Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Easy Cooking 101: How to Make a Lentil-Carrot-Kale Stew

With winter not over yet, there's still some time to make a hearty soup or stew. A good vegetarian (but filling) option is a lentil-carrot-kale stew. It's healthy, delicious, easy to make and inexpensive. Add a small salad and a chunk of good bread and you'll get a several meals from 15 minutes of active cooking and 40 minutes of passive.

In a large soup pot coated with a little butter or olive oil, sauté one chopped onion, two or three chopped carrots, some minced fresh ginger and the chopped stalks of any variety of kale. (For the kale stalks, separate them from the leaves; we'll use the leaves in 40 minutes or so.) If you don't have ginger, no problem; if you like garlic, add garlic! Remember to stir occasionally as we want the vegetables soft, but not browned.

When the veggies are soft, add some spices (cumin and coriander are my favorites) plus some unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Stir to combine. Add one cup of French lentils and six cups of cold water, plus a bay leaf. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, return to a simmer and cook (mostly covered) until the lentils are soft, but not falling apart. Turn off the heat and add the kale leaves (chopped into bite-size pieces). Stir to combine the kale; the leaves will cook from the residual heat of the mixture.

Let cool, taste, reseason with salt, pepper, lemon juice, etc. Like the beef-mushroom-barley soup we made earlier this winter, this soup will thicken as it sits in the refrigerator. To counter, add a little water to thin it out when reheating. As with most soups and stews, flavor will improve over the course of several days.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Using Food Processors' Other Blades

Yes, food processors come with more than one blade! (Check a drawer or box in the closet.)

In addition to the standard "s-blade" (not my term), there are weapons (my term) for shredding and slicing (one's fingers). Kidding.

Seriously, the shredding blade is a great tool that can save a lot of time (in lieu of chopping by hand). I use it to shred red cabbage when making cole slaw. Occasionally, I also make a raw, shredded beet and carrot salad.

To make it, I peel
the beets and carrots and run them through the machine. I remove them to a bowl, mix them together, add a little parsley (chopped by hand), unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper and fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. If I want a little creaminess, I add some yogurt (whole fat!) and/or Dijon mustard.

Covered in an air-tight container, this salad will stay in the refrigerator for close to a week, especially if an acid (i.e. lemon juice, apple cider vinegar) is added.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Mark Bittman: "Regulating Our Sugar Habit"

There's a really interesting article by Mark Bittman in today's New York Times (online edition) about the latest twist in the debate over regulating what foods can be purchased by those using food stamps. Actually, I should have used "edible foodlike substances" (Michael Pollan's term) instead of "foods."

Here are the first two paragraphs of "Regulating Our Sugar Habit." Click here to read the entire piece and, if you have time, skim through some of the comments. There are some intelligent points made by those on both sides of the argument.
"When Ronda Storms, a Republican state senator in Florida, is accused of nanny-state-ism for her efforts on behalf of a sane diet, it’s worth noting. When she introduced a bill to prevent people in Florida from spending food stamps on unhealthy items like candy, chips and soda, she broke ranks: few of her party have taken on Big Food. And as someone who has called for the defunding of an educational Planned Parenthood program and banning library book displays supporting Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, she is hardly in her party’s left wing. Not surprisingly, she’s faced criticism from every corner: Democrats think she’s attacking poor people, and Republicans see Michelle Obama. Soon after Storms proposed the bill, she told me, 'Coca-Cola and Kraft were in my office' hating it.

"Yet she makes sense. 'It’s just bad public policy to allow unfettered access to all kinds of food,' she told me over the phone. 'Why should we cut all of these programs and continue to pay for people to use food stamps to buy potato chips, Oreos and Mountain Dew? The goal is to feed good food to hungry people.'"

Friday, February 24, 2012

Minnesota State Supreme Court Hears Pesticide Drift Case

Unfortunately, organic farms don't live in a bubble. Runoff containing pesticides from conventional farms knows no boundaries and can infiltrate organic fields (and our water supply). The same holds true for sprayed pesticides, especially those applied on windy days and susceptible to drift.

This airborne pesticide drift is a serious issue and is actually the subject of a case heard earlier this month by the Minnesota State Supreme Court after working its way through the state's court system. If the court rules in favor of organic farmers Oluf and Debra Johnson, it could have widespread implications.

According to Pesticide Action Network:
"Oluf and Debra Johnson are farmers taking a stand against pesticide drift in Paynesville, Minnesota.

