Our Thanksgiving Recipes Are Safe From AI for Now!

Looks like our Thanksgiving recipes are safe from AI for now! There’s a running joke in my family about not angering the bots because they will come for you…or your job. Artificial intelligence has now entered the recipe creation game. So maybe it’s not really a joke?

It’s certainly tempting to include AI to generate inventive ideas, ingredient lists and measurements, cooking instructions, and photos! That would save us a ton of time. At Cooking2Thrive, we test, test, and retest our original recipes. We taste them hot. We taste them cold. We tweak and sometimes start over from scratch. No matter how efficient we make the process, it is time consuming!

From years of experience, we know that 1/8 tsp of this or that can make a difference. And we measure until we get consistently delicious results. But we also know that cooking is both art and science. Sometimes your senses let you know that today you need less moisture in a batter because it doesn’t look or feel right even though you carefully measured. How can this be?

My previous job involved press checks of four-color process printing. For years, the control boards on sheetfed presses have had the ability to record readings so that you can use them on a reprint to get consistent color. But ask any good pressman whether he relies on a recording to match a previous run and he’ll tell you, no.

Why? As one pressman told me – you go make the temperature, humidity, paper surface, and mechanics of the press exactly the same and I’ll use a recording for consistent color. Otherwise, those levels are meaningless. I have to adjust for conditions that exist today. His job is part art and part science as well.

And the same principles apply to cooking. Cooks and chefs must adjust to the conditions that exist in the moment. If we don’t, the result won’t be as good. Some people may find that frustrating. They may be more tempted to include AI in their cooking in the future.

Currently, artificial intelligence can gather data from millions of sources, add personal preference, and create something innovative, but it cannot simulate the perception that lets a cook or chef know that something’s not quite right. That’s the art of the job. It’s intuitive and incorporates all the senses.

Artificial intelligence may learn to incorporate something that mimics the art of cooking at some point because it’s always learning. And I can see using some AI functions as tools at some point. But I’m not sure how AI will ever inject the love that we know makes food taste better. Is artificially generated love the same as real love?

Whoa, let’s pull that question back or we’ll be into many more areas than cooking. With Thanksgiving upon us, many are pulling out family recipes. Others are looking for a new idea to impress the in-laws. All of us are recognizing the time we must carve out to create the meal.

While it may be tempting to rely on AI to save us time, don’t expect equivalent results this year. Traditional recipes are the safe bet for now so stick with those. And don’t forget to add the love!

Is Bias Affecting Your Decisions?

Ever wonder how bias is affecting your decisions? It’s hard to make healthy decisions, especially these days. We have access to a ton of information. We also have access to a ton of disinformation. Bias enters the picture to add further complication.

We can carefully vet our sources, but even information from credible sources may be biased. And once we absorb information, it is subject to our own bias.

All of us are biased. Our brains use prior experience as a shortcut to form a perception of reality in the moment. If bullets have pelleted my home in a drive-by, my perception of the sound of gunfire may be quite different from someone who has only heard that sound at a gun range. Or, if I’ve only heard gunshots on TV, I may perceive a gunshot outside my home as a car backfiring.

We often remain unaware of our biases or those that have long persisted within our culture. This is as true in healthcare as it is in other areas of life.

For example, you may have had a health professional recommend a low-fat diet to improve heart health. This sounds logical, reasonable, and is a widely issued recommendation. It is easy to assume that research backs up this advice. And yet, that’s not the case.

According to a study published in 2015, a relationship of causation between fat consumption and coronary heart disease was never established. In spite of that, guidelines for fat consumption were established as if causation had been established. The guidelines were included in the 1977 McGovern report and persist in many doctors’ practices today.

Bias in policy and decision making has been on daily display during the pandemic, resulting in a mishmash of barely discernible pieces of fact-based guidance. In fact, public health guidance has been such a nightmare to navigate that I’m not going to try to decipher it here.

Instead, let’s focus on personal bias. Here are a few things to watch for when attempting to determine whether bias is influencing a decision:

Judging Yourself – Judging yourself may prevent you from recognizing bias. It can be difficult to isolate personal bias if you judge all bias as bad. Remember, bias assists your brain with processing information quickly. We are wired for this. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t interrupt the circuit. Some bias creates real harm. Still, having bias is not, in and of itself, inherently evil.

Feelings of Danger – There is no real danger in questioning beliefs. Questioning is how we progress and grow, but when we hold a belief so closely it feels like part of our internal workings – part of what makes us, us –  it can feel dangerous to question that belief. If we look too closely, we may find our sense of reality shaken. It can feel better in the moment to turn away from danger rather than face potential bias.

Lack of Perspective – Without perspective, we may not be able to turn an issue around to observe whether our view is informed, balanced, fact-based, or reasonable and whether it affects us in a positive or negative way. Further, we may not be able to see the effect our position on an issue has on others. It is hard to gain perspective from the middle of something. That’s why we have the cliché – you can’t see the forest for the trees. We must sometimes invent a way to increase distance from an issue so we can see it more clearly.

Defending the Status Quo – Discovering personal bias requires internal examination. Sometimes when we feel uncertain, we ask for another person’s opinion. External observations may be helpful when exploring the layers of a belief but substituting another’s opinion for your own assessment won’t necessarily result in ferreting out bias. In fact, relying on someone else’s opinion of your process or position may tempt you to defend the status quo.

