Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How Watermelon Radishes Grow

Watermelon radishes can be found in farmers’ markets this time of year. They are an heirloom variety of the Asian daikon, which is a member of the radish family. They can be mild to spicy in flavor, and their color scheme (white with some green on the outside, pinkish-red inside) is always a crowd-pleaser. Watch:

video

A watermelon radish, sliced to show pinkish-red color:

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Nation - Food For All: How to Grow Democracy

Still available online, the September 21 issue of The Nation is, for the most part, about food, as it contains several essays and articles on topics regularly discussed here in The Delicious Truth.

Dan Barber, the chef and real food advocate, wrote “Why Cooking Matters,” a short essay that should take only about three minutes to read.

Barber believes that for us to eat better and be healthier, we need to start cooking and be more selective in our meat consumption:
“Not only do we eat too much meat, we also eat too much of the wrong parts. We don't know where our meat comes from, we don't know what the animal we're eating ate, and we sure don't know how to get behind the stove and take control of what we put in our mouths.”
The issue's best article, in my opinion, is Brent Cunningham’s “Cornucopia Blues,” a longer, wide-ranging piece that begins by discussing how America’s protectionist agricultural subsidies help foster global famine. Cunningham links this subject to the American “good-food revolution” popularized by Michael Pollan in “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”:
“The problem of ensuring that everyone has enough food to eat is inextricable from the problem of ensuring that food is produced in a sustainable manner.”
Cunningham then dives in further, addressing genetically modified crops, the realities of changing the food system in a widespread fashion and how behavioral patterns trump common sense when it comes to decisions about food and health.

If this blog’s subject matter interests you, I strongly recommend Cunningham’s article.

Monday, September 28, 2009

More on Hot Pockets and the Eat Freely Marketing Campaign

Several Delicious Truth readers commented on Friday’s post about Hot Pockets and its associated Eat Freely marketing campaign.

First, a great point was brought up that I overlooked while writing the post. The Eat Freely ad campaign is predicated on the idea of, well, eating freely. However, as one reader wrote, “Ironically, you do need an oven (or a microwave) to heat the things up, so how "free" are they really?”

I am now wondering if there is an oven or microwave in the limo in the above ad.

This is obviously an important question that the creative team may not want us to ask. Or, as in my case, we become so infuriated by the ridiculousness of the campaign that our common sense is temporarily sidetracked.

A second reader provided links to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and a press release describing how “the meat/tobacco/processed food industry has set up the so-called “Center for Consumer Freedom” to promote their products.”


Finally, a third comment, which wins the Dilemma of the Day Award: “So funny that you noticed and commented on this commercial - my nephew is IN this commercial! He is an actor, and this was a really big deal for him. Our family, despite the fact that we wouldn't touch a Hot Pocket with a ten-foot pole, does hope the commercial gets aired many, many times!”

Friday, September 25, 2009

Hot Pockets and the Eat Freely Marketing Campaign

Advertising has officially reached a new level of absurdity.

While I was walking in Manhattan last night, a poster caught my eye. It was an advertisement, split into two images (see photo, above; click on photo for more detail). I assumed the pictures were part of the same ad since they were written in the same font and both contained a small red box with the URL “EatFreely.org.”

Written on the left photo—which showed a woman simultaneously playing tennis and holding a foodlike item—was the phrase “Winners eat on the go. Losers stay put.” Being that I cook and eat 95 percent of my meals at home, I felt like a caveman in a
GEICO commercial.

The right portion of the poster had the phrase “Live a cheesy, crispy, mobile life” superimposed o
n something resembling food. In addition, there was a small photo of a box of Hot Pockets, a product of Nestlé (see photo, left). Could this hipsterish ad be part of a larger marketing campaign?

My suspicions were confirmed when I went home, logged onto my computer and visited the EatFreely.org site. This is a definite “you have to see it to believe it” moment. There is patriotic music, (faux) videos, graphics and merchandise for sale, all in the name of eating freely, or more to the point, selling as many Hot Pockets as possible.

This ad campaign is utterly asinine. It attempts to make eating heavily-processed food on the go cool, while stereotyping eating at a table as something only blue-hairs do.