"Between 1998 and 2008, the Johnson’s fields were contaminated five times by pesticide drift. As a result, they lost their organic farming certification. Oluf — who was a conventional farmer for 15 years before converting to organic — tried speaking to the pesticide applicators, asking that they not spray on windy days. As many organic farmers do, he maintained his own buffer zones between his fields and neighboring non-organic fields. Finally, in 2009, Oluf filed suit for damages.

"On February 9th the Johnson's case was heard before the Minnesota State Supreme Court, which will be the highest body of law to rule on pesticide drift as trespass. This case could be groundbreaking if pesticide applicators are actually held liable for drift. We attended the trial in Minnesota, are monitoring the case and expect a ruling by early May."
And here's the summary of the case, as prepared by the Minnesota Supreme Court Commissioner's Office:
"Oluf Johnson, et al., Respondents vs. Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company, Appellant – Case Nos. A10-1596 and A10-2135: Respondents Oluf and Debra Johnson are organic farmers who brought claims for trespass, nuisance, and negligence per se against appellant Paynesville Farmers Union Cooperative Oil Company. The Johnsons allege that Paynesville caused chemical pesticides to drift onto fields they were using or intending to use in the production of organic crops. The district court granted summary judgment to Paynesville on all claims, concluding that Minnesota law does not recognize “trespass by particulate matter” and that the Johnsons did not present sufficient evidence of damages to sustain their nuisance and negligence per se claims. The court of appeals reversed and remanded.

"On appeal to the supreme court, the issues presented are: (1) whether the Johnsons can sustain a claim for trespass based upon allegations of drift of pesticide spray; (2) whether the Johnsons established a prima facie case for damages under their nuisance and negligence per se claims; and (3) whether the district court erred in dismissing the Johnsons’ claim for permanent injunctive relief and denying leave to amend their complaint. (Stearns County)"
Click here to offer encouragement and support to the Johnsons.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Organic Eggs? Yup. Toxic Hexane-Laced Cooking Spray? Yup.

It's heartening to see the number of everyday, nondescript cafes, luncheonettes and coffee shops selling organic foods and drinks. Organic coffee and omelets using organic eggs were once only the provenance of specialty organic food stores, but as demand has grown, supply has followed.

Obviously, this is great news. As we move away from the dangerous elements of our modern food supply (hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, refined sugars and other synthetic ingredients), we will feel better, we will shave our overbearing health care costs and we will become less dependent on the corrupt pharmaceutical industry.

However, realize that, for the most part, we are only in the first stage of our transformation. As we become more educated, the owner of the café I was in over the weekend will realize that there's a bigger picture, one which extends past the organic eggs in the omelet. Again, great news on the organic eggs, but the omelet would be much healthier if the cook, instead of using PAM cooking spray on the griddle, used olive oil or butter from grass-fed cows.

What's wrong with the cooking sprays and other commercial vegetable oils (i.e. Wesson, Mazola) so common in restaurant and home kitchens? A lot. The canola, corn and soybeans used are most likely from genetically engineered (GE) plants sprayed with dangerous pesticides and the actual process employed to make the oils reads like a science experiment gone awry (see below). (These sprays, by the way, are more expensive than good-quality olive oils.

I am also perplexed when coffee shops selling organic coffee offer conventional milk from cows administered hormones and antibiotics and fed a diet of GE, pesticide-rich soy and corn. Wouldn't organic milk be the logical extension of the decision to use organic coffee beans? (A price increase of five cents per cup—which would most likely go unnoticed and/or appreciated—would offset the added cost of the organic milk.)

Have faith; we'll get there.

And here's the oil-making process, as told by Eden Foods:

"The truth frequently is not pretty; nevertheless, we offer the following: Commercial or refined vegetable oils are made by crushing seed to extract oil generating high temperatures under great pressure. The crushed seed meal is treated with toxic hexane or other petroleum solvents to gain further extraction. The oil is again heated well beyond the smoke point to drive off most of the solvents. This stuff cannot taste or smell very good at this point, so they treat the oil with caustic soda (sodium hydroxide) to reduce acidity and remove burnt free fatty acids and proteins. This also destroys beneficial antioxidants like the natural preservative vitamin E which is replaced with synthetic preservatives. Next, the oil is heated again, centrifuged, bleached, and sulfuric or hydrochloric acid treated to ‘wash’ it, then micro-filtered removing everything except fat, including color. Deodorizing and de-foaming chemicals and high temperature steam further destroy nutrients. The end product is shelf-stable with a high smoke point, but severely depleted nutritional content except fat, and, at best, dubious value."

