Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Sale on Grass-Fed Ground Beef at Whole Foods

As I've mentioned before, Whole Foods is a great place to shop, especially if you buy the store's in-house brand (365 and 365 Organic) and take advantage of the always-running sales on fruits, vegetables, fish, meat and dry goods.

In addition, there are occasionally one-day promotions that shouldn't be missed. I recently bought (and froze) six pounds of wild sockeye salmon for $10 per pound, instead of the usual $17.

I am already clearing my freezer for next Friday (September 7), when ground grass-fed beef will be on sale (in all United States stores) for $5, about $4 less than usual. Last year when Whole Foods had this sale I bought 10 pounds (in individually-wrapped one-pound packages) and saved myself $40. Why not?

Here's part of an email I received on Wednesday from Whole Foods advertising the sale:
"Here’s the beef! Mark your calendar for Friday, September 7. Why? Because on that Friday only all of our US stores will have ground grass-fed beef on sale for $4.99 per pound. If you haven’t tried grass-fed beef before, this is the perfect time to see what everyone’s talking about. The rest of you 'seasoned' grass-fed beef lovers can take advantage of this opportunity and stock up! This sale is one day only so you’ve got to stop by our stores on Friday, September 7th to pick some up.

"Sale valid in our US stores only, while supplies last. Availability and limits may vary by region, so you can contact your store for details. Most of our stores do not provide rain checks for sales like this.

"Here’s what to know about grass-fed beef:

• Grass-fed beef ranching is not only good for the animals, but involves managing natural resources and supporting local producers.
• Grass-fed beef is a leaner choice and has a more favorable ratio of omega fatty acids.
• Grass-fed beef is priced fairly for the producer and is worth every penny.
• Grass-fed beef is a delicious alternative to grain-fed beef and cooks a little differently."

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to Make Homemade Hot Sauce (Easier Than You Think)

For the longest time, I couldn't find organic hot sauce. Then, late last year, I noticed that Hawthorne Valley Farm was selling 5-oz. bottles of organic hot sauce (right, in photo) at the farmers' market. I was in business, especially because it was really good.

I've also been threatening to make my own hot sauce for about five years, which is when I tore a recipe for Louisiana-style hot sauce out of a magazine. (I have no idea which magazine, but Dave De Witt was the author.)

Peppers are currently in season, so I figured now was the time for action, especially because Keith's Organic Farm has been selling beautiful Hot Portugal peppers the past several weeks. I bought 15 for $0.40 each ($6.00), which turned out to be economical since the recipe yielded almost three times more than a $5 bottle from Hawthorne. And, if I may say so myself, my hot sauce was just as good—if not better—than Hawthorne's.

While I didn't follow De Witt's recipe exactly, I was surprised at how easy it is to make hot sauce, which seems to be the case with almost everything I attempt for the first time. If you do try this, any type of hot pepper will work.

Here's how I did it:

I put a wire rack on a baking sheet and put the peppers on the wire rack. I turned on the broiler in my oven and let the peppers char under the broiler, turning occasionally. After the peppers were sufficiently charred, I put the peppers in a bowl, which I covered with plastic wrap. This allowed the peppers to cool slightly and the skins of the peppers to further detach from the peppers. (You can also put the peppers in a closed paper bag to cool, but you run the risk of losing the peppers' juice.)

After the peppers were cool, I peeled off and discarded the skins, keeping the peppers, seeds and any juice. I then put this collection, along with three cloves of garlic plus some salt (not too much!) and ground pepper, into a food processor. With the machine running, I slowly poured in one cup of Fleischmann's Organic White Vinegar, which facilitated pureeing. De Witt's recipe calls for the straining of this puree—he ends up with just liquid—but I decided to replicate Hawthorne's sauce and left the seeds for a thicker result (left, in photo).

My only mistake? I didn't wear gloves when peeling the peppers and my fingers were on fire for several hours. Not kidding.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Dinosaur Kale Rescues My Too-Salty Basil Pesto

I made basil pesto the other day and used way too much salt. (By the way, "pesto" means "paste" in Italian; arugula, parsley and basil are just some of the greens which can be used to make pesto.) It was almost inedible.

I wasn't about to throw it out, though, and wondered how I could salvage it. Adding more basil would do the trick, but I didn't have any left. Instead, I decided to use Dinosaur kale. I added a handful of the kale leaves to the food processor, which contained the too-salty paste of basil, garlic, toasted walnuts, Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt (did I mention I used too much?), fresh ground pepper and olive oil.

