Thursday, January 31, 2013

More on School Lunches in Japan

For those who want more insight into school lunches in Japan (the topic of Monday's post), click here to read an American's article on the subject that appeared on in late 2011. How school food is treated in Japan is absolutely different from how it is treated in the United States.

I'm pretty confident this scene isn't being replicated anywhere in the 50 states. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

What Are We Putting Into Our Lawns to Keep Them Green?

The headline of today's Mark Bittman column is "Lawns Into Gardens," which is a damn good idea for many reasons. But I won't pontificate and tell everyone to exchange their pesticide-thirsty lawns for food-producing gardens. That, admittedly, would call zero people to action.

However, I'll ask one simple question that hopefully half of you will think about for 10 seconds or so: What is going into your lawn to keep it green? 

Click here to read Mark Bittman's column, which brings up some good points.

Here are the first three paragraphs to whet your appetite:

"The seed catalogs have arrived, and for the roughly 15 percent of Americans who appreciate the joys and rewards of growing some of their own crops, this is a more encouraging sign than Groundhog Day or even the reporting of pitchers and catchers to spring training.

"Yet several times a year we hear of a situation like the one in Orlando, where the mayor claims to be striving to make his city green while his city harasses homeowners like Jason and Jennifer Helvenston for planting vegetables in their front yard, threatening to fine them $500 a day — for gardening. The battle has been raging for months, and the city’s latest proposal is to allow no more than 25 percent of a homeowner’s front yard to be planted in fruits and vegetables.

"As if gardens were somehow an official eyesore, or inappropriate. (Jason Helvenston, my hero, said: 'You’ll take my house before you take my vegetable garden.') If you want to plant a lawn, that’s fine, though it’s a waste of water and energy, both petrochemical and human. Nor are lawns simply benign: many common lawn chemicals are banned in other countries, because most if not all are toxic in a variety of ways. My guess is that 100 years from now, lawns will be about as common as Hummers."

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Need a Spring in Your Step? Add Chicken Feet to Your Soup

Chicken soup with escaping chicken foot
It's been cold and I've been making a big pot of chicken soup almost weekly. 

The preparation is straightforward: I put chicken pieces (usually two whole legs, a neck or two and a handful of hearts) into a pot and add chopped onion and/or leeks, minced garlic, cubes of root vegetables (i.e. carrots, parsnips, turnips, rutabaga), cubed potatoes, chopped kale or parsley, unrefined sea salt, fresh ground pepper, dried dill (from my garden) and filtered cold water (almost to the top of the pot).

There's also an ingredient I just started adding this winter, which I buy from Keith Gibson of Grazin' Angus Acres farm: chicken feet. Yes, eating chicken feet is gross within the confines of the American food mentality, but they are indispensable throughout the world for their nutrient content and flavor.

For those with arthritis and joint pain who are taking glucosamine and/or chondroitin supplements, instead of possibly wasting money on compounds that may not get absorbed by our bodies, why not throw a couple chicken feet into a chicken soup and get these nutrients (found in healthy cartilage) in their true form, delivered in a way that our bodies can process? (Calcium and collagen are other benefits of chicken feet and other bones.)

Also, traditional cultures add vinegar to their bone soups, which helps draw out calcium from the bones. A tablespoon or two for a big pot should suffice.

Back to the soup. Bring the soup to a boil, return it to a simmer and let it cook for about two hours, which will help it develop flavor. Taste and reseason with more salt and pepper; you'll probably need more salt than you think. Store the soup in the refrigerator; its flavor will markedly improve over the course of several days, so consider not eating it for a day or two, if possible.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Japan's School Lunches: A Better Way

I was talking with a friend the other day and she mentioned that she and her husband are leaning toward sending their daughter to private school—despite the financial burdens it would present—for  one major reason: food.

My friend understands the deep troubles inherent in our food system and how these issues trickle down to public school lunches. She is drawn to certain private schools because of their dedication to a mostly-organic, nutrient-dense diet, one diametrically opposed to the corn- and soy-based foodstuffs that dominate public school fare.

True, we are taking new interest in public school food, but the breakfasts and lunches are severely lacking. As long as we are more concerned with not exceeding pulled-from-thin-air fat and calorie levels instead of providing nutrients, no true progress will be made.