Allowing the Past to Prevent Progress – Bias is often defended overtly and tacitly by explaining that we do things according to tradition or the way they’ve always been done. Using the past to determine the future can feel grounding and safe. And there’s no denying it’s important to learn from the past. But holding onto beliefs just because they’ve been around a long time and are widely accepted can perpetuate unhealthy bias and prevent progress.

Human nature urges us to present ourselves in the best light. Discovering bias in our beliefs and/or actions may require some detective work. It can also help us determine whether bias is influencing our decisions.

Ultimately, recognizing and eliminating bias can lead to healthier life.

Grown-Up Nutrition

Bok choy packs grown-up nutrition into a few tiny calories. I’ve been eating a lot of baby bok choy the past few weeks. It’s the one thing in my garden that hasn’t been stressed by the heat.

Before this summer, I may have eaten bok choy a few times in stir fry, but I was generally unfamiliar with this green. Thanks to my sister providing seeds, I’m having the opportunity to discover how much I enjoy it.

I’m harvesting leaves rather than waiting for larger stemmed groupings. The leaves are tender and sweet – not exactly what you expect from a cabbage. As the plants grow larger, the aroma becomes more cabbage-like and the stems become tougher.

Whether you eat them raw or cooked, a one cup serving has a mere 9 calories. Of course, the cooked version will gain calories if you add meat or fat to the pan. And a salad may have added calories from other vegetables and dressing. Even so, with a little attention to ingredients you can get a remarkable amount of nutrition packed into a minimal number of calories.

Bok choy is high in antioxidants as well as cancer-fighting compounds like vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, folate, and selenium. It’s also a good source of the inflammation reducing flavonoid quercetin. And the good stuff doesn’t stop there. Bok choy contains many of the essentials for maintaining strong healthy bones – calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, and vitamin K.

Including greens high in folate (like bok choy) in your diet during pregnancy can help prevent complications like spina bifida and anencephaly, a severe congenital condition in which a large part of the skull is absent along with the cerebral hemispheres of the brain.

I love a food that promotes good health without a load of calories, but the best thing about bok choy is it’s delicious! I read something recently that called it a gateway green. I can see how that’s an apt description. The mild sweetness makes it appealing for the consumer who isn’t yet accustomed to the bitterness found in many greens.

The mild, pleasant flavor makes a great background for prominent flavors like arugula and dried bing cherries, but it also blends well with more subtle flavors like red bell pepper, celery, cucumber, and carrots. Because I’m harvesting early, the stems are delicious chopped into a salad.

If you enjoy cooked greens, bok choy is great stir fried or sautéed. You can also cook it like more traditional mustard, collard, or turnip greens.

The other day, I filled a pot with chopped bok choy and a cup or so of chopped Swiss chard. I filled the pot with water to the top of the greens. Then I added about a cup of chicken broth, a chunk of onion, a jalapeño pepper with stem and seeds removed, a spoonful of chili garlic sauce, a dash of tamari, and some salt & pepper.

I brought the pot to a boil, then simmered the greens for about 20 minutes. You can vary the cooking time to fit your preferences. I’m from the south where we overcook things.

The result is flavorful, but mellow and just what I was looking for. I’ve eaten it as a side with both chicken and steak and have not been disappointed. Not to mention, I feel as happy as a child when I enjoy grown-up nutrition from baby bok choy!


When Sirens Stop

When sirens stop, I worry. I hear a lot of sirens where I live. You get used to the noise and learn to tune it out. But when sirens are blaring, getting louder, and then suddenly stop, that’s the time for concern. A sudden stop means the emergency is nearby.

A similar thing happens with kids. If they make noise in the average range while playing, everything’s probably okay. If the pitch and volume suddenly rise, or things go silent, it may signal an emergency.

Life experiences create background noise within us. We’re used to it. We don’t hear it. As long as we’re engaged enough to feel startled when the background changes, we can usually avoid disaster. But what about those things that creep up on us and slowly blend into the background? Can we fine tune our senses to notice those changes?

Some will find a way to do this naturally, but for those of us who struggle, here are a few things that can help:

STOP. Be still. Listen. If you can remove a few activities or tasks for a week or two, you may notice things that get lost in the normal hustle and bustle.

REMEMBER. Think back to a week ago, a month ago, a year ago. What has changed? What feels the same? What is that thing in the back of your head that keeps nagging at you? Move it into conscious thought as you move and breathe.

MOVE. Stretch. Tense. Relax. Feel the difference. Moving your body in different ways than you normally do can give you a lot of information.

BREATHE. Inhale. Exhale. Try fast. Try slow. Add movement to coincide with each breath. Notice any changes. Does pain become tightness or dissipate? Does leaning forward remove tension from your shoulders? Does finding balance in a posture replace feeling anxious?

CONNECT. With your body. With support. Connecting with your body can help you feel more grounded. In turn, as the lower brain calms, you may gain insight. Connecting with safe, supportive people through healthy attachment may help your body optimize for maximum health. And feeling supported will help cushion you so that you can acknowledge symptoms you may be trying to overlook.

None of us want to be forced to face scary things. We all hope this pain or that rash are minor and fleeting. And many things will go away if we just wait. Other times, they will persist because they are symptoms of something serious. Stop, remember, move, breathe, and connect knowing it’s easier to recognize when to seek help if you don’t wait until the point where the sirens are stopping at your house.