One more thing: save your energy and don’t even bother looking for an ingredient list on the EatFreely and Hot Pockets websites. Grandma
has a better chance of running down the corporate villain in one of the EatFreely.org videos than we do of finding out what is in a Hot Pocket.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Susan Orlean: Backyard Chickens - "The It Bird"

The number of people growing vegetables in home or community gardens has increased tremendously in the last year or two.

Experiencing a similar renaissance is backyard chickening. (Chickening = birth of a word.) How else to explain the existence of Backyard Poultry magazine?

In this week’s issue (Sept. 28) of The New Yorker, the author Susan Orlean (“The Orchid Thief”) writes about her foray into raising chickens.
“Chickens seem to be a perfect convergence of the economic, environmental, gastronomic, and emotional matters of the moment, plus, in the past few years, they have undergone an image rehabilitation so astonishing that it should be studied by marketing consultants.”
Unfortunately, Orlean’s article, "The It Bird," isn’t available online, but a three-minute video of Orlean and her chickens is on The New Yorker site. Click here to watch.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

PAN and Its "What's On My Food?" Website

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog regularly is aware of my views on hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, artificial colorants, synthetic additives and other toxins in our food, water, personal hygiene and household cleaning products.

I just learned of the Pesticide Action Network (PAN), an organization that “promotes the elimination of highly hazardous pesticides and offers solutions that protect people and the environment.”


PAN North America is active on many fronts, including issues such as the safety of our water supply, the use of dangerous agricultural fumigants and airborne pesticide drift.


One of PAN’s recent projects is the “What’s on my food?” website, a great tool for everyone, especially parents. Take a minute or two, click on your favorite foods and see the chemicals we are ingesting on a regular basis.


(I’ve added a widget for the “What's on my food?” site directly to the right -->. It'll always be there, so click on it for easy access to pesticide heaven.)

Many people tell me they don’t have the time to worry about this. But shouldn’t we—at the very least—be aware of what's being done to our food supply, especially when, according to PAN:

"Most of us are born with persistent pesticides and other chemicals already in our bodies, passed from mother to child during fetal development. The human health impacts linked to pesticide exposure range from birth defects and childhood brain cancer in the very young, to Parkinson’s disease in the elderly. In between are a variety of other cancers, developmental and neurological disorders, reproductive and hormonal system disruptions, and more."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

How Peppers Grow

All sweet (or bell) peppers start green and eventually mature and turn color (red, yellow, orange, purple, etc.).

The photo on the right, which I took yesterday at the Union Square farmers’ market, highlights the rainbow of colors available. Click on the photo for more detail; notice the yellow peppers that still have some green streaks.


Green peppers, which are picked before they are ripe, are cheaper than colo
red ones since they transport better and can last longer on store shelves. Colored peppers amass more sugars and vitamin C during the ripening process, which makes them sweeter and more nutritious.

I grew hot peppers this summer. I’m still researching whether all hot peppers also turn color, but the ones I grew did. The photo on the left shows hot peppers from the same plant in four stages of color development.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The New Leaf Program - Making a Difference

I know it’s the society we live in, but it’s a shame that a jackass (not my word!) like Kanye West receives national headlines while a program like New Leaf, which actually does tangible good, struggles for attention.

New Leaf, “a horticulture and job skills program for homeless people at Argus Community in the Bronx,” is present at a handful of farmers’ markets in New York City and was profiled last week in The New York Times.


Participants are only in the program for a short time, but they learn about and take part in the growing of plants and herbs, all in an effort to gain job and living skills.

Click here to read The New York Times article.

Click here to visit New Leaf’s web page.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Another Quick and Easy Recipe Using Corn

It’s turning into Corn Week at The Delicious Truth. (Similar to Shark Week, but different.)

Seriously, I wanted to provide another quick and easy recipe using corn. For lunch yesterday—to go with our baked flounder filets (eight minutes at 350° in the toaster oven!)—I sautéed together fresh corn kernels, string beans and halved cherry tomatoes.


I know this dish sounds similar to the tomato, corn and arugula salad I discussed Wednesday, but it encapsulates how I approach cooking: employing basic techniques while using interchangeable ingredients.


Instead of string beans, I could have easily used broccoli or zucchini. Why string beans? Well, I had picked some the other day from my garden and they were in my refrigerator. I had no recipe in mind and my only plan was to use whatever I had.


