MSG free latino cuisine

January 4, 2010 in ingredient, latino


Goya and other latino food purveyors have “latino” style flavorings and spice useful to quickly add a certain flavor to foods that some interpret as “latino”.

(Note that I never think of myself or refer to myself as “hispanic”. The term “hispanic” was a broad class term coined by the infinitely odious Richard Nixon because he could not tell us latinos apart from one another.)

One such product is “Sazon” (with various permutations or variations). If you are latino/a you likely know this well, if you are new to this cuisine and have been experimenting with latino recipes, you will very likely come across recipes asking for it.

Do yourself and your family a great favor and either throw away any Sazon you have on hand or simply never buy it in the first place.

Sazon is MSG with annatto. MSG is not a food, its not a spice, it is a neurotoxin, especially when its used as directed in the case of Sazon.

Sazon and nasty MSG

I have written about MSG and how fantastically bad it is for you, from the scientific perspective in this post: Monosodium Glutamate: Bad for your brain, your figure, and your health.

Just step away from the Sazon.

You might ask then, how do I get that rich saffron yellow color without the sazon?!

You could invest in saffron.

I don’t, I just do not have that sort of food budget.

You could do what most latina grandmas and their mamas and abuelas have done BEFORE Goya – not be lazy and make a sofrito or hogao (as we Colombians call it, recipe at end of this post).

If you do not want to go to the trouble of making an hogao (it will add enormous flavor to your food, natural non-toxic flavor) then you can choose to use the coloring agent in Sazon that is not MSG -> ground annatto seeds.

annatto seeds

Annatto seeds are seeds from the Achiote tree, grown in tropical Central and South America.

The Wiki says:

It is an important ingredient of cochinita pibil, the spicy pork dish popular in Mexico. It is also a key ingredient in the drink tascalate from Chiapas, Mexico.

Annatto is the red coloring you find on the rind of muenster cheese and cheddar cheese!

annatto seeds

You can grind the seeds (shown here) and use pinches of it in recipes that call for Sazon or you can soak the seeds in water a bit to release the powdery coating on the seeds which is what colors things.

To grind annatto seed

To grind annatto seed

Annatto has been indicated in adverse reactions for some people so go easy on using it in the beginning. In all cases, never use a whole LOT of this or any spice, be moderate and find just the right amount that you need, no more.

Ground annatto seeds

Let me know if you make the switch!

Always be vigilant about MSG in your food. Its quite literally everywhere.


  • 5 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 bunches of green onions, finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cominos
  • Pinch of ground annatto seeds
  • 1/2 cup of packed, chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • salt to taste


Saute the listed “hogao” ingredients in the olive oil until wilted, set aside.

Mix the harina and salt and then add the boiling water. Mix until incorporated and set aside for 15 minutes.

POM Iced Coffee

October 27, 2009 in drink, ingredient, product, review


Does the idea of mixing pomegranate juice with iced coffee make your eyes bug out like the cute little lamby slippers above?

POM has done this craaazy thing with their POM iced coffees.

.. (click for more) ..

Tassajara Vegetarian Whole Wheat Lasagna

September 24, 2009 in cookbook, cooking, ingredient, recipe, review, vegetable


Some time ago I reviewed a cookbook called “Tassajara Cookbook: Lunches, Picnics, and Appetizers” by Karla Oliveira where I covered Tassajara, a magical mountain retreat for the San Francisco Zen Center.

Today’s review covers the related book Tassajara Dinners & Desserts by Dale and Melissa Kent, a beautiful and delicious cookbook that shares simple go-to vegetarian meals used at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Retreat to nourish the monks, trainees and students who live in this amazing place.


The photography is just fantastic, inviting you to dive into this book to learn how to make these tasty dinners. The front cover holds nothing back, just take a look at it!


Foreword by Senior Dharma Teacher Eijun Linda Ruth Cutts


  • What is it like to do active cooking meditation
  • How the zen kitchen works


  • Ginger Hummus
  • Grandma Chu’s Sweet & Sour Marinated Asparagus

Vegetable Side Dishes

  • Pungent Cucumber Salad with Black Sesame ad Ginger
  • Moroxican Spiced Potatoes

Vegetable Entrees

  • James Creek Farm Ratatouille
  • Tagine with Apricots, Olives, and Artichoke Hearts

Baked Entrees

  • Baked Muffaletta Crepes
  • Annie’s Frittata with Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese, and Sage

Beans & Legumes

  • Butch’s Black Eyed Peas
  • Chickpea Stew with Collard Greens and Indian Spices


  • Dragon’s Head Tofu
  • Mole Verde with Tofu

Grains & Pastas

  • Mushroom Squash Risotto
  • Mint-Cilantro Udon with Fresh Ginger and Meyer Lemon


  • Lemon Sponge Custard with Raspberry Sauce
  • Ricotta Chevre with Ginger Berry Compote

Basic Techniques

  • Vegetable Stock and Variations
  • Basic Ingredients and Sauces

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

For this review I chose to make the a vegetarian lasagna with a change to the book’s recipe. Instead of just using a store bought past (fresh or dried) I used some homemade lasagna I made from organic sprouted whole wheat I had made (see this post for information on making your own sprouted whole wheat flour “Making Sprouted Whole Wheat Flour” and this post on how to make lasagna pasta out of it “Homemade Sprouted Whole Wheat Pasta“). I also used homemade goat cheese (chevre) from our own goats in our backyard (Making chevre cheese from our home-milked goat milk) and organic chard I grew in our garden and egg from our chickens (Humble Garden).

