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Monday, December 31, 2018

Overeating, pushing leftovers to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's Eve

BACCALA WITH GARLIC AND BROCCOLI RABE: I used the 2 pounds of boneless salted cod (baccala) called for in this recipe from Whole Foods Market, plus garlic, tomatoes, wine and a big head of organic broccoli rabe. The codfish was boiled three times to remove the salt, then 2-inch chunks were dredged in a little flour, fried and turned over.
ORGANIC PASTA AND WILD SHRIMP DRESSED WITH PESTO: I used a 1.1-pound package of Garofalo Organic Casarecce Pasta from the Costco Business Center in Hackensack, 1.5 pounds of cleaned wild-caught Key West White Shrimp, sold frozen at Whole Foods Market; and dressed them with plenty of Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco.


Our New Year's resolution:
 Shop less and eat less food

Editor's note: The first version of this post included a video that didn't play and a number of typos, but I've fixed them and included a link to the cooking video at Victor's Healthy Kitchen on YouTube.

By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- All that's left is a celebratory meal out today (New Year's Eve) before I can return to eating normal amounts of food.

And return to baking small sweet potatoes, a bread substitute I can eat to my heart's content without worrying about gaining weight; or another great side dish, an electric cooker full of organic quinoa with organic diced tomatoes and plenty of garlic.

Yes. I love to eat, and I'm happiest when I'm eating. But we simply buy too much food, and I can no longer dismiss all that shopping by saying it's good exercise, especially if you park far from the supermarket or warehouse entrance, as I do.

We've tried to ignore the profiles of pastry chefs in newspapers, even as some of them have published entire sections devoted to pie, and continue to avoid too much sugar, salt, butter and other saturated fat.

My wife and I don't compete in the kitchen, but on some nights we prepare two meals, because I've eaten only heart-healthy seafood for the last decade, and she and the rest of our family eat meat and poultry, as well as fish.

Too much food

So, on Thanksgiving and Christmas, we ended up with too many entrees (a half-dozen), and I am still eating leftovers from a Feast of the Seven Fishes I prepared for last Tuesday's meal.

I cooked only three of the seven seafood courses, relying on leftovers in the refrigerator for the rest: 

A tuna-sardine salad dressed with Dijon, lemon juice and cumin; silken slices of smoked wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon from Costco Wholesale, and leftover fried squid from a Lotus Cafe delivery (total of 4 fishes).

My annual battle of the bulge is trying to stay under 200 pounds, and this morning, I tipped the bathroom scale at 200.4 pounds -- down from 205.6 pounds.

I had dipped under 200 pounds just before Thanksgiving, meaning I needed nearly 3 months to lose the weight I had gained on a 15-day vacation in Alaska in August, where we ate three big meals a day.

New year dinner

I made reservations for tonight at Rosa Mexicano, the fine-dining restaurant in Hackensack, where we'll order a la carte to avoid the desserts served with the fixed-price holiday menu.

Still, I'll need willpower to avoid eating too many of the scrumptious little corn tortillas (usually made in the dining room) with our guacamole and other food.

And, of course, I won't be able to resist ordering a bottle of Negra Modelo, one of Mexico's great beers.

Pushing leftovers 

On Sunday morning, I made an egg-white omelet to use the last wild-caught shrimp and some leftover sauce from our Christmas dish of Organic Pasta dressed with Basil Pesto.

I still have a little bit of the Baccala with Garlic and Broccoli Rabe, and some of that tuna-sardine salad, but it will be futile trying to get anyone else to eat them. 


NO-FLIP FRITTATA WITH PASTA PESTO: The day after Christmas, I used leftover organic pasta with shrimp and pesto, plus egg whites, to make a no-flip frittata covered with grated parmesan, tomato slices and spoonfuls of pesto. See this how-to video.
GIVING THANKS FOR RED KING CRAB: For Thanksgiving, I prepared a salad of cooked Red King Crab and diced sweet peppers dressed with Dijon mustard, fresh lemon juice and ground cumin.
VEGAN PLATTER: I also ordered a vegan Thanksgiving meal from Whole Foods Market in Paramus, including a head of cooked cauliflower, center; squash, chickpeas and dressing, all of which required reheating in the oven. We decided to throw away the dessert, which was way too sweet.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Scrooge threatened to ruin our Christmas with $650 hike in school taxes for 30 years

VOTE NO: The irresponsible Hackensack Board of Education is seeking voter approval to borrow nearly $170 million to build a new junior high school and parking garage, and upgrade six other schools in the district. 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- I was momentarily puzzled when I received three mail-in ballots the day before Christmas.

