Monday, July 29, 2013

Is soy bad for you?


Last week, I was having lunch with a female associate, and two male partners at my firm.  The associate announced that she recently became a vegan.  One of the partners asked her, "So what do you eat then, soy?” Her curt response was, “Soy is bad for you.”

This statement got my attention, because the culture I was raised on is pretty much based on soy (and rice, of course).  This statement also got the male partner riled up because apparently, edamame is the only “vegetable” he and his wife could get their 10 year old son to eat.  But the associate was adamant, “Google it.  There are articles about how bad it is for you. It messes with your hormones.  Eating a soybean is the equivalent of eating four birth control pills. And soy is in everything.”

So I did exactly that.  In my highly precise and in depth investigation (i.e. googling “is soy bad for you?”) And here are my takeaways from the sampling of articles I read:

  • Yes, soy consumed in large quantities can affect your hormones because soy plants contain an estrogen-like hormone.  This is why many postmenopausal women take soy to relieve their symptoms. But it is not the equivalent of eating four birth control pills.
  • Edamame is soy in its purest form, and carries the most health benefits.  It is when soy is processed that it loses its nutritional value.  Edamame is actually a great source of a lean protein.  (So the partner’s kid can keep eating edamame without growing man-boobs).
  • Soy is added into a lot of processed foods such as cereal and protein bars because it is cheap.  Soy in its processed form may have detrimental effects.  So considering that processed soy is not as good for you as unprocessed, the benefits may not outweigh  the negative effects.
  • Exceptions to this rule are fresh tofu and fermented soy, such as tempeh and miso – all products that I grew up with and ate in significant quantities as a kid.  So I can rest assured.
  • As I have always believed when it comes to eating - “all things in moderation” – so as long as you consume soy, (and anything else really) in moderation, you will probably be fine. 

Here are the articles I read to draw these conclusions.  (Once again, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather my 10 second Google search).

What do you think?  Soy – yay or nay?

Monday, July 22, 2013

Au Pied de Cochon

Switching up my weekly healthy living post for what is most likely the antithesis of healthy eating, but I felt that I had waited long enough to share with you this incredibly rich meal we enjoyed in our last night in Montreal!

Before we left for our trip to Montreal, I asked around for recommendations on what to eat in the city.  One of the suggestions was Au Pied de Cochon, but with the caveat that it is “not for the faint of heart.”  I later found out that Anthony Bourdain featured the restaurant on No Reservations, in which he referred to it as his “Waterloo of Gluttony" – and I have to admit that it lived up to his assessment.  

But we almost didn’t get to find out for ourselves.  With only two days left in our trip, it finally occurred to me that given that the restaurant was wildly popular and featured on Anthony Bourdain’s show, I should probably make a reservation.  Unfortunately, I discovered this on Monday night, and the restaurant was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and did not open until 5PM on Wednesday, our last night in Montreal.  So J. and I resolved to eat lightly during the day, and show up at the doors at 5PM to see if we could get a table. 

When we walked in, we were greeted by an austere hostess, “Do you have a reservation?” she challenged.  Which, of course, we didn’t.  J. asked if there were any openings.  “Let me check,” the hostess answered brusquely as she went back to her station.  There were only maybe two other parties in the restaurant.  “We have an opening.  But you have two hours.”

Elated that we were able to get a table, and not discouraged by this harsh greeting (we’re from the NYC area, so I’m pretty used to it by now).  We started the meal with some light and refreshing oysters.


The couple sitting next to us looked at us enviously when our oysters arrived at the table.  “I didn’t know they had oysters” I overheard the girl say.  Oddly, the oysters are not listed on the menu, but it was clear they served them from the big display in their seafood case.  So I made sure to slurp them extra loudly for the girl to hear. 

I ordered the restaurants namesake dish, Pied de Cochon (pig’s foot).  I was split between the pork chop and the pied de cochon, but ultimately went with the pied de cochon because I figured if they named the restaurant after it, it had to be good, right?


And it was excellent. I loved how tender the meat was that it was falling off the bone.  Not at all how I imagined it would be like to eat a pig’s foot!