The extra greens did the trick. The pesto didn't have the basil punch I wanted, but at least I had something—basil-kale pesto—to show for my efforts.

The moral of the story? Most of the time, there are ways to correct cooking screw-ups and you don't have to be Julia Child or Albert Einstein to figure things out.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Television Ad Supporting California's Prop 37 Hits Airwaves

California Right to Know, which supports Proposition 37 in California and its call to label genetically engineered foods, has created a television ad (watch below) that will hopefully help people vote "yes" for Prop 37 when they go to the polls in November.

According to the group:
"The same corporations that brought us DDT and Agent Orange are now funding the No on Prop 37 campaign to deny our right to know what’s in our food.

"The ad says it all - we’ve heard the false corporate health claims before. They said cigarettes were safe, DDT was safe, even that Agent Orange was safe. The two major donors against our right to know in California are Monsanto and DuPont – the two corporations most responsible for Agent Orange and DDT. We've heard from them - now let's hear the truth!"
Feel free to forward this to . . . everyone you know. I can't say it enough: If Prop 37 passes, our food supply will immediately change for the better. The Big Food and Big Chemical companies know it and have opened their pocketbooks (to the tune of $25 million, so far) to defeat Prop 37. Don't we have the right to know what's in our food?

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

Monday, August 27, 2012

Nicholas Kristof: "Big Chem, Big Harm?"

On Sunday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote about endocrine disruptors, chemicals that disrupt the ability of our bodies' cells to properly communicate with each other. The subject matter may seem a little out there, but when you realize that these chemicals are omnipresent in our society—and that little is being done to protect us—the issue should become relevant for us all, especially since our physical and mental health may be at stake.

Here are several paragraphs from Kristof's column. Click here to read "Big Chem, Big Harm?" in its entirety.
"New research is demonstrating that some common chemicals all around us may be even more harmful than previously thought. It seems that they may damage us in ways that are transmitted generation after generation, imperiling not only us but also our descendants.

"Yet following the script of Big Tobacco a generation ago, Big Chem has, so far, blocked any serious regulation of these endocrine disruptors, so called because they play havoc with hormones in the body’s endocrine system.

"One of the most common and alarming is bisphenol-A, better known as BPA. The failure to regulate it means that it is unavoidable. BPA is found in everything from plastics to canned food to A.T.M. receipts. More than 90 percent of Americans have it in their urine.

"Even before the latest research showing multigeneration effects, studies had linked BPA to breast cancer and diabetes, as well as to hyperactivity, aggression and depression in children.

"Yet the evidence is growing that these are significant threats of a kind that Washington continually fails to protect Americans from. The challenge is that they involve complex science and considerable uncertainty, and the chemical companies — like the tobacco companies before them — create financial incentives to encourage politicians to sit on the fence. So nothing happens.

"Yet although industry has, so far, been able to block broad national curbs on BPA, new findings on transgenerational effects may finally put a dent in Big Chem’s lobbying efforts.

"Evidence of transgenerational effects of endocrine disruptors has been growing for a half-dozen years, but it mostly involved higher doses than humans would typically encounter.

"Now Endocrinology, a peer-reviewed journal, has published a study measuring the impact of low doses of BPA. The study is devastating for the chemical industry.

"Pregnant mice were exposed to BPA at dosages analogous to those humans typically receive. The offspring were less sociable than control mice (using metrics often used to assess an aspect of autism in humans), and various effects were also evident for the next three generations of mice.

"The BPA seemed to interfere with the way the animals processed hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin, which affect trust and warm feelings. And while mice are not humans, research on mouse behavior is a standard way to evaluate new drugs or to measure the impact of chemicals.

“'It’s scary,' said Jennifer T. Wolstenholme, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia and the lead author of the report. She said that the researchers found behaviors in BPA-exposed mice and their descendants that may parallel autism spectrum disorder or attention deficit disorder in humans."

Friday, August 24, 2012

Rodale News Offers More Home Remedies

On the heels of Tuesday's post about home remedies, today's Daily Fix from Rodale News deals with home remedies that also help us avoid the unnecessary intake of antibiotics, which are rampant in our food supply. Here is part of the story, courtesy of Rodale News. (To sign up for the very helpful Daily Fix, click here and enter your email address in the "free newsletter" section about halfway down the right side of the page.)
"Sinus infections: More than 90 percent of sinus infections stem from viral infections, meaning taking antibiotics will do nothing to treat the ailment. Instead of pressing your doctor for a prescription, try reaching for vitamin C–rich citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, or nectarines. They help defend against viral infections naturally. Cruciferous veggies like cabbage, broccoli, brussels sprouts, turnips, and radishes are immune-boosting, sinus-clearing foods to turn to, as well.