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Evidence that Antibiotics in Animals Cause Superbacteria

The proof that the antibiotics administered to our healthy for-food cattle, chickens and pigs are causing major health implications is becoming increasingly damning, as evidenced from a report released yesterday. Yet, at what point will our elected politicians and appointed government officials disconnect themselves from the moneyed interests of Big Food and consider the greater good?

While we are holding our breath, we should do our best to avoid meat, dairy and eggs that come from animals administered antibiotics, since over 70 percent of the antibiotics used in the United States are given to healthy livestock. It is widely accepted that this overuse—to help the animals grow bigger faster—has helped foster the growth of superbacteria resistant to the antibiotics that have served us so well for decades.

If the latest example—the development of a strain of antibiotic-resistant MRSA—doesn't raise some eyebrows, maybe we can get a super PAC to take up the cause. Anyone have $5 million to spare? Seriously, I'll let an article in today's Food Safety News explain further, since it perfectly sums up where we stand:

"A study published today in MiBio lends further weight to the growing theory that using animal antibiotics in livestock contributes to drug resistance among human bacteria.

"Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, is a strain of Staph that's resistant to methicillin - the drug most commonly used to treat Staph infections.

"Using a detailed DNA mapping technique, researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Arizona were able to trace one of these superbugs - MRSA CC398 - to its origins, discovering that the human strain of this bacteria developed its drug resistance in animals rather than in people.

"Often referred to as 'pig-MRSA' or 'livestock-associated MRSA,' the strain is known to affect humans who have been exposed to live animals, such as farmers or veterinarians. But this study found that CC398 was originally a human bacteria, susceptible to antibiotics, before it spread to animals and then back to people. By the time it returned to humans it had picked up two souvenirs: resistance to methicillin and resistance to tetracycline - a drug often used to treat Staph infections in patients allergic to the penicillin class of antibiotics, which includes methicillin.

"Because both tetracycline and penicillins are commonly administered to food animals, the study finds that it is likely that the use of these drugs in livestock gave this Staph bacteria the exposure it needed to develop resistance to these drugs."
Click here to read the entire article.

Click here to read the TGen press release.

Click here to read the response from Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist in Congress and the champion of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), which is "designed to ensure that we preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of human disease" and pretty much gets nowhere every year.

I will call my Congressman, Jerrold Nadler, today to find out if he supports PAMTA. It seems like everyone—except those severely influenced by corporate dollars—would support this, no?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

More Easy Cooking: How to Make Coconut Shrimp

Shrimp are a great go-to when cooking quickly is the goal. For example, one of my favorite—and easiest—shrimp dishes entails browning some sliced garlic in butter or olive oil, adding shrimp to the pan, turning off the heat when the shrimp are 70 percent cooked, and then adding chopped parsley, fresh lemon juice, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper. This takes less than 10 minutes.

Another straightforward shrimp dish is coconut shrimp, which I made last night. It's also a dish that kids can help prepare.

First, combine some shredded coconut and bread crumbs (panko, Japanese bread crumbs, work well) in a shallow bowl. (The ratio depends on how much you like coconut!) Mix an egg in another bowl. Peel the shrimp. Dip the shrimp in the egg and then coat with the coconut-bread crumb mixture. Set on a plate big enough for all of your shrimp.

After coating is complete, heat olive oil and/or butter and/or coconut oil in a pan (enough to coat the pan). Add shrimp, be patient and let first side brown. Turn and let second side brown. Remove to paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with unrefined sea salt and fresh lime juice. That's it.

For complementary flavor I made an orange dipping sauce using orange fruit spread that I thinned out with some water and lemon juice. (It would have been too thick for dipping without the added liquid.)

If possible, buy wild shrimp, which far exceed farmed shrimp in flavor and nutrition. In addition, the growing conditions on most fish farms are less than ideal.

Any questions? Leave a comment and I'll reply.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents' Day Holiday

The Delicious Truth will return tomorrow.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jack LaLanne: Uphill or Downhill?

We missed our monthly dose of Jack LaLanne last month, but this snippet is a doozy; I love the cutting-edge graphics Jack employs in his Miss Sitter vs. Miss Doer anecdote. Seriously, LaLanne's message is right on, even if delivered via smoke signals or semaphore flags.

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch the video.)