What election could possibly be scheduled for January?

Then, I remembered the irresponsible Hackensack Board of Education is seeking voter approval for nearly $170 million in school construction, including a new junior high and a 350-space parking garage (to be built near the high school at a total cost of $101,572,500).

Board officials and the superintendent of schools are keeping their fingers crossed for a big snowstorm on Jan. 22 -- the date for the special school election -- to further discourage the city's apathetic, lazy or stupid voters.

Mail in your vote

But if you're smart, you'll apply for a vote-by-mail ballot like the ones my wife and I and our college-age son received the day before Christmas, and will use to vote a resounding "no."

If you go to the polls on Jan. 22, you'll be confronted by a ballot with a blizzard of small print laying out the $169,904,226 in proposed school construction and upgrades.

Even "door-hardware replacement" and "roof exhaust fan" upgrades are listed for various schools. 

Still, I see no mention of adding solar panels or using geothermal energy to power the proposed new school -- and save tens of thousands of dollars in utility costs in the coming decade.

30-year tax hike

After you plow through all that type, you'll learn the "average [property] tax impact" would be $308.66 a year for 30 years on a home with an average assessed value of $245,431.

But my home in the Fairmount section is assessed at $561,000, so I would have to fork over more than twice as much each year for 30 years -- roughly $650 a year or $19,500 over 30 years.

Rubber stamp

For years, only a small number of the more than 22,000 registered voters in Hackensack have turned out for April school board elections, leading to repeated approvals of annual school budget and property tax hikes.

About 45% of every property tax bill in the city goes to support the schools, yet apathetic, lazy or stupid voters stay home year after year, guaranteeing automatic approval of higher local taxes.

Many of these same morons bitch and moan about high property taxes, even as they do nothing to stop the annual increases imposed by school board officials. 

Much of those increases are for hikes in administrative salaries, said to be among the highest in the state.





READ IT AND WEEP: Don't bother to plow through all the type you'll find on your mail-in ballot or in the voting booth on Jan. 22. Just say "no."
MAIL-IN BALLOT: You can apply for a mail-in ballot in person at the Bergen County Clerk's Office in Hackensack up to 3 p.m. on the day before the Jan. 22 election or by mail not less than 7 days before the election.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Am I the only older American watching his cholesterol, and his salt and sugar intake?

WOULD YOU EAT THIS? The ingredients label on these holiday cookies I saw at Costco Wholesale in Teterboro on Nov. 27 lists sugar, butter, soybean oil, canola oil, palm oil, eggs, cocoa, chocolate liquor, unsweetened chocolate, butter oil, high fructose syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, artificial colors, beeswax, carnauba wax, shellac and gum arabic.
SUGARLAND: The bakery in the Teterboro Costco does sell a pair of decent baguettes, the only reason I ever venture there. 


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- "Thanks, but we don't eat dessert."

My wife and I say that or something similar every time a server in a fine-dining restaurant approaches our table with the dessert and coffee menu.

Sugar -- whether natural or added, plus high-fructose corn syrup and other cheap sugar substitutes -- can be found in so much processed food, ranging from pasta sauces to soda to cereals to sliced bread to 100% juices.

So, I certainly don't need more sugar from cookies, cakes, puddings and other desserts, including the the 67 holiday recipes from The New York Times' Cooking editors this week. 

Excessive sodium

Also lurking in pasta sauces and other processed food is excessive sodium, so I make my own low-sodium pasta sauce, and might add a pinch of salt to the pasta water.

Excessive sodium can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. 

I stopped eating meat and poultry -- but love wild-caught fish and other seafood -- and long ago stopped using butter, which is loaded with saturated fat, in favor of spreading pesto on bread or dipping my bread in extra-virgin olive oil.

When we eat out, I make sure the kitchen doesn't use butter or cream in a dish I want to order, and if they can't eliminate it, I order something else.

Yes. I love to eat, but from what I see in newspapers, magazines and on TV, I sometimes feel like I'm the only older American watching my cholesterol, and salt and sugar intake. 


SUGAR OVERLOAD: I saw this 3 Layer Coffee Cake studded with cookies at Paris Baguette, a Korean bakery and coffee shop in Hackensack's Home Depot Shopping Center.