"Another food defense? Visit an allergist to make sure you're not unknowingly living with a food allergy. Any food you're allergic to—be it wheat, milk, or nuts—could trigger an immune response that sends mucus production into overdrive.

"The common cold: Grab a cup of organic yogurt to give the common cold virus the kill shot. Yogurt's beneficial
Lactobacillus reuteri bacteria can actually take away the virus's ability to multiple. Selenium-rich foods like Brazil nuts and farmed oysters are also good picks to bolster your immune system and help you fight the common cold.

Ear infections: Many ear infections arise during a cold due to swelling, not because of bacteria. In most cases, the discomfort disappears in a few days without any medical intervention. Food allergies could be another hidden cause of ear infections, so if your child has frequent bouts, try experimenting with removing wheat, milk, nuts, soy, or shellfish from his or her diet and see if that helps.

Chewing gum sweetened with xylitol, a birch-derived natural sweetener, also reduces the risk of coming down with an ear infection by about 25 percent, according to Finnish research (Note: Xylitol is extremely toxic to pets, particularly dogs, so keep it out of paws' reach.)

"A sore throat: Heal a sore throat using the power of plants, not chemical compounds found in antibiotics. Cardamom, the seeds of a plant from the ginger family and a favorite ingredient in Indian cooking, is rich in a compound called cineole, a substance with natural throat-clearing properties. Toss some in soup for an easy food fix. Another go-to ingredient? 'Russian penicillin,' as garlic is sometimes called. Eat garlic-rich foods or even brew a garlic tea and gargle with it for quick, natural relief.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

VIDEO: How to Cook Whole Beets (Very Easily)

Cooking whole beets is a piece of cake. Depending on size, they should take 40 to 60 minutes in a 350 degree oven. (I usually use a toaster oven.) Store cooked beets in the refrigerator.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Big Food Companies, Owners of Organics, Ace Hypocrisy 101

Do you want to know how important I think Prop 37, which will be on the ballot this November in California and require genetically engineered foods to be labeled as such, is? Here's another post to prove it:

Organic food is big business and the fact that so many of the gargantuan foodstuff companies own the brands that are perceived as better for us is testament to this truth.

And if anyone doubts the true motives of the likes of Kellogg (owner of Kashi, Bear Naked, Morningstar Farms), Pepsi (Naked Juice, Izze), Coca-Cola (Honest Tea, Odwalla), Dean Foods (Horizon Organic, Silk), General Mills (Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, Lärabar) and Smucker (R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic), how about this for hypocrisy, courtesy of The Cornucopia Institute:
"Multi-billion dollar, multi-national food manufacturing corporations are terrified at the prospect of labeling their foods containing GMOs. That’s why they are partnering with the biotech industry – Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, and others – by spending millions of dollars in an effort to defeat Proposition 37.

"The corporate owners of Horizon Organic, Silk, Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, R.W. Knudsen, Santa Cruz Organic and many other brands have already joined Monsanto and collectively donated millions of dollars to keep consumers in the dark."
This is just another reason why I try not to buy any of the above products. As I've mentioned before, I favor food companies such as Eden Foods, Nature's Path, Lundberg Farms and Organic Valley, which are independent and still true to their (and my) beliefs.

Click here to sign a petition that The Cornucopia Institute will send to all the players (good, bad and ugly) in this fight.

And, for the umpteenth time, if you live in California, vote yes for Prop 37. If you don't live there, tell your friends and family who do to vote yes for Prop 37. Our collective health (and the balance sheets of many Big Food companies which care little about that collective health) could hang in the balance.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Two Home Remedies That Will Work & Save You Money

Here are two quick home remedies for everyday problems, both of which have probably been used since way before people started sleeping under roofs.

First, I cut off a very, very small piece of the tip of my right pointer finger yesterday while prepping a mango. Instead of using some super-duper, triple-quadruple, we'll-save-the-world-if-you-buy-our-expensive-ointment ointment, I put some honey on the wound and covered it with tape. Twenty four hours later, the cut is closed and hardly burdensome. For the most part, anytime I get a scratch or cut, I use honey.