Nutrient-dense whole milk from grass-fed cows? God forbid! Let's give little Mikey low-fat milk from hormone- and antibiotic-laced cows that eat genetically-engineered and pesticide-laden corn and soy instead! Our Mikeys and Susies, in their prime developmental stages, are losing out on so many levels.

But do we have to live within such a dysfunctional, bifurcated system of nutritional haves and have-nots?

An article ("On Japan's School Lunch Menu: A Healthy Meal, Made from Scratch") in yesterday's Washington Post should help us realize that there is an alternative.

Since the 1970s, Japan has instituted a proactive, common sense approach to school food. It has spent the time, money and effort necessary to concretize a system that has most likely saved the country an exponential amount of time, money and effort in the long term. In my opinion, healthier, smarter and better-behaved children more capable of becoming productive members of society are the by-product of healthier school food.

According to the Post article:

"Japan’s system has an envious payoff — its kids are relatively healthy. According to government data, Japan’s child obesity rate, always among the world’s lowest, has declined for each of the past six years, a period during which the country has expanded its dietary education program.
"Japan does struggle with childhood and adolescent eating disorders, and government data show a rise in the number of extremely skinny children. But there is virtually no malnutrition resulting from poverty. Japan’s children will live on average to 83, longer than those in any other country, according to the World Health Organization."
Most of the food is cooked—yes, actually cooked, not reheated—on site and there are no low-fat options. (Author Gary Taubes, in "Good Calories, Bad Calories" dissects our idolatry of the low-fat diet, despite there being no studies conducted on the subject.)

Whether she knows it or not, my friend seems to be choosing private school over public because private's ideal of food is closer to the Japanese model. This from a Japanese government director of school health education, courtesy of the Post article:

“Japan’s standpoint is that school lunches are a part of education, not a break from it."


Friday, January 25, 2013

Video Kitchen Tip: Flip Food Away So You Don't Get Burned

Trust me; getting splashed with hot fat or liquid isn't fun. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Dow Postpones Release of New GE Corn until 2014

Unless you are supremely vigilant about what you consume, chances are you've eaten food today that contains genetically-engineered ingredients. Unfortunately, the big chemical companies (Monsanto, DuPont, Dow, etc.) that are responsible for GE crops (most corn, soybeans and cotton, plus some sugar beets, rapeseed [used to make canola oil] and alfalfa) want to expand their product line.

Public opposition, though, is spreading and we recently won a reprieve from Dow's 2,4-D corn. Here's the story ("Dow's Controversial New GMO Corn Delayed Amid Protests"), courtesy of Reuters.

By Carey Gillam
Jan 18 (Reuters) - A controversial new biotech corn developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical,, will be delayed at least another year as the company awaits regulatory approval amid opposition from farmers, consumers and public health officials.
Dow AgroSciences officials said Friday that they now expect the first sales of Enlist for planting in 2014. Previously officials had set the 2013 planting season as a target, but U.S. farmers are already buying seed for planting this spring, and Dow has yet to secure U.S. approval for Enlist.

Dow wants to roll out Enlist corn, and then soybeans and cotton to be used in combination with its new Enlist herbicide that combines the weed-killers 2,4-D and glyphosate. The Enlist crops are genetically altered to tolerate treatments of the Enlist herbicide mixture. The hope is that Enlist will wipe out an explosion of crop-choking weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate alone.

Opponents have bombarded Dow and U.S. regulators with an array of concerns about Enlist, which is intended to replace Monsanto Co.'s successful Roundup Ready system. Genetically altered Roundup Ready corn and soybeans now dominate the U.S. corn and soybean market.

But as Roundup Ready crops have gained popularity, millions of acres of weeds have developed resistance to Roundup herbicide, causing farmers to use higher quantities of Roundup and other herbicides to try to beat back the weeds.

Critics warn that adding more herbicides to already resistant weed populations will only expand and accelerate weed resistance. Some have likened the problem to a "chemical arms race" across farm country.

"Weed resistance to chemical herbicides is one of the biggest problems farmers now face, and that is a direct result of converting so much of our farmland to herbicide-resistant GE (genetically engineered) crops," said Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at Pesticide Action Network. "We need to get out of this futile chemical arms race fast."

Earlier this month, Kansas State University scientists said they have found evidence that some more weed types have developed resistance to glyphosate. Researchers said they sprayed two common weed types, Waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, with up to four times the typical field use for glyphosate and the weeds would not die.