Glorifying pie

Sugar plays a major role in heart disease, and like saturated fat, the sweet stuff can clog arteries, one reason you see so many diabetics recovering in cardiac step-down units.

It's a full time job to avoid sugar by reading nutrition labels, which supply only partial information about natural and added sugar in food.

Lobbyists have successfully prevented government regulators from listing the number of teaspoons of sugar in food and juices.

For example, the Kirkland Signature Organic Orange Juice I buy at Costco Wholesale lists 21 grams of sugar in an 8-ounce serving, but not how many teaspoons that is. 

A teaspoon contains roughly 4 grams of sugar -- or 5 teaspoons in an 8-ounce serving of that organic OJ.

Yet, The New York Times recently devoted an entire section glorifying Thanksgiving pies, and The Record, the local daily newspaper I once read, devoted a section front and a full inside page to "New Jersey['s] Best Pies" in early November.



Syrian pastries

One reason I get queasy when looking at photos of pies, cakes and other desserts loaded with sugar, butter and cream are the pastries I ate growing up in a Syrian Jewish home in Brooklyn, including baklava.

For the most part, those pastries used very little butter and no cream. Honey and pistachio nuts predominated.

Today, I rarely eat them. 

My mother put a salad on the table every night. We ate fresh, wild fish at least once a week, and on Saturday nights, she served only dairy.

AARP advice

The editors at AARP The Magazine have come a long way from an article in the April/May 2016 issue that was headlined, "Eat This, Not That!"

For example, the article listed only chain and fast-food restaurants, and recommended older Americans eat Arby's roast turkey and bacon sandwich over a roast beef and cheddar cheese sandwich, arguing the latter has fewer calories and less fat.

Who in their right mind would eat either sandwich, stuffed as they are with harmful antibiotics, preservatives and cholesterol?




There was no mention of fast food or chain restaurants in the August/September 2018 issue of AARP The Magazine, with Rita Moreno on the cover.

An article, "What to Eat When You're 70+," was good advice for people in their 50s and 60s, too.

Older Americans were urged to eat more lean meat, fish and dairy; more protein at breakfast, more brightly colored vegetables; more oily fish, olive oil and avocados; and more bran cereals.

I'll drink to that.


CHOLESTEROL ON SALE: On Nov. 27, Costco was offering $2 off ready to cook packages of Mac and Cheese, which contains lots of cheese, milk and some sugar, below. Nutrition labels on Costco's cookies and Mac and Cheese don't indicate the percentage of the recommended daily maximum of any ingredient. Thanks, but no thanks. I'll stick to organic pasta in a homemade, low-sodium red sauce.


Sunday, December 16, 2018

If you don't laugh, then you'll have to cry at twist, turns of worst U.S. president ever

Cartoonist Dave Granlund zeroes in on the Robert Mueller investigation (of Russian interference in the 2016 election) turning up the heat on President Trump, whose facade of lies and deception is slowly melting away.
Jimmy Margulies, onetime editorial cartoonist at The Record of Woodland Park, calls Trump's flunkies "Birds of a Feather." All have been convicted of lying wildly to cover up the dirty deeds they performed for the president.
Dave Granlund likens the job of White House chief of staff to babysitter.
Cartoonist Steve Sack of the Minneapolis Star Tribune refers to Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Trump's choice for acting chief of staff, as the bottom of the barrel. That makes sense. Mulvaney is a conservative Republican from the South, having served in the South Carolina General Assembly before being elected to Congress. 
Jobs at the White House are as fleeting as fame. Cartoonist Ed Wexler of PoliticalCartoons.com has Mulvaney referring to himself as "the new temp."
Trump has vowed to shut down the government, if Democrats don't give him $5 billion to build the wall along the Mexican border. Cartoonist Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle sees a shutdown as a Christmas gift to Democrats.

-- VICTOR E. SASSON

Friday, December 14, 2018

Despite 8 years of Christie, high property taxes, N.J. still has good oysters, Red Bank

DAY TRIP TO RED BANK: I loved this Caesar-style Warm Cabbage Salad ($12), topped with an unsalted anchovy, at B2 Bistro + Bar in Red Bank, a garden-to-table restaurant where we had lunch last Sunday before seeing a play, August Wilson's "King Hedley II."
NEW JERSEY OYSTERS: I started lunch with a trio of these wonderful Elder Point Oysters from Delaware Bay ($2.75 each). Another great New Jersey oyster is the Cape May Salt, which I've enjoyed at the 100 Steps Supper Club + Raw Bar in Cranford.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- It's always great to get out of Hackensack, where I live, and try to forget my high property taxes and the city's crumbling streets.