Have a nice holiday weekend.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Superb Advice for Limiting TV Time, from Mindful Life

Big Food has been aggressively marketing to children on television for decades, and, as I wrote about last month, the problem is now firmly entrenched online.

Here's an email I received yesterday from Mindful Life, "which provides brain-based solutions for today’s families as they try to manage the stresses of modern day parenting." Mindful Life's newsletters provide expert advice on a host of subjects (click here to subscribe), and yesterday's on television time highlights the dangers of television viewing and offers practical solutions.

As I know from many of my clients, getting our kids unhooked from junk food is difficult to do. I think following Mindful Life's advice in regard to limiting television time represents an important first step:
This time of year the lure of a warm couch, some hot cocoa, and a little TV time can often sound much more appealing than wrestling with your little ones to get them out the door, bundled for the cold winter weather.

Well, if your little one seems inattentive, demanding, anxious and down right bratty, the TV may be somewhat to blame.

According to research, the harmful effects of television viewing include difficulties with attention, aggression, worse performance in school, obesity, requests for advertised foods, and cultivation of materialistic values.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children over the age of two watch no more than 1 to 2 hours of television a day, a recent study shows that even a short period of time watching the wrong kind of show can have detrimental effects.

A group of 4-year-old children were the subject of a study published in the medical journal Pediatrics in September 2011. These 60 children were randomly assigned into three groups: one group watched SpongeBob Square Pants, the second group watched the slower-paced Caillou, and the third group was told to draw. They watched or drew for just nine minutes, and then they took mental function tests. The kids who watched SpongeBob did significantly worse on the tests than the other two groups.

The study shows that even very short-term exposure to this fast paced, over-stimulating television can cause measurable learning deficits. Common sense tells us that more exposure is likely to cause longer-lasting problems.

For young children time spent watching TV affects the way their brains are developing. Children need adequate time with caregivers, time for creative play, and opportunities to interact with peers in order to develop the higher level thinking areas of the brain. Time spent in front of the TV stimulates the areas of the brain related to the stress response, creating a more reactive, impulsive and inattentive child.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you find yourself reaching for the remote:

1) Do a TV cleanse. Unplug the cable for a week and see what it feels like. Replacing TV time with a little Pandora can change the entire feel of your house. Your kids will get along much better too!

2) Not all screen time is equal. Be mindful of what your kids are watching. If there is no educational value, if it isn't on PBS (for kids under 6), and if it gives you a headache, chances are your kids should not be watching it.

3) If they are going to watch, watch with them. Studies show when parents watch television with their children and reinforce educational aspects of the shows it improves the quality of the learning experience for the child.

4) Keep the TV out of their bedrooms.
Children with TVs in their bedrooms are 1.3 times more likely to be overweight, and it becomes much more difficult to monitor what they watch. Keep all screen media (TVs & computers) in a central living area.

I'm the first to admit that there are days where nothing sounds better than to curl up on my couch in front of a movie, but it is important to be intentional about the role TV plays in your home. Block certain channels, watch together, or eliminate it all together.

You might be amazed by the creativity that emerges on the brink of boredom!

Kristen Race, Ph.D.
President & Founder
Mindful Life

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

McDonald's Begins Move Away from Sow Crates

The commercial feedlots and industrial farms where we grow most of the cattle, chickens and pigs we use for food are not pretty sights, or sites. Overcrowding, poor nutrition, lack of exercise are just some of the issues, all of which compromise the heath of the animals and the environment. This degradation, in turn, effects us.

A step toward improvement, though, emanated from McDonald's on Monday. According to an article ("McDonald’s Set to Phase Out Suppliers’ Use of Sow Crates") in yesterday's New York Times,
"The McDonald’s Corporation said on Monday that it would begin working with its pork suppliers to phase out the use of so-called gestational crates, the tiny stalls in which sows are housed while pregnant.

"Animal rights advocates have singled out the crates, known as sow stalls, as inhumane, and several states have moved to ban or restrict their use not only in pork production, but also in the production of eggs and veal.

“'McDonald’s believes gestation stalls are not a sustainable production system for the future,' Dan Gorsky, senior vice president for supply chain management for McDonald’s North America, said in a statement. 'There are alternatives we think are better for the welfare of sows.”'

"At a little more than 2 feet by 7 feet, sow stalls are too small for a pregnant pig to turn around. Being confined in a stationary position for the four months of an average pregnancy leads to a variety of health problems, including urinary tract infections, weakened bone structures, overgrown hooves and mental stress, according to animal rights advocates.