Tofu Lasagna with Mushrooms, Goat Cheese, and Chard


  • 1 pound dried pasta or 1.5 pounds fresh pasta
  • Sauce:
  • 1.5 cups chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup diced carrots
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, minded
  • 1 tablespoon dried italian herb seasoning (I used fresh oregano and basil from garden)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1 cups crumbled tofu
  • 4-5 cups diced tomatoes (canned or fresh)
  • Filling:
  • 1 bunch chard
  • 1 pound mushrooms, washed and quartered
  • 1 pound goat cheese, softened
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 cups grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups grated Provolone, Mozzarella, Fontina, or Gruyere



Saute onions, carrots, and celery over medium heat until soft and a bit brown. Add garlic and herbs without stirring. Turn up heat to brown and then add wine to deglaze (scrape up fond – stuck bits). Add tofu and cook with much stirring until liquid almost gone. Brown the tofu a bit, coat with all other sauce parts. Add tomatoes and simmer for 30 minutes.


Wash greens, remove stems, set the stems aside. Cop stems into tiny bits. Blanch greens and stem bits in boiling water (or steam them) until cooked through. Shock in icy water (this “sets” the chlorophylls so that the chard will be a bright green) and then drain. Chop roughly and then dry completely.

Bake the mushrooms in a 425 F oven or sear them on the stovetop. Set aside with the greens.

Mix the goat cheese, egg, parmesan cheese and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Prepare the lasagna pasta as per instructions.

Oil a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, ladle some sauce on the bottom, add first layer of pasta. Spread 1/4th of the filling over the pasta and cover with some sauce. Layer on some tofu, goat cheese, greens, mushrooms as well as mozzarella (if using). Put down the next layer of pasta and repeat as before, 3 more times. The whole thing should end with a layer of pasta at the top and some more sauce. Sprinkle with parmesan and even, possibly bechamel sauce. (I didnt put the bechamel sauce, seemed a bit much to me).

Bake at 350 F for 30 – 40 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and top is toasty brown.

Our Take on this dish:
Everyone from the toddler on up completely enjoyed this dish. Remember that sprouted wheat yields a bit sweeter product (because the sprouting process started some of the starches on their enzymatic journey) and that any whole wheat pasta product will have a different sort of mouth feel than your usual “white bread” sort of “enriched” pasta product. In this case, the pasta had a lot of presence in this dish, lending an almost “meaty” sort of sensation, which was a plus to those family members who like to have meat at every meal!

My Take on this cookbook:

The book is simply beautiful, the recipes are diverse and quite inspiring for all sorts of eaters: vegetarians to omnivores! I can only say good things about this cookbook, it has been a pleasure to review and oogle over. I suggest giving it a try!

Tassajara Dinners & Desserts: Tofu Lasagna

Product Details:

  • Title: Tassajara Dinners & Desserts
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Gibbs Smith (January 12, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1423605209
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423605201
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds

Heads Up: Pastrami Passion

September 17, 2009 in Food Porn, ingredient


Some time ago I had the great fortune to meet Dan Estridge on the web and then at a Dole & Bailey event up in New Hampshire (see my blog post from that event: Cross Species Portraiture: The Chicken was a Star).

I can tell you at least one thing about Dan, he is completely devoted to Pastrami and similar sorts of deli meats. He doesnt just like them or just appreciate them. He is obsessed with them.

When we corresponded he spoke of perfecting a pastrami product that he could provide to customers that would be like the sort that he knew from the delis he grew up with in New York.

Some foodies are obsessed with mushrooms, hunting them in the forest. Some are obsessed with confections and other beautiful delicacies. Many of us are quite omnivorous and can appreciate a broad spectrum of great food.

It takes laser like focus and dedication to a specific vision to go where Dan has gone with his obsession with pastrami.


After a lot of hard work, Dan has now started commercial production of pastrami and some other deli meats for his new company NYDP Deli Patrol.

They ship nationwide via their online portal at , a very fetching site .

Currently they are shipping these products:

They say: “Each of the meats can be ordered in a variety of cuts and all products ship express in order to guarantee freshness.”

The story in more detail can be found at their About page. I didnt know that they were selling their corned beef at Fenway!


I have never had an opportunity to try his pastrami. It seems I will in the coming week or so. I will report back and let you know it all went!

I mean, come on though.. look at this roast beef porn


(See about this roast beef here)

I dont think this review will be a painful one!