But you can substitute the name of almost any other town or city in New Jersey, where hundreds of local home-rule governments, no matter how small, insist on having their own police chief, superintendent of schools and on and on, running up the tax bill.

Now, I don't know anything about how well or poorly Red Bank is run, but a day trip to that bustling shore city can almost make you forget all of the damage to mass transit, the environment and state finances left by GOP bully Chris Christie after 8 years as governor of New Jersey.

That was the case last Sunday, when we drove down for lunch at B2 Bistro + Bar and a play at Two River Theater, the latter an event sponsored by WBGO-FM, the great jazz station in Newark.

We saw another play, "A Raisin In The Sun," there in October 2017, also a trip for members of Jazz 88.

The theater is expanding, and there was no parking in its own lot, but just a couple of blocks away, parking was free in the lots of the NJ Transit rail station.

What a concept. NJ Transit rail lots open and free on Sundays for visitors to Red Bank. Are the NJ Transit rail lots in Hackensack free on Sunday?


B2 BISTRO + BAR: The open kitchen and pizza oven at B2 Bistro, which serves food from New Jersey farmers, fishermen and specialty purveyors.
BUTTER SERVICE: I don't use butter, but my wife does. I was able to pluck a few microgreens off of the tray.
SWEET AT THE ROOT: I also ordered a side of Glazed (Root) Vegetables ($7), but found them too sweet.
BLUE CHEESE BURGER: My wife enjoyed her thick Dry Aged Burger, served with a cone of french fries and a small salad. The burger was $19, including $3 for blue cheese.
AMERICAN CENTURY CYCLE: Two River Theater, above and below, is half way through a presentation of August Wilson's American Century Cycle, 10 plays exploring African-American life for each decade of the 20th century. All of the plays but one ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom") are set in Pittsburgh's Hill District, where Wilson was born and lived until 1973.
KING HEDLEY: In August Wilson's "Seven Guitars," set in 1948, the character King Hedley I is "a Haitian man who lives by his own set of principles ... and searches for a woman to have a child with," according to the program. Another character, Ruby, "is traveling to Pittsburgh after a love triangle in Alabama leaves one of her lovers, Leroy, dead and another, Elmore, in prison. After she arrives, Ruby and Hedley form an unlikely relationship," the program explains.
KING HEDLEY II: The play takes place 37 years later, in 1985. King Hedley I is dead. "After years on the road, Ruby returns to Pittsburgh ... to see her son, King Hedley II.... Elmore (one of Ruby's former lovers) sends a letter telling Ruby that he is coming to visit.... King works to establish his own legacy in the decaying Hill District [where nearly everyone is armed]. But like his namesake from 'Seven Guitars,' King Hedley II lives by his own set of principles," the program notes.

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cartoonists say money and greed are root of all of Trump's evil, 2016 election fraud

Cartoonist John Cole of The Times Tribune in Scranton, Pa., exploring the latest evidence that Donald J. Trump was a candidate who personally directed an illegal scheme to manipulate the 2016 presidential election, and whose advisors had more contact with Russia than he acknowledges.
Cartoonist Steve Sack of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune illustrates a report that Trump promised a $50 million penthouse to Russian President Vladimir Putin as part of a Trump Tower deal in Moscow. He has Trump saying, "No pets," except me.
The red Christmas trees in the White House take on new meaning in this cartoon from Christopher Weyant of The Boston Globe. "I chose the [hammer-and-sickle] ornaments," Trump says
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi exposed Trump's cold-blooded view of U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia, as illustrated by cartoonist Steve Sack. The president exaggerated wildly about the amount of arms sales to the oil-rich kingdom.
The New York stock exchange tanked last week amid trade jitters with China, and Trump's tweets didn't help, as shown in this cartoon by Rick McKee of The Augusta Chronicle in Georgia. 
Cartoonist Randy Bish of The Pittsburgh Tribune Review exploring Trump's appearance at the funeral for George H.W. Bush, the 41st president of the United States. All of these cartoons and many others from around the world can be found at The Cagle Post.