Second, a friend mentioned recently that his feet get really dry and will crack, especially during the summer. I recommended he rub olive oil (or coconut oil or shea butter) on his feet; I use all of these on my dry hands during the winter. He reported in yesterday via email:
"Good call on olive oil on feet. Worked like a charm. Fell a couple times but no cracking."
Unfortunately, I've got nothing to help him with his balance.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Stakes Raised (to Tune of $25 Million) in Prop 37 Fight

Wow, how quickly information can change, especially when huge corporate profits are on the line. On Friday, August 10, I wrote a post titled "Big Food Gives Over $1 Million (So Far) to Defeat Prop 37." The operative phrase there was "So Far," as in the next week, Big Food and Big Chemical raised the stakes in the fight over the labeling of genetically engineered food in California by contributing nearly $23 million (yes, nearly $23 million), led by Monsanto's $4.2 million.

According to a press release issued by the California Right to Know group:
"New campaign finance reports reveal that Monsanto Co. just contributed $4.2 million to defeat Proposition 37, which would require labeling of genetically engineered food. That is the largest contribution in the race. Total contributions to defeat Proposition 37 amount to $25 million, and nearly $23 million during the last week.

"Other major new contributions against Proposition 37 were given by E. I. Dupont de Nemours ($1,273,600), Dow Agrosciences ($1,184,800) and PepsiCo ($1,126,079).

“'The giant pesticide and food companies are afraid of the mothers and grandmothers who want the right to know what’s in our food,' said Stacy Malkan, media director of California Right to Know. 'These companies will try to buy the election, but it won’t work. California moms and dads will prevail over Monsanto and Dupont.'

"Thus far, the 'Big 6' pesticide companies (Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta and DuPont) have contributed $13.5 million to defeat Proposition 37."
Click here to see the California State campaign finance reports with your own eyes.

Click here to view a great pie graph from the Organic Consumers Fund which highlights who is giving money to support and oppose Prop 37. Anyone have a million dollars (or a $100) they want to donate to help change for the better how we eat in this country? Click here to donate.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Johnson & Johnson: No More Harmful Chemicals In Products

I received an encouraging email from Dr. Philip J. Landrigan and the Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center yesterday regarding Johnson & Johnson's removal of harmful chemicals from most of their products by 2015. Read and watch the following and you can't tell me that things aren't changing for the better (even if Landrigan is completely right when he asks "Why were those chemicals in there in the first place . . . and why were they allowed to stay so long?":
Johnson & Johnson Will Ban Harmful Chemicals From All Products by 2015

"Yesterday, Johnson & Johnson announced that they will remove trace amounts of harmful -- and potentially cancer-causing -- chemicals from nearly all products worldwide by 2015. This includes its baby lotion, Desitin (used for diaper rash), and adult lines like Aveeno, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, and Lubriderm.

"CBS News asked CEHC Director Dr. Landrigan about this landmark decision. 'It's very good that J&J is taking these toxic chemicals out of their products, but why were those chemicals in there in the first place... and why were they allowed to stay so long?' Dr. Landrigan told the CBS morning show. 'I think the answer to those questions is that the legal system in this country -- that's supposed to protect Americans against toxic chemicals in consumer products -- is fundamentally broken. It's been broken for decades.'"
(If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch Dr. Landrigan's interview on the CBS morning show. Don't blame me for the 30-second commercial, but hang in there!)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Extra Zucchini? How to Make Zucchini Relish

Here are instructions for the zucchini relish I mentioned in yesterday's post about what to do with oversize (or extra) zucchini. The below recipe should yield about 1½ quarts of relish. Store it in a glass jar in the refrigerator; it'll stay for weeks, if not months (assuming you don't eat it all sooner). It works great with hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, chicken and by itself. Also, if you don’t have exact measurements on the vegetables, it's not the end of the world. Halving or doubling the recipe works.
  • 5 cups zucchini, small dice (¼" X ¼" X ¼", or smaller if you can)
  • 2 cups onion, small dice
  • 1½ cups carrot, small dice
  • 1 cup red pepper, small dice
  • 2 tablespoons unrefined sea salt
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1½ cups sugar (or up to 2 cups if you want relish very sweet)
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch, mixed with a little water at a time until a paste forms
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
In a bowl, combine the four chopped vegetables with the salt and let stand for 3 hours. Drain liquid.