To start—while the flounder was cooking—I heated some olive oil in a sauté pan. I cut kernels off an ear of corn and began halving string beans into bite-size pieces. However, before I could finish, the oil was hot, so I put the corn and the prepped string beans into the pan.


While that cooked, I finished cutting the string beans and added those to the pan. I stirred occasionally, and when the string beans started to soften (five minutes), I added the halved cherry tomatoes. I let the mixture cook for about three minutes, until the tomatoes just started to soften. I added lemon juice, parsley, fresh ground pepper and unrefined sea salt for more flavor and nutrition.


Along with the flounder, the vegetables comprised a delicious lunch that took less than 15 minutes to prepare and cost about $6.50 per person.


I hope that helps debunk the myth that cooking healthy is time-consuming and expensive, an issue I'll address next week.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

An Interesting Fact About Avocados

I love avocados.

I eat several per week, sometimes mashed and used as a spread on a sandwich, cubed in a salad or sliced and seasoned with lime juice and unrefined sea salt.

Many of us are aware that avocados, which grow on trees (photo, right), are a great source of healthy fats, nutrients and minerals.

But I just read something I never knew, a fact that makes avocados different from other fruits. From Harold McGee’s “On Food and Cooking,” which explains the science behind, well, food and cooking:

“[An avocado] will not ripen on the tree as long as the skin is unbroken; it must be cut from the tree for ripening to begin. Thus the best way to store avocados is to leave them on the tree, and this is commonly done for up to seven months. It seems that the leaves supply a hormone to the fruit that prevents ripening; harvesting the fruit cuts off the supply of this inhibitory substance and initiates the production of ethylene."

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Quick and Easy Tomato, Corn and Arugula Salad

Feeding off the corn theme of yesterday’s post, I made an easy (and delicious) tomato, corn and arugula salad as part of last night’s dinner.

Preparation was simple; I sliced cherry tomatoes in half, tore up arugula into bite-size pieces and cut fresh corn kernels from the cob. I combined the three in a bowl and added olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh ground pepper and unrefined sea salt. I gave a quick mix and let the salad sit while I sautéed some chicken thighs.


Feel free to substitute basil for the arugula. And there’s no need to formally cook the corn, since the acid and salt will soften the kernels a bit. (Try eating very fresh corn on the cob raw; the great flavor may surprise you.)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

How to Make Corn and Some Simple Flavor Ideas

In the Northeast, there are still several weeks left in corn season, but time is running out quickly.

Try to eat corn the day you buy it. Also, like most fruits and vegetables, there’s a good chance that corn bought at a farm stand or farmers’ market will be fresher than corn bought at a supermarket.


The way I cook corn is very basic. While bringing a large pot of water to a boil, I shuck the ears of corn. After the water boils, I turn off the heat, place the corn in the water and cover the pot. I leave the corn in the hot water for about six to eight minutes, or until the kernels just start to soften.


I eat fresh corn plain in order to best enjoy its sweetness, but flavor ideas are plentiful. Try—alone or in combination—butter,
olive oil, kosher or sea salt, fresh ground pepper, paprika, lime juice, lemon juice, minced basil and minced parsley.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Benefits of Pastured Eggs

Last month I wrote a post about the difference in the exterior appearance of farmers’ market eggs compared to eggs from industrial egg-laying operations.

The contrast in the yolks (photo, above right) is just as startling. The yolk on the left is from an egg I bought at the farmers’ market. Its color is much more orange, thanks to the hen’s diet, which is based on grass and insects instead of corn. This diet translates into eggs with more flavor and nutrition.


And according to a 2007 Mother Earth News study, the nutritional aspects of pastured eggs are also more glowing than their conventional cousins. As I’ve mentioned before, there’s nothing wrong with eating eggs, as long as you are eating the right ones. Compared to industrial eggs, pastured eggs can provide:


• 1/3 less cholesterol
• 1/4 less saturated fat

• 2/3 more vitamin A

• 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids

• 3 times more vitamin E

• 7 times more beta carotene


Click here to read the Mother Earth News article about the importance of knowing where your eggs come from.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Michael Pollan: "Big Food vs. Big Insurance"

Ever wonder why health insurance is so expensive in the United States? One reason may be our food supply, which many believe has made us terribly sick, leading to skyrocketing medical bills.

Michael Pollan, the great writer on food policy, wrote an opinion piece—“Big Food vs. Big Insurance”—in yesterday’s New York Times describing the relationship between the modern food and health care industries.


