
Add cooked rice noodle – gently mix (to not break the cooked rice noodles)
Add tofu and gently mix and serve and eat fast (rice noodles have a tendency to absorb liquid fast).

Marinate super firm tofu

dredge marinated tofu in flour

Pan fry in oil (you can also bake but this is the optimal flavor)

These spices are essential

another delicious spice I discovered

Pan fried tofu
Note the onion is almost caramelized-red onions are the best for this type of stir frying

after adding chicken stock - before thickening

Lots of spices and flavors - true fusion

The result (note: the onion are slightly caramelized)

don't let the number of these ingredients intimidate

the firmest tofu and more nutritious than most

This size seems to work well

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