-- VICTOR E. SASSON


Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Why I stopped shopping at Trader Joe's (and, no, haughty customers aren't cause)

HANUKKAH CROWD? On Monday, the first day of Hanukkah, the parking lot at Trader Joe's, 440 Route 17 north in Paramus, was packed, and I couldn't find a space. The store opened in 2007.
A woman in an old Toyota Camry, left, waits for the black SUV, right, to back out of a space. As I circled the lot to leave, I was upset to see a Trader Joe's employee, wearing the store's signature Hawaiian shirt, find an empty space, park and jump out of her car to go to work.


By VICTOR E. SASSON
EDITOR

HACKENSACK, N.J. -- If you're a food lover watching your cholesterol and intake of salt and sugar, shopping at Trader Joe's is like negotiating a minefield.

Especially during the holidays, the specialty grocer offers snacks, drinks, meat, poultry and seafood -- such as bacon-wrapped scallops with brown-sugar glaze -- that you might want to avoid, even in moderation.

Many are described in detail in Trader Joe's Holiday Guide 2018, which was mailed to customers, and the hype is unrelenting.

"If there is a magic formula for making a truly craveable snack...," begins the spiel for Butter Toffee Pretzels.

Then, you might read this, "Jingle Jangle is an only-at-Trader Joe's assortment of a whole bunch of things that taste terrific, bathed in chocolate."

Yuck.

Loyal shopper

I shopped at the cramped Trader Joe's outpost on Route 17 north in Paramus for years, even though the narrow aisles and impatient customers, mostly women, made it almost impossible to stop and read nutrition labels without getting rear-ended by their shopping carts.

I was a loyal fan of the low-sodium version of a 100% vegetable juice; Joe's O's, a whole-grain oat cereal with only 1 gram of sugar per serving; organic whole wheat pasta and organic sweet potatoes; uncured, antibiotic-free hot dogs and cold cuts, and a few other items.

A big negative is that Trader Joe's doesn't sell fresh fish, and a lot of the prepared food in the refrigerated cases leaves me cold. 

Besto pesto

For example, Trader Giotto's Genova Pesto bombs when compared to the Kirkland Signature Basil Pesto from Costco Wholesale. Both are refrigerated products.

Trader Joe's also ignored Consumer Reports when the magazine called on the chain to sell only antibiotic-free meat and poultry -- one reason you have to scrutinize labels when shopping there.

And Trader Joe's has never given customers a dime for bringing a reusable bag; Whole Foods Market remains the only supermarket in New Jersey that does.

Still, Trader Joe's is wildly popular with Orthodox Jews, who are drawn by the hundreds of kosher items sold there.

A Kosher Trader Joes Facebook page, set up in 2015, has more than 28,000 members, far outnumbering those on a similar Kosher Costco page.

I wonder whether they would remain loyal to the specialty grocer, if they knew Trader Joe's has been 
owned by Aldi, a German company, since 1979.


Store expanded

The Paramus Trader Joe's finally was expanded, and a new sign was put up last April. The wider aisles gave shoppers like me breathing room.

But when I tried to shop there on Monday, the parking lot used by customers and employees alike was packed, and nearing gridlock. 

I beat a hasty retreat to Whole Foods Market in Paramus.

Whole Foods has a bigger selection, fresh fish from the best seafood counter in North Jersey, more organic produce, wine and special deals for Amazon Prime members like me.

I don't think I'll ever go back to Trader Joe's.


PRIME DEALS: This sign lists some of the discounts for Amazon Prime members at Whole Foods Market in Paramus.
SWEET! A 3-pound bag of Sweet Potatoes grown in New Jersey are only $2.39 at Whole Foods Market, compared to $2.99 at the nearby ShopRite supermarket. I bake them at 350 degrees until the natural sugar oozes out of them or cut them up, boil them, drain and mash them with extra-virgin olive oil and seasonings.
FROM ITALY: A 1-pound box of Organic Whole Wheat Spaghetti has gone up to $1.69 from $1.49 at Whole Foods Market, but that's still a good deal, and whole wheat pasta has a lot more fiber than conventional.
DINNER: I prepared a red sauce with canned tuna, sardines and anchovies in a food processor; added crushed garlic, olive oil, red wine, dried Italian herbs, and red-pepper flakes, and brought the sauce to a boil in a large, covered pan. Then, I added a pound of organic whole wheat spaghetti, al dente after 10 minutes in boiling water with a pinch of salt.