Pollan writes that “according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, three-quarters of health care spending now goes to treat ‘preventable chronic diseases.’ Not all of these diseases are linked to diet—there’s smoking, for instance—but many, if not most, of them are.”


This is scary, especially for those who eat well and are forced to fund the treatment of these “preventable chronic diseases.”

Pollan takes a couple shots at both Big Food (“One of the leading products of the American food industry has become patients for the American health care industry”) and Big Health Care (“There’s more money in amputating the limbs of diabetics than in counseling them on diet and exercise”).


Pollan, though, believes that even the weaker versions of the proposed health care legislation—which would make more people eligible for coverage—could drastically alter how the insurance companies view the food industry.


“When health insurers can no longer evade much of the cost of treating the collateral damage of the American diet, the movement to reform the food system—everything from farm policy to food marketing and school lunches—will acquire a powerful and wealthy ally, something it hasn’t really ever had before.”


Pollan presents an interesting argument, but I think equally as important is understanding how many big industries are intrinsically linked, often times not in the public’s best interests.

Click here to read “Big Food vs. Big Insurance.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009

More on the Smart Choices Program

(Second of two parts)

Unfortunately, as I’ve often written, F.D.A. and U.S.D.A. guidelines aren’t exactly the gold standard for healthy eating.


Kim Metcalfe, the spokesperson for the Smart Choices Program, thought it was unfortunate that a handful of products—most noticeably Froot Loops—were giving a far-reaching program a bad name.

Metcalfe mentioned Lipton Caffeine Free Herbal Teas (seven flavors), Quaker Instant Oatmeal (13 flavors), Hunt’s Tomato Paste and Kellogg's Corn Pops(!) as foods that are good examples of the Smart Choices Program.


However, it would take a serious leap of faith to truly consider Quaker Instant Oatmeal Strawberries & Cream a healthy food. The “artificially flavored fruit pieces and non-dairy creamer” contain 12 grams of sugar per serving (that's a lot), flavored and colored fruit pieces, artificial strawberry flavor and red 40.

The bottom line is that making better food choices for you and your family takes some effort and isn’t going to magically happen. Cooking is necessary, as is the reading of ingredient lists when purchasing packaged and processed foods. Relying on the big food companies and their green checkmarks for straightforward health information is a recipe for disaster.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Defending the Smart Choices Program

(First of two parts)

In response to the firestorm created by
For Your Health, Froot Loops,” The New York Times article discussed here yesterday, I phoned Kim Metcalfe, a Senior Vice President at Weber Shandwick, a global public relations firm. Metcalfe is the spokesperson for the Smart Choices Program.

Metcalfe voiced concern that Eileen Kennedy, the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, was misrepresented by the story’s author, William Neuman, despite spending more than two hours on the phone with Neuman.


(True or not, Kennedy needs to explain her statement, “You’re rushing around, you’re trying to think about healthy eating for your kids and you have a choice between a doughnut and a cereal. So Froot Loops is a better choice.”

The Friedman School's public relations department would not discuss Kennedy's quote and said that Kennedy was unavailable for comment.)


Metcalfe said the Smart Choices Program is a work in progress and that the Food and Drug Administration was kept abreast of the group’s doings over the last three years.


“You can’t make everyone happy,” Metcalfe said, “but the program will get better.”

Metcalfe understood the negative response to the fact that the Smart Choices Program is funded by big food companies and can be construed as an in-house marketing program. But, she said, the products are not given a free pass, as F.D.A. and U.S. Department of Agriculture guidelines are consulted, with the goal of helping shoppers make better decisions.

(Part two tomorrow)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Big Food Strikes Again: "For Your Health, Froot Loops"

If you still had any doubts that most of the big food companies care more about their bottom lines than our health, just read “For Your Health, Froot Loops,” an article that appeared in Saturday’s New York Times.

The Smart Choices Program—in theory—helps consumers make better decisions at the supermarket. However, the program is funded by huge multinationals, which explains why foodstuffs such as Froot Loops cereal, Skippy peanut butter and Fudgsicle bars earn a green checkmark, the Smart Choices sign of approval.

Can someone please explain what Celeste Clark, senior vice president of global nutrition for Kellogg’s, is thinking?