But the really fun dish was what J. got – the mysterious duck in a can. Weeks before our trip, I looked up the menu online and saw “duck in a can,”  but with no explanation of it in the menu.  So I was expecting something akin to Spam.  But what we got was not Spam at all.

First, they literally serve it to you in the can.  The server comes out with the can on a dish.


Here’s a look at the ingredients in French. 


As you can see, foie gras is a major component. 

The server then whips out  a can opener and opens the can in front of you.  And pours out this….


Amazing right?  I could not imagine something this beautiful would come out of a can.

So now the duck in a can mystery is solved.  And what a tasty mystery it was. And it was well worth eating at 5PM to make it here. (Though I strongly recommend making a reservation well in advance.  Our friends who tried our strategy of showing up early were not so lucky). 

Of Possible Interest:

  • Check out  the video of Anthony Bourdain’s feature on Au Pied de Cochon on No Reservations.  Warning – this video definitely NOT for the faint of heart.  If you are squeamish or an animal rights activist, I suggest that you fast forward to about 4:00 to see the food.  Or not watch at all and eat a carrot.
  • Don’t believe me about the duck in a can?  Watch this video someone posted on Youtube.

Monday, July 15, 2013

A “Chopped” Style dinner


I hope you enjoyed my recap on poutine last week.  I have at least one more recap on Montreal coming up, which I hope to share with you all later this week.  But first, dinner!


Tonight’s dinner looks atrocious, but I promise you it was tasty! And good for you too!

I came home tonight and threw together what J. calls a “Chopped”-style dinner.  “Chopped” is easily my favorite cooking reality TV show – it’s so addictive to watch! For those of you haven’t seen the show (where have you been?!), the show begins with four contestants and one is eliminated from each round by a panel of judges.  Each round is a course (appetizer, entrée, and dessert), and each course the contestants are given a “mystery basket” to prepare the course.  The mystery basket always has some hodgepodge of ingredients that don’t seem to go together, like easy cheese, “duck white kidneys,” brown bread in a can, or one episode, an emu egg.  (By the way, if you don’t know what duck white kidneys are… Google it, you’ll be surprised!)

Anyway, so I came home and found a hodgepodge of ingredients in the fridge that had to be used – half a bunch of wilting kale, a quarter of a browning avocado, and pork tenderloin.  So I threw them all together in a pan, along with garlic, some salsa and came together with this Mexican inspired “stir-fry.” It’s not the prettiest dish -- I would definitely get “chopped” for presentation, but it came out to be spicy and flavorful. 

Spicy Pork and Kale Stir Fry

Serves 2-3


  • 6 oz. lean pork tenderloin, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 bunch of kale (about 17 stems), stems removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini
  • 3/4 cup prepared salsa
  • 1-2 Tbs olive oil

Seasonings to taste:

  • Cumin
  • onion powder
  • chili powder
  • red pepper flakes
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper
  • a few dashes of hot sauce

Accompaniments :

  • Avocado
  • Plain yogurt or sour cream
  • Corn tortillas


Heat about 1 Tbs olive oil over medium heat.  Season pork with a little salt, pepper and cumin.  Add pork and cook until browned on all sides (about 1 minute on each side).  Remove heat from pan and set pork aside on a dish.

Add another Tbs of olive to the pan and bring it back to medium heat.  Add zucchini and cook for about 1 minute.  Add garlic (see note on cooking garlic*), and cook for about 30 seconds or until fragrant.  Push zucchini and garlic to the sides of the pan, forming a well.  Cook kale in the well, until wilted. Add seasonings to taste. Stir in cooked pork and salsa.  Cook for about another minute until heated through.  Serve with optional toppings or just eat it as is!