"About 60 to 70 percent of the more than five million breeding sows in the United States are kept in the crates."
For a great analysis of the importance of this decision, click here to read Mark Bittman's column ("OMG: McDonald's Does the Right Thing") that appears in the Times' online edition today.
"The effect on the industry will be huge, because in the world of big-time meat supply, there are two kinds of producers: those who sell to McDonald’s and those wish they could.

"Switching from gestation crates to group sow housing is more labor- and capital-intensive, requiring changes that will take money and time, so an 18-month turnaround is unrealistic. But it’s likely that within a few years gestation crates will be history for most pork producers, and that’s a major victory."

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Our Voices Heard by Senator Boxer & Rep. DeFazio!

I'm sure some people read yesterday's post about people power and offered a resounding yawn. That's fine, but for those who were intrigued, here's a real life example of how collective action by regular people can make a difference.

As I mentioned, over 600,000 people have signed the petition that's the focus of the Just Label It! campaign, which demands labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). And you know what happened when 600,000 people took a couple minutes to participate in the process?

The Center for Food Safety, which filed the petition to the FDA and is spearheading the campaign, reports that "Senator Barbara Boxer (CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio (OR) have authored a bicameral Congressional letter in support of our legal petition and will be urging their fellow Members on Capitol Hill to sign onto their letter."

Click here to read the entire letter; it's really amazing to think what we've created. Here's the first paragraph:

"As Americans we pride ourselves on our freedoms. Some of these freedoms strike at the most personal level, such as the freedom to choose what we eat and feed our families. However, our free and open markets can only be strong when they are accountable and transparent. When Americans are not provided accurate and essential information about the products they purchase they do not have the freedom to make choices. That is why we urge you to join us in support of a recent legal petition filed on behalf of over 400 organizations and businesses to urge the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require clear labeling of genetically engineered (GE) foods."
The next step? Emailing (and calling) our senators and representatives to urge them to sign on to the Boxer-DeFazio letter. The Center for Food Safety has simplified the process for us; click here to see how easy it is to make a difference.

Feel free to comment below after you've taken action.

Monday, February 13, 2012

For a Better World, We Need to Act (Even in Simple Ways)

Last week a reader left a comment to my post about a less-than-forthcoming marketing campaign from McDonald's, wondering "how do [we] fight with these [mega corporations] when they have blessings from our leaders?"

Unfortunately, I agree that the odds and dollars are stacked against us, but that doesn't mean we can't—or shouldn't—make our voices heard. If anyone doubts the power of the people, witness what's happened in the last year in Egypt, Libya, Yemen, etc. Who would have guessed 18 months ago that a generation of henchmen (some of them murdering henchmen) would be discussed in the past tense?

Comparing companies like McDonald's and Monsanto with despotic regimes may be severe (some wouldn't think it so crazy), but it doesn't mean that we should sit quietly while our food supply and society's collective health are dictated by their policies.

Our voices need to be heard. Emails and phone calls to companies and elected officials make a difference. It is up to each one of us—especially people reading and understanding the reason for this blog—to write these emails and make these phone calls. Furthermore, share your knowledge with friends. Knowledge is power and anathema to the mega corporations' goal of keeping the public in the dark about the true workings of our food supply.

The numbers mushroom quickly; just look at the momentum the Just Label It! campaign has created in the movement to have foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) labeled as such. When the program started in the fall, I doubt
the organizers thought over 600,000 Americans would sign the online petition to the Food and Drug Administration in less than six months. The goal now is one million.

I know this message isn't novel, but if we—individually and collectively—want a better world, we—individually and collectively—need to do something about it. We cannot and should not expect others to act; if we do, those others may be the people making the decisions at McDonald's and Monsanto.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Another Quick, Delicious, Healthy and Cheap Meal Idea

That's the very quick (10 minutes), delicious (trust me), healthy (links follow) and cheap (about $3) lunch I made for myself yesterday. "Quick" meal preparation can be learned, "delicious" is personal, "healthy" is contingent on a little self-education (do not listen to "nutrition" segments on television) and "cheap" depends on knowing how to shop and avoiding packaged foods.

On top, a fried egg, with the nutrient-dense, flavor-packed yolk oozing all over the place. (Hey, Ms. TV Nutritionist, if we are really supposed to eat egg white omelets, wouldn't eggs come without the yolks?)

Under the egg, some organic chopped parsley and organic red cabbage. (Both last in the refrigerator for at least a week, if stored properly.)