“Froot Loops is an excellent source of many essential vitamins and minerals and it is also a good source of fiber with only 12 grams of sugar," Clark said. "You cannot judge the nutritional merits of a food product based on one ingredient.”


Assuming Clark wants us to forget about Froot Loops’ sugar—its first ingredient—what should we do about its partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, red 40, blue 2, yellow 6 and blue 1?


At least Clark has the excuse that she is being paid by Kellogg’s. Much more disturbing is the case of Eileen Kennedy, the unpaid president of the Smart Choices board.


According to the article, Kennedy “defended the products endorsed by the program, including sweet cereals. She said Froot Loops was better than other things parents could choose for their children.”


Like what? Feeding them to lions?


But what Kennedy thinks isn’t that important; her day job is only being the dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

I don't think Mr. and Mrs. Friedman are too happy right now.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Holiday

The Delicious Truth will return tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Apples and Grapes In Season Now

The end of summer is just around the corner and a shift in available cheap fruits and vegetables accompanies the change in weather.

You should be able to tell what’s no longer in season by tracking rising prices. At my local market, a pint of blueberries is now $4.99 compared to just $2.50 several weeks ago. The price has been inching higher ever since.


Additionally, cherries are now $5.99 per pound, twice the price during most of July and August.

Replace berries and cherries with apples and grapes, which are ripening as you read this and will be in plentiful supply for the next several weeks.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Quick & Easy Cooking: Fried Eggs Over Greens

A quick meal I sometimes make for myself is fried eggs over sautéed dark leafy greens.

The dish consists of ingredients I always have in my refrigerator (eggs, greens, parsley) and cupboard (olive oil, unrefined sea salt, paprika).

I start by quickly sautéing the greens (i.e. kale, chard, mustard) in olive oil, making sure to continually stir the greens. Once they start to wilt (about 15 seconds), I put them in a bowl.

I then fry two eggs; once the whites set, I slide the eggs on top of the greens. I make sure to break the yolks immediately, allowing the yellow gooeyness to escape onto the greens. I then sprinkle the salt, paprika and chopped parsley on top of the runny eggs.

Usually I put a slice of thick whole grain bread in the base of the bowl. The bread acts as a sponge for the juices from both the greens and the eggs. The last time I made this, though, I used some leftover brown rice instead.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Maple Syrup: An Alternative to Synthetic "Chocolate" Syrups

One of my favorite quick desserts is a glass of milk infused with a tablespoon of real maple syrup, a natural sweetener. After pouring in the syrup, I give a stir and have an impromptu maple syrup shake. I know it’s not really a shake, but it’s sweet and delicious.

For those with kids, using maple syrup in this manner is a great alternative to the chemical-laden commercial “chocolate” syrups that are so popular.

For example, the ingredients in Nesquik chocolate syrup include sugar, artificial flavor, xanthan gum, red 40, blue 1 and yellow 6. Hershey's chocolate syrup contains high fructose c
orn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, polysorbate 80 and artificial flavor.

Should we really be facilitating our kids’ consumption of these synthetic additives and petroleum-based food colorings? The naturally sweet maple syrup is made from the maple tree’s sap (photo, left), which is boiled down to its more-concentrated syrup form.

And when I say maple syrup, I don’t mean Aunt Jemima Original Syrup, which is anything but food. Its ingredients? How about corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, water, cellulose gum, caramel color, salt, sodium benzoate, sorbic acid, artificial and natural flavors, and sodium hexametaphosphate?

Be aware that pure maple syrup is much more expensive than artificial chocolate syrups. However, the taste cannot
be compared and your family will be healthier for it. I firmly believe this is one splurge worth making.

Try my maple syrup milkshake for yourself; I think you’ll be surprised at how much you enjoy it.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Scallions Like They Should Be: Full of Flavor

I am growing scallions in my garden and I used some of them in a vegetable and cheese sandwich I made for lunch yesterday. The sandwich took about three minutes to construct and was delicious and healthy.

Between slices of heavy whole grain bread, I spread half of an avocado. I then added some Bobolink Dairy cheddar cheese, plus—all from my garden—raw scallions, slices of tomato and arugula. The scallions are very powerful and sometimes burn my sinuses, but the intense flavor cannot be matched by supermarket scallions.

Watch the video below to see the scallions growing in my garden.


video