In a pot over medium heat, bring the remaining ingredients to a boil. Add drained vegetables and lower heat so mixture simmers. Stir constantly for about 25 to 35 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Let cool slightly and pour mixture into glass jar(s). Let cool a little more and then refrigerate.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

What to Do With Oversize Zucchini? Make Zucchini Boats

Summer squash (i.e. zucchini) are most tender when they are about five or six inches long, depending on the variety. However, on occasion, some don't get picked when they should and grow as big as tennis ball cans. Their meat gets a little tough, but throwing them out would be sacrilegious, so knowing ways to use them is a plus.

Those with gardens know what I am talking about, but those without can sometimes find oversized summer squash at farmers' markets for deeply discounted prices. For example, there's one organic farm that sells smaller zucchini for $4 per pound but sells gargantuan ones (one to two pounds) for just $1 per piece.

This summer, using oversized squash from my garden, I've made zucchini relish (recipe tomorrow), zucchini pickles and zucchini boats.

Zucchini boat? That may not be the technical term, and it's actually more like a zucchini canoe stuffed with whatever you want to stuff it with. To make it, cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the insides, leaving about a half inch-thick canoe. Cook the canoes in an oven (I usually use a toaster oven) until they just start to soften. If they are too soft they won't keep their shape when filled.

The filling is your choice. The last time I made these, my filling consisted of the zucchini meat, onion, yellow pepper, tomato, beet greens, the stalks from the beet greens and garlic, all sautéed together and further seasoned with minced basil, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground turmeric, unrefined sea salt and fresh ground pepper. I combined this mixture with quinoa and filled the hollow zucchini.

I had leftovers and when I heated for a second meal, I grated some cheddar cheese on top, which melted nicely during warming (photo, above).

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Nutrient-Dense Chicken Hearts Added to My Diet

For several reasons, I do not care how much fat, calories and cholesterol exist in my food. Instead, I focus on consuming foods that are nutrient-dense.

One food that I've started eating much more of recently is chicken heart, a very good source of protein, the B vitamins (especially B12), riboflavin, zinc, selenium and iron. Chicken hearts also provide folate, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sodium and copper.

But, as I repeat ad nauseam, the
source of the food we eat helps determine its nutritional profile (and flavor). There is a huge difference between a chicken heart from a chicken raised on a factory farm, administered antibiotics and fed genetically-engineered and pesticide-laden corn and soy and a chicken heart from a chicken free to roam on pasture where it eats its natural diet (insects, worms, grubs, etc.). These two chickens are not the same animal.

(The same p
rinciple, I believe, holds for strawberries, butter, chocolate chip cookies, carrots, etc.)

I buy my chicken hearts at a local farmers' market from Grazin' Angus Acres, an elite farm that produces superior (nutrition and flavor) grass-fed beef, pastured chicken, pastured pork, milk and eggs.

Chicken hear
ts have a mild chicken flavor and do not taste or smell anything like liver, which many people find off-putting. My grandmother (born 1901 in the Old Country) fed chicken hearts to a family of six for $0.25, my mother claims. Needless to say, high-quality chicken hearts are now a little more expensive.

To cook the chicken hearts, I simply sauté them in—depending on my mood—butter, olive oil, coconut oil or rendered chicken fat (photo, above). Two or three minutes per side is all they need since they are small. I'll then season with a little unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper and sometimes a squirt of fresh lemon juice.

Since Grazin' Angus Acres only raises chickens from June through October, I've started buying extra, which I am freezing (photo, left) for use during the winter. No Perdue or Tyson chicken hearts for me!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Number of Farmers' Markets (and Organic Farmers) Grows

As people search out better food, the number of farmers' markets continues to grow; there was close to a 10 percent spike this year. Remember, though, that local does not mean organic and that the majority of farmers at farmers' market are using pesticides.

But in a sign that our food system is taking a turn for the better—at least in some quarters—the number of organic farmers (certified and not) is growing almost as fast as the markets themselves.

I see it firsthand when shopping at New York City's farmers' markets. For example, on Wednesdays and Fridays, the days I usually shop at the Union Square market (the city's showcase), there are at least five organic/no spray fruit and vegetable farms present. Several years ago it was two or three. In addition, there are organic bread options, plus farmers selling grass-fed/pastured meats and dairy.

Even the smaller satellite markets that I occasionally visit all seem to have one or two organic/no spray options.

Having so many choices allows me to spread my shopping, especially since not all
farmers grow the same crops and not all tomatoes look or taste the same.