Also, on the bottom of the bowl, hidden by the vegetables, are spoonfuls of organic spelt (a whole grain and type of wheat) and organic kidney beans.

For additional flavor and nutrition I added some olive oil, lemon juice, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Oh, I almost forgot the whole grain bread, which I ate with nutrient-rich Smjör butter.

Substitute vegetables freely; whatever is in your refrigerator will work. Don't be afraid to pack this for lunch at work; include a hard-boiled egg in lieu of the fried egg.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Update on BPA in Cans of Muir Glen Organic Tomato Products

I called Muir Glen yesterday to get an update on the status of Bisphenol A (BPA) in the linings of the company's aluminum tomato cans. I had last called a year ago, when Muir Glen was just starting to transition to BPA-free cans.

(As I've written previously, BPA is an endocrine-disrupting chemical used in many plastics and aluminum cans, and according to Rodale News, is “linked to male infertility, diabetes, heart disease, aggressive behavior in children, and other ills.”)

The good news, according to the company, is that since October 2011 only BPA-free aluminum cans have been used for its tomato products (which are organic). The bad news is that cans of BPA are still present on store shelves, thanks to the products' 2 ½-year shelf life.

Baffling and unfortunate for a company owned by General Mills is that there is no definitive way to distinguish between cans until you open a can and see the color of the can's inside lining. A white inside means you have a can with a BPA lining; a bright golden, orangey inside indicates a BPA-free can. (It's sort of like hitting the jackpot, but different.)

I asked if I could get a refund if I got stuck with a BPA can. (I actually use Bionaturae organic strained tomatoes in BPA-free glass jars, but that was immaterial to my line of questioning.)

"No, because we consider BPA to be a safe product," said the customer service representative I spoke with.

"If BPA is safe, then why are you switching away from using it?" I asked.

"Because that's what our customers want."

(Whatever; I'm sure I'm not the only one who would trade disingenuous answers for a higher sperm count.)

Since Muir Glen has no plans yet for labeling (unlike Eden Foods, which marks its BPA-free cans of beans accordingly), follow these guidelines:

Look for an expiration date with the year 2014; there's a very, very good chance you'll get a golden, BPA-free surprise. Expiration dates of 2013 could go either way, while 2012 and 2011 should be avoided. When Muir Glen starts packaging tomatoes anew at the end of this summer, the cans will have expiration dates of 2015 and will be BPA-free.

Until then, good luck.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Other Side of the McDonald's Potato Story

There are three sides to every story, but occasionally you get a feeling that one of the two competing positions is a helluva lot closer to the truth than the other.

"Ladies and gentlemen, in the red and yellow corner, McDonald's, with an annual marketing budget comparable to a small country's GDP, used primarily to sicken the population and the environment! And in the green corner, White Earth Pesticide Action Network (WEPAN), a group of people on the front lines of pesticide exposure where the potatoes are actually grown."

McDonald's has launched a new video marketing campaign to help romanticize its product. Several farmers who supply the fast food giant with ingredients are highlighted, including Frank Martinez, who grows potatoes.

Here’s the video (click here to watch if you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email), which, of course, never mentions the pesticides needed to grow non-organic potatoes on a large scale. In McDonald's view, it's all about "the right amount of water, rich soil and, in Frank's case, a lifetime of experience."

But there's also another side to the McDonald's potato story (not involving Martinez), courtesy of WEPAN. Personally, I'm believin' it!

"Members of the Pine Point community have been battling an industrial potato farmer, Ron D. Offut, over pesticide drift affecting the air and drinking water on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota.

"Offut, dubbed 'the Lord of the Fries,' owns or leases more than 11,000 acres of land adjacent to Pine Point village. His company, RDO Holdings, harvests 1.8 billion pounds of potatoes annually, most of which are sold to McDonald's to produce French fries.

"RDO Holdings is the leading sprayer of pesticides in the region - including several likely human carcinogens and endocrine disruptors.

"WEPAN has worked for more than a decade to lessen the spraying of pesticides by RDO Holdings, or even to be notified when sprayings are happening. So far RDO Holdings has refused to change their practices.

"Community members from Pine Point worked with Pesticide Action Network (PAN) scientists to monitor the pesticides drifting from potato farms into the elementary school and other sensitive sites using the Drift Catcher technology developed by PAN. Their results found the air contaminated with the fungicide Chlorothalonil at 123 of 186 test sites in and around Pine Point. Chlorothalonil is a 'PAN Bad Actor' pesticide that is both acutely toxic and a known carcinogen."