To avoid burning the garlic, I learned this method from Cooks Illustrated, which I have described here on the blog, but I finally took a picture.  Push the vegetables to the sides of the pan, forming an empty space in the middle of the pan.  Add 1/2 tsp of olive oil in the middle of the pan, and then add the garlic to the oil.  What you have will look like this:


Once the garlic has been cooking for about 30 seconds, stir to combine it with the vegetables. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My Favorite Poutine in Montreal

(Or at least of the three that we had)

As promised, I am sharing with you all the three places where we had poutine in Montreal.  As some of you may know, poutine is the signature dish of Montreal. When I asked for suggestions of what to eat in Montreal, I was told by many people that poutine was THE food I had to try.  The basic version is french fries topped with gravy and cheese curds.  Sort of the wacky Canadian cousin to New Jersey’s discos fries.  But all over Montreal, you can find shops that sell poutine with all kinds of toppings ranging from sliced hot dogs to foie gras.  Here the ones that we tried (click on the names of the restaurants for their websites:

Planete Poutine


Poutine with Duck Confit                           the Classic Poutine

This was by far the most underwhelming of the poutines that we had.  We stumbled upon the place one day while we were walking to get to the Jean-Talon Market.  With a name like “Planet Poutine” we thought it would be promising and made a point to come back to it. The menu looked promising too, with fancy toppings such as duck confit.  But honestly, I found this poutine to lack character and felt mass-produced.  As I was leaving the restaurant, I found out that it was actually a franchise, which explains the mass-produced feeling.  On a positive note though, the portions were huge, what you see above is the “mini” size.

La Banquisse

I received recommendations from both locals, travelers, and reviews to go to this place.  And it’s definitely worth the trip, as they have some of the most interesting selection of toppings that I had seen in Montreal.  Here’s a look at their menu:


Pretty impressive, huh?  You can also view it here on their website, if you can’t read the small print.

J. ordered “La Savoyarde,” which he thoroughly enjoyed. 


The toppings were sour cream, onions, and swiss cheese  - so it was basically a baked potato, but only with french fries instead of a potato. 

I ordered “La Mart” which was “hot-dog sausages,” bacon and mushrooms, which I really liked.


It still cracks me up that the Montrealers call hot dogs “sausages.”

Another cool thing about La Banquisse is that it is open 24 hours.  While we went in the middle of the day, I could imagine that if I were out at 2AM in Montreal, I would definitely be craving some of this!

A.A. Restaurant – this place is such a hole in the wall, they don’t have a website.  But it had my favorite of all the poutines!

When you first walk into A.A. Restaurant, it doesn’t look like much… the décor is shabby, tabletops and chairs are chipped and cracked.  It looks like it hasn’t been changed since the 70s.  But it had my favorite of all the poutines I tried.  Our friends, who are native Montrealers, brought us to this place, which was a good thing because we otherwise would have never known about it. 

Their selection of poutine is limited – only four choices, but what really makes it is the gravy. 


As you can see the poutine is is smothered in gravy.  And the gravy had a different consistency than the other places.  At borh Planet Poutine and La Banquisse, the gravy was thin and glossy, while this poutine had gravy with substance (but in a good way).  It was a close call between La Banquisse and A.A for my favorite poutine. If I lived in Montreal, I would take out-of-town guests to La Banquisse because of the “neat” factor of all the different toppings.  But A.A. would be the one I would go to again and again. (A note to any of you traveling to Montreal and want to check it out – it is located in a developing neighborhood in the city, so be careful when traveling there!)

Stay tuned for when we try duck in a can and other adventures in Montreal!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Cleaning out the Fridge before a Vacation


June has been a busy month of travel! I promise I have some travel recaps ready for you all, but first here’s what I made BEFORE I went away.

For those of you who have been following my Facebook page, you may remember when I posted this picture:


The caption read: What do you do when you have a ton of vegetables left in your fridge before you go on vacation? 

So this is what I came up with:


Veggie Tacos!

We eat a lot of tacos in our household because they are quick, easy, and relatively healthy.  Usually we just make bean tacos or add some grilled chicken to the mix.  But since I had a ton of vegetables that would spoil while we were away, why not make veggie tacos?