On Friday, for example, I bought beefsteak tomatoes and an orange honeydew melon from Nevia No of Bodhitree Farm, cucumbers from Richard Giles of Lucky Dog Farm, strawberries and string beans from Franca Tantillo of Berried Treasures Farm, plums from the Queens County Farm Museum, yellow peppers from Norwich Meadows Farm, organic whole wheat sourdough bread from Bread Alone and organic Finnish Ruis bread from Nordic Breads.

To find a farmers' market near you, click here to visit the USDA's National Farmers Market Directory.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Big Food Gives Over $1 Million (So Far) to Defeat Prop 37

Pamela Bailey, the President of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) said in a recent speech to the American Soybean Association that defeating California's Proposition 37 (which calls for the labeling of genetically engineered foods) this November "is the single-highest priority for GMA this year."

Bailey's comment is really no surprise, considering GMA's membership is made up of the country's largest processed and packaged food makers (PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kellogg's, General Mills, etc.) which rely heavily on genetically engineered corn and soy to build the nutrient-poor foodstuffs that are such a staple of our society's diet.

The GMA has giving $375,000 to the "No on 37" campaign, according to California state filing reports. Other contributors—independent of their membership to the GMA—include Hormel Foods ($11,934.75), Conagra Foods ($34,331.14), Nestle ($37,286.93), Coca-Cola ($37,127.50), Pepsico ($54,725.12) and Pioneer Hi-Bred/DuPont ($310,100.00). Click here to see the full list.

If genetically engineered foods are safe, as all of the above companies claim, why are these companies spending so much money trying to defeat a ballot initiative that will simply let the public know if they are buying foods containing genetically engineered ingredients? Unlike yours truly, Prop 37 does not offer a judgement on genetically engineered foods; it simply calls for proper labeling.

To read the Pesticide Action Network's take on the issue, click here.

As I've written before, if Prop 37 passes, it could lead to positive change in our nation's food supply. If you live in California, vote yes and tell your friends (and enemies) to do the same. If you live elsewhere, tell everyone you know in California to vote yes.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

British Medical Journal: "The Truth About Sports Drinks"

I have a strong distaste for sports drinks, mostly because of the artificial sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup) and petroleum-based artificial colors they contain. Also, I've always had the innate sense that if you are thirsty and exercising, water is the best play. Compounding the issue, Gatorade and other sports drinks have morphed into everyday, anytime refreshments (with billions of dollars in annual sales).

A recent article in the British Medical Journal, "The Truth About Sports Drinks," calls into question the marketing tactics used by sports drink makers to underscore the importance of their products. Furthermore, much of the science studying sports drinks focuses on elite athletes, but the majority of those consuming the liquids are recreational athletes partaking in less than one hour of moderate exercise.

From the BMJ press release touting the article:
"With the biggest sporting event in the world just a week away, a joint investigation by the BMJ and BBC Panorama has found that there is 'a striking lack of evidence' to support claims about improved performance and recovery for many sports products like drinks, trainers and protein shakes.

"The investigation reveals new research carried out by the Oxford Centre for Evidence Based Medicine and the BMJ, and published in the online journal BMJ Open. It concludes that no sound evidence could be found to support claims made by some of sport’s biggest brands and that it is 'virtually impossible for the public to make informed choices about the benefits and harms of advertised sports products.'

"The findings are also highly critical of the methods used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to regulate these marketing claims. Dr Matthew Thompson, Senior Clinical Scientist at Oxford University’s Department of Primary Health Care Sciences, told the Panorama investigation these methods are based on 'very meagre' research, supplied largely by manufacturers themselves. He would like to see 'a more scientific and rigorous approach' to assessing the basis of food claims in Europe.

"Their findings are part of a joint investigation by the BMJ and BBC Panorama which tests the science behind the marketing hype of this multibillion-dollar industry and suggests we could be wasting our money on these products.

"The investigation also explores the role of sports drinks companies in the 'science of hydration' and questions their links with some of the world’s most influential sports bodies in a bid to gain public trust in their products and persuade ordinary people they need more than water when they exercise."
Click here to read the report.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"My Corn Tastes Like Paper; Is It Genetically Engineered?

In response to yesterday's post about Wal-Mart's decision to sell Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) sweet corn (which will not be labeled as such, so customers will have no idea what they are buying), a loyal Delicious Truth reader asked:
"I had absolutely awful corn last night, bought at my City Market-King Soopers [supermarket]. It felt like I was eating paper. How do I find out if that corn is genetically engineered? Would a manager of a store know?"
These are actually two different issues. Corn (or tomatoes, apples, walnuts, etc.) tasting like paper is possible with organic corn, tomatoes, apples or walnuts. However, corn's shelf life is very short, so it's possible that your corn was more than a couple days old, leading to the dearth of flavor.