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Economic Downturn: Malls Trade Baby Gap for Baby Eggplant

I just ordered seeds from an organic seed company for the fast-approaching growing season. A handful of items were already out of stock, an indication of gardening's rebirth as people look to avoid our compromised food supply (pesticides, lack of flavor) and to combat rising food costs.

In addition to helping reacquaint people with the satisfaction of growing their own food, another positive of the economic downturn is the transition of indoor shopping malls from retail-only destinations to more dynamic spaces. According to "How About Gardening or Golfing at the Mall?" in yesterday's New York Times:
"Cleveland’s Galleria at Erieview, like many malls across the country, is suffering. Closed on weekends because there are so few visitors, it is down to eight retail stores, eight food-court vendors and a couple of businesses like the local bar association.

"So part of the glass-covered mall is being converted into a vegetable garden."
Holy dramatic about-faces, Batman! A vegetable garden! Instead of a TCBY (These Chemicals Belie Yogurt)! The world is a better place!

Not to mention, visitors to Galleria at Erieview will now smell real strawberries and basil instead of the nauseating chemical alternatives wafting out of Yankee Candle:
"The shift to gardening began with the carts that used to sell jewelry or candles, where . . . herbs [were] planted in the disused retail carts inside the mall.

"The garden now produces lettuce, strawberries, basil and other crops, which are sold to visitors and used for the mall’s catering business. An unexpected benefit has been an influx of visitors, which has prompted related retailers to open in the mall, like a company that sells rainwater collection barrels."
Click here to read the entire article.

Monday, February 6, 2012

No Future for Methyl Iodide on Strawberries in California?

As I say ad infinitum, "not all strawberries are good and not all butters are bad." Butters from grass-fed cows not administered hormones and antibiotics and not fed genetically modified corn and soy that have been sprayed with pesticides are a mine of nutrients. (Kerrygold and Smjör are two examples; click here to read about the lutein, conjugated linoleic acid, omega-3 fatty acids and beta carotene found in grass-fed meat and dairy.)

To the strawberries. Sure, we are supposed to be eating more fruits and vegetables, but should they be awash in dangerous pesticides? Non-organic strawberries are high on the Environmental Working Group's list of produce to avoid, and that's without the methyl iodide, a pesticide proposed for use on California's strawberry fields, the source of over 80 percent of this country's crop.

But, thanks to a political appointment last week, methyl iodide may not be part of our kids' strawberry addiction. This action alert I just received from the Pesticide Action Network (PAN) tells more; click here to make your voice heard.
"Great news! A successful organic farmer has just been appointed to head California’s Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) by [Governor Jerry] Brown. This is happy news on a number of fronts, but first and foremost, it means that [California] is now poised to reverse the decision to register the cancer-causing strawberry pesticide, methyl iodide.

"For over a year, Gov. Brown has been refusing to take action on methyl iodide, saying that the decision must rest with the incoming head of DPR. That person, Brian Leahy, is now in place.

"Please join us in calling for immediate action on methyl iodide.

"Action in California, where over 80% of the country’s strawberries are grown, will have national implications. In addition to closing off the major market, a [California] ban will give EPA cover to re-evaluate this chemical in light of the now even more overwhelming scientific evidence that methyl iodide has no safe place in agriculture.

"Methyl iodide is a known carcinogen that causes spontaneous miscarriages, and is likely to contaminate groundwater. Injecting it as a gas into the soil at over a hundred pounds per acre presents unacceptable risks to nearby rural communities, pregnant women, children and farmworkers. This chemical is just plain dangerous, and we will continue to press on all fronts to get it banned before it gains wide use.

"Help Brown and Director Leahy prioritize pulling methyl iodide. With your help we’ve been holding the line on methyl iodide for years now. That struggle is what has created the moment of opportunity we have right now. Let’s finish this!"

Friday, February 3, 2012

One Commercial We Won't See During the Super Bowl

In advance of Sunday's Super Bowl, I figured I'd repost this commercial I made for the big game two years ago. The product's marketing budget wasn't big enough to pay for 30 seconds of commercial time then and, unfortunately, the same holds true today. So while spots for KFC Hot Wings and Gatorade will dominate and be seen by hundreds of millions, we'll stay true to our mom-and-pop roots.