So I chopped up zucchini, yellow squash, onion, bell peppers (one red and one green), grape tomatoes, and garlic, as you see in the lead photo (sans the garlic and onions – I chopped those after I took the photo).  I lightly sauteed all the vegetables (except for the grape tomatoes) in about 1 Tbs of olive over medium heat:



Once the vegetables were soft (about seven minutes), I added the grape tomatoes, a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), and about 1/3 of jar of salsa that I had left over (probably about a half cup)


And then I seasoned the mixture with cumin, chili powder, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper to taste.  I let the mixture cook for a few more minutes

While the vegetables were cooking, I heated up corn tortillas, and prepared the toppings – shredded cheddar cheese and sliced avocado!

Here’s the whole spread:


Then to make the tacos, we scooped a spoonful of the veggie mixture into each tortilla and layered on the avocados and cheese, and a dash of hot sauce.  This works well since we get to personalize how spicy we each want it to be. J. really likes his to be hot and spicy, while I like a medium level of spice.

So next time you have a ton of vegetables in your fridge to use up before going on vacation, consider making these veggie tacos!

Veggie Tacos

Note:  Consider this a “guide” rather than a strict recipe, as you can use whatever vegetables you want to get rid of!


  • Yellow squash, sliced
  • Zucchini, sliced
  • bell peppers, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup prepared salsa
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 5-6 corn tortillas

The following seasonings to taste:

  • Chili powder
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper


  • Sliced avocados
  • shredded cheddar cheese
  • sour cream (optional)


Heat olive oil in a large sautee pan over medium heat.  Add vegetables (except for grape tomatoes) and cook until soft, about 5-7 minutes.  Add grape tomatoes, beans, and salsa, and mix.  Add seasonings to taste, and cook for another 2-3 more minutes for the flavors to develop.

Meanwhile heat tortillas according to package (I heat mine over the stove for about 1 minute on each side, or until they get soft). 

Assemble the tacos by spooning about 2 Tablespoons of the veggie mixture and topping it with cheese and avocados. 

Note: When we made these, J. and I had five tacos between the two of us, and there was a lot of veggie mixture, probably to make another 3-4 tacos.  So I would say this makes about 7-8 tacos, but it really depends on the volume of vegetables you have.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Guest Post: Pomegranate Beet Salad


Hello friends! I just got back from a conference in San Francisco and I am working on some great recaps on my travels, including some more posts on my vacation in Montreal! In the meantime, here is a light and healthy recipe from my friend Rose from Just Prepare It Deliciously! – Cheryl

Hello everyone!! I’m Rose, author of the blog Just Prepare It Deliciously, where I focus on simpler, healthier meals (but with occasional treats too). Cheryl is one of my closest friends and all-time favorite bloggers. She even wrote a guest post for my blog last year so today I’m only too glad to return the favor.

I am especially excited to be writing for Cheryl’s Healthy Living series, which has become my favorite part of Food Judicata. Reading her blog on Mondays always helps motivate me to make a healthy plan for my week.

Regarding this recipe, I love eating salads. There’s just something about the way that your body feels when something so good for you that makes me happy. Not to mention with swimsuit season underway, for me eating healthier is a must.

Like Cheryl, I like to use fruits and vegetables that are in season. When I read that beet season peaks in June, I decided that would be one of my ingredients. Since I had never made any dishes with fresh beets before so this was a new experience for me, I read up on beets on Real Simple. As suggested, I separated the beets from the greens (which you will see photographed below).

Now while I’ve read that many recipes call for beets totally raw, I microwaved my beet for 4-5 minutes in advance of using in this recipe, then peeled and cut it up, which is how my mom preps her beets whenever she makes a beet recipe.

So without further ado…the salad.

Pomegranate Beet Salad

Beet Salad 3


  • ½ a Pre-packaged Spinach Mix
  • One large Beet, raw or cooked, cut into pieces
  • 3 Tbsp Goat Cheese Crumbles
  • 2 Tbs sliced almonds
  • 3 slices of turkey, torn
  • 3-4 Tbsp Pomegranate Seeds
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • Raspberry Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing (I used Annie’s Naturals)


  1. Pour salad mix into a bowl.
  2. Add beets, goat cheese, almonds, turkey, pomegranate seeds, and sliced cucumber.

Beets 1

    3.   Divide and serve.

Yield: 2 servings