As for who to ask, I'm not sure the store manager would have an answer, especially since Kroger, which owns City Market-King Soopers, is mum on the issue. According to one of the Chicago Tribune articles I cited yesterday, "The Safeway and Kroger grocery chains did not respond to inquiries from the Tribune about the issue."

What to do to insure that you are avoiding GE corn? If feasible, buy organic corn. Organic food products, by definition, cannot contain any GE ingredients. If organic isn't an option, try to buy corn directly from a farmer who you've asked what kind of seed he uses to grow corn.

Incidentally, there's a chance some of us have already eaten genetically engineered sweet corn. According to the Tribune:
"Monsanto's corn is not the first genetically modified sweet corn to hit U.S. retail stores — Syngenta's version has been available for a decade and makes up about 3 percent of the market, according to the company . . ."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Wal-Mart to Sell Genetically Engineered Corn; We Suffer

The Chicago Tribune reported last week that Wal-Mart has decided to sell genetically engineered fresh sweet corn produced by Monsanto, despite protestations from a host of consumer watchdog groups.

The corn will not carry any labels declaring it genetically engineered, so consumers will not know if they are buying and eating Monsanto's corn that has been built to survive application of a Monsanto herbicide.

My translation: Farmer sprays herbicide, everything is killed except the corn. Our kids eat the corn. Our water supply is inundated with herbicide run-off. We all suffer.

From the Tribune:
"As the Midwest crunches into sweet corn season, a new type will be appearing on grocery store shelves — even though shoppers have no way to recognize it.

"It's genetically modified sweet corn from the biotech giant Monsanto, engineered to resist a common herbicide and certain pests.

"The arrival of the crop's first harvest has alarmed consumer groups and activists who say genetically modified foods may pose environmental and health risks. In recent months they have urged major retailers to avoid Monsanto's sweet corn, prompting Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and General Mills to pledge not to sell or use it.

"But this week the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart Stores Inc., confirmed to the Tribune that it would not restrict sales of the genetically modified corn in its stores."
I firmly believe that we all have the right to know if our food is genetically engineered, which is the point of Proposition 37, which will appear on the ballot in California this November.

Big Food and Big Chemical are starting to pour money into the fight against Prop 37. Kellogg's, Coca-Cola and every other producer of conventional packaged and processed food do not want the public to know that the majority of ingredients in their corn- and soy-dominated products are from genetically engineered crops.

As I've written before, the passing of Prop 37 could signal a fundamental change in this country's food supply. If you live in California, make sure to vote "yes." If you know someone who lives in California, make sure they vote "yes."

Click here and here to read the Chicago Tribune coverage of Wal-Mart's decision.
Click here to visit the California Right to Know website and click here to visit the California Right to Know page on Facebook.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Easy Cooking 101: How to Make Homemade Iced Tea

It's hot and we all need something refreshing to drink. Cloyingly sweet drinks don't work for me, so I rely instead on homemade lemonade and iced tea. Making homemade iced tea is easy and cheap, and the flavor far outshines any store-bought variety.

The idea is straightforward: make a tea concentrate (right in photo), mix a small amount of concentrate with water and ice, and sweeten with a simple syrup (left in photo).

The tea concentrate and simple syrup can stay in the refrigerator, so making larger quantities will make your life easier. The following directions will yield about four pitchers of iced tea.
  • For the concentrate, boil four cups of water and pour over four tea bags. Let tea bags steep for about 10 minutes. (Add a handful of fresh mint leaves for additional flavor, if desired.)
  • For the simple syrup, combine a ½ cup of cold water with a ½ cup of sugar in a small pot. Over low heat, stir until the sugar dissolves.
  • In a two-quart pitcher, combine six ounces of concentrate with six cups of cold water. Add two or three tablespoons of simple syrup (depending on your palate), mix, taste, add more simple syrup, if necessary.
  • Add a handful of ice and some mint (for flavor and garnish) and enjoy.
You may start to avoid pre-made iced teas.

Friday, August 3, 2012

I'll Have a Turkey Sandwich, Hold the Sewing Needle

Reason #42,374 for bringing your own food when traveling by airplane, courtesy of Food Safety News:
"A passenger traveling on an Air Canada flight this week discovered a sewing needle in the sandwich he was served en route from Victoria to Toronto.