(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch the 30-second commercial. And if you want to receive The Delicious Truth via email, enter your email address in the "FOLLOW BY EMAIL" box above to the right.)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Today We Discuss Monsanto (Sorry to Ruin Your Day)

Two reasons why, at all costs, I try to avoid eating foods with hormones, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides and other synthetic ingredients are flavor and health. The better products' flavor far exceeds the taste (or lack thereof) of the staples of our modern food supply. I am also convinced that many of our illnesses are caused by the foodstuffs foisted upon us. At best, they are nutrient-poor; at worst, they make us really, really sick.

There's also a third reason, one I didn't conceptualize until yesterday, after I read two pieces about Monsanto, the far-reaching, bio-technology/chemical company that puppeteers much of the world's food supply. If I were to eat food grown with the aid of pesticides or GMOs, there's a good chance I'd be supporting Monsanto.

Want some reasons to not support Monsanto? Here's one, courtesy of Scott Edwards, the co-director of the Food & Water Justice project for Food & Water Watch. (There are three sides to every story, but even if the guy is only 20 percent correct . . .)
"Whenever I hear the name Monsanto I can’t help but think about one of the greatest environmental crimes in the history of the United States. Back in 1935 Monsanto bought out a small chemical company located in Anniston, Alabama, a struggling town of about 22,000 poor and working class people. Monsanto spent the next 36 years using Anniston as its manufacturing headquarters for PCBs, an industrial coolant. Tragically, the company was also recklessly poisoning the local community, environment and its own workers with hundreds of tons of this highly toxic material."
Click here to read the rest of "Monsanto Returns to the Scene of the Crime."

But not is all bad news in regard to Monsanto. According to an article in the Daily Mail yesterday:
"The giant bio-tech firm Monsanto yesterday announced a major withdrawal from the [United Kingdom] amid intense opposition to genetically modified foods . . . Monsanto's decision was made public on the eve of the Government's final announcement on the prospects for GM crop cultivation here. Earlier this week it was revealed that the Government's own research had found that GM farming would pollute the countryside for generations."
(Click here to read the rest of "GM Giant Quits Britain Amid Backlash.")

Yet, in the United States, Monsanto's march to an increased GM presence travels on a toll-free road, as our elected politicians and appointed government officials kowtow to the company at almost every opportunity. And most Americans don't know that much of our food contains GMOs, since no labeling requirements exist. (Organic foods, by law, are GMO-free.)

Do you want foods with GMOs labeled? (Over 90 percent of Americans do.) Click here to sign a petition telling the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) how you feel, joining more than 500,000 Americans who have done so already.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Empowering Your Kids to Cook Dinner (and Saving You Time)

I give cooking lessons to kids of all ages all the time. We make real food from scratch, with only minor concessions to sharp knives and hot flames. If we do make the default foodstuffs on restaurants' kids' menus (which should be illegal, but that's a story for another day), we'll construct chicken fingers using organic chicken (that we touched and cut into smaller pieces!), organic breadcrumbs and organic eggs. The dipping sauces are homemade barbeque sauce and a honey-mustard mixture.

It's no secret that when the kids are involved, they are more apt to eat and savor what they've cooked. Other dishes—again, all from scratch—we've made recently include eggplant rollatini, shrimp Caesar salad, cold peanut noodle with chicken, skirt steak burritos, a frittata (with mozzarella, basil and sun-dried tomatoes), apple crisp and mango sorbet. Anyone hungry yet?

Taking it a step further, some parents have delegated some of the family cooking to their children. An article ("My Sons, the Sous-Chefs") in today's New York Times highlights the possibilities:
"Here is what our personal chef prepared for dinner the other night: seared duck breast with an apricot-orange sauce, wild rice pilaf and haricots verts.

"He delivered it to the table with professional aplomb and served everyone himself. Though the duck skin might have been more crisp and the pilaf fluffier, my husband and I were effusive with our praise.

"The chef, after all, was our teenage son."
Click here to read the entire article. Also, here's one comment left by a reader, lending a bit of person-on-the-street credibility to the endeavor:
"My son has been cooking by my side and baking at his father's side since he was about 5 years old. The result is that he loves to cook, bake and will try almost anything. He has a few things that he does not eat but compared to most kids we know, the list is small. He now cooks one meal a week and even likes to cook for his best friends family when he stays the night. He has inspired his friends' moms to take action with their sons and daughters and get them inspired in the kitchen. I too have had to combat similar 'battles' with my son but well worth the effort. I think it has made him so much more appreciative of anyone's cooking."