"This isn't the first time a needle has been found in a sandwich on a plane. Just two weeks earlier, the same problem was noted on four different Delta flights from Amsterdam to various U.S. destinations.

"The problem was first discovered July 16 on a flight from Amsterdam to Minneapolis when a man felt something lodge in his mouth after biting into his turkey sandwich. Thinking it was a toothpick, he pulled it out and discovered that it was in fact a sewing needle. Two minutes later, another man on the same plane found a needle in his sandwich as well.

"Crew on that plane notified authorities, who warned other flights of the potential hazard in the food. After opening the sandwiches to check for needles, flight attendants en route to Seattle found a needle in another sandwich. On a flight to Atlanta, another person, reportedly the man's son, discovered a needle in his sandwich too, as did another person on another Minneapolis-bound flight.

"Then on Monday, a passenger on Canada Air flight AC1192 discovered the same problem.

"The sandwiches on the Delta flights were supplied by Gate Gourmet caterer and prepared at a facility outside Amsterdam.

"While Gate Gourmet caters some of Air Canada's food, the airline is not yet sure whether the adulterated sandwich came from that caterer.

"How the foreign materials got into the sandwiches remains unclear.

"'I don't see needles as a strategic terrorist threat,' said Richard Bloom, director of terrorism, espionage and security studies at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, according to the Star Tribune. 'It's much more likely that it has to do with a particular individual or maybe a couple getting back at an organization that [they think] treated them badly or just someone playing a bad joke.'

"Meanwhile Canadian authorities maintain that 'there is no current threat to public safety,' reports The Examiner. However, stricter safety measures have been put in place."

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How to Store a Peach; No Bruises Wanted!

A friend bought an in-season peach the other day that needed a little ripening. Correctly, she let the peach sit at room temperature to await fruition (sorry, I couldn't resist). Unfortunately, though, she didn't turn the fruit, which allowed for a nice bruise to develop, marking a spot of spoilage (see photo).

According to Russ Parsons in "How to Pick a Peach" (which discusses the proper choosing, storing and cooking of a myriad of fruits and vegetables), here's how to store peaches and nectarines:
"If you buy fruit that is too firm, leave it at room temperature. Only when it begins to ripen should you move it to the refrigerator. In fact, chilling underripe fruit is about the worst thing you can do: it will turn the flesh mealy and dry."
Could this help explain why so many supermarket peaches, which are picked off their trees way too early and refrigerated until they hit store shelves, are so unfruitful?

And while ripening, Parsons says to "make sure to turn the fruit once a day or so to prevent any spoil spots from developing."

I find that placing the stem side down allows for a little more wiggle room.

By the way, my friend cut the bruised area off the peach and enjoyed the rest, something my grandmother (born 1901 in the Old Country) would have done.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Bittman: Lobbying Groups and Their Obese Influence

In his column ("No Meatless Mondays at the U.S.D.A") in today's online edition of the New York Times, Mark Bittman discusses another instance of institutionalized and robotized financial concerns that kneecap considerations for the greater good. Even if you don't agree with the concept of Meatless Mondays, the lighting speed in which the U.S.D.A. kowtowed to the National Cattlemen's Beef Association is as disheartening as biting into a well-done piece of grass-fed beef.

Here's the start of Bittman's description of the events:
"A trade organization exists to promote the interest of its members; at least some of its work involves lobbying the government for preferential treatment, though most trade organizations would label this 'fair.' It’s a clear mission and an unconflicted one; whether the interests of the trade organization coincide with those of the public at large is a matter of chance and not a governing concern. Thus in the course of the events of last week — events that will go down as an amusing footnote in the annals of food progress, and further evidence of government cowardice — the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association acted appropriately: it defended the interests of its members without worrying about the interests of the rest of us.

"The Department of Agriculture, however, has multiple missions. One is 'to keep America’s farmers and ranchers in business.' Sadly, although the statement doesn’t say which farmers and ranchers, in practice this has meant those who produce commodity crops: wheat, rice, cotton, corn and soybeans, and the animals and junk food whose production relies on the last two. The second is 'to end hunger and improve health in the United States.' Last week, the U.S.D.A. betrayed its mission to improve health, acting in a cowardly fashion. For that it should be taken to task.

"The events, which unfolded last Wednesday afternoon, could be seen as funny."
Click here to read how funny—or sad?—the rest of the story is.