Next month the Weed Science Society of America will examine the weed resistance problems at a meeting in Baltimore.

Dow's Enlist herbicide is also controversial because 2,4-D, or 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, was one of the ingredients in Agent Orange, the Vietnam War defoliant that was blamed for numerous health problems suffered during and after the war. Although the main health effects of Agent Orange were blamed on the other component of the mixture (2,4,5-T) and dioxin contamination, critics say 2,4-D has significant health risks of its own.

Several medical and public health professionals have sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture warning of health threats that could accompany an increase in 2,4-D use.

But Dow officials said Friday that its product is needed soon as market research shows that cropland acres infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds increased 80 percent over the past two years.

As it awaits regulatory approval, Dow said it would showcase the Enlist system in five technology centers established in the U.S. Midwest and U.S. South to train farmers and seed sellers on Enlist's application and management. It also said it will offer more than 100 small Enlist field plots at seed company and retail locations and it is hoping to also set up on-farm "experience plots" to demonstrate the product.

Dow said it plans on receiving U.S. regulatory approval this year and will "ramp up" seed production and its supply of Enlist herbicide to support commercial sales starting in late 2013 for 2014 planting. Canada granted regulatory approval in October.

"We are committed to introducing this technology responsibly and sustaining it for the long term," Dow AgroSciences U.S. commercial leader Damon Palmer said in a statement.

Critics said they hoped the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency are taking a hard look at the potential problems associated with Enlist.

"Those of us who have concerns about this are all kind of holding our breath... wondering one way or other what is going to happen with this," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist in the food and environment program with the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Gurian-Sherman said Enlist represents a "head-in-the-sand" approach to weed resistance. As well, an array of health and environmental concerns associated with 2,4-D deserve strict regulatory scrutiny, he said.

Many also worry that the new biotech crops will contaminate conventional and organic crops.

"There are just some huge questions that Enlist and some of these other crops have," he said.

The USDA has received more than 450,000 comments opposing approval of the 2,4-D tolerant cropping system, according to the Center for Food Safety, which opposes Enlist and has threatened to sue the government if it is approved.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mark Bittman's Reaction to Coca-Cola's Fight Against Obesity

Here's Coca-Cola's saccharine two-minute video ("Coming Together") which tries to convince us that the company wants to join (or lead?) the fight against obesity, while it retains its bottom line. (If you are receiving The Delicious Truth via email, click here to watch.)

Here's Mark Bittman's reaction ("Coke Blinks") in today's online edition of The New York Times. I've only included some of the hyperlinks from the article; click here to see the article and all of its hyperlinks.

"Once again, Coke has blinked. It famously did so in 1985, when it introduced 'new' Coke, replacing its original formula with one it thought would have greater appeal with its audience. It was wrong then.
"This time it might be right, but it isn’t going to do the world’s best-known brand any good. It’s hurting from decreased domestic sales and smarting from the piles of evidence that soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are not only our biggest source of calories, but also among our most harmful. So it has struck back with a two-minute video whose ostensible message is that too many calories will make you fat (true), that those in Coke are no worse than any others (false), and that we’re all in this together (ridiculous).

"The video is brilliantly executed. Its honeyed, heart-rending voice-over and stirring images — as American as a Chevy commercial — nearly caused me to go out and buy a case myself, as I recalled those innocent days of the ’50s and ’60s when Coke and cigarettes and Our Country and I were all (it seemed) young together, happy and happening and eating burgers and fries like there was no tomorrow. It took me back to when Coke was the real thing, it was 'it,' we were teaching the world to sing together, and even Mean Joe Greene was just a cutie. There’s always been Coca-Cola.

"Well, there were always Marlboros, too, and as diseases related to metabolic syndrome surpass those from smoking, Coke is becoming a dinosaur, one that should not be replaced by aspartame-laced drinks (which have problems of their own, including, possibly, depression) but by water. Even the not-exactly-radical American Heart Association recognizes that the amount of sugar in a Coke is probably the most added sugar people can safely tolerate daily, and our average intake is two to three times that.

"Here’s how the video starts: 'For over 125 years, we’ve been bringing people together. Today we’d like people to come together on something that concerns all of us: obesity. The long-term health of our families and the country is at stake.' In short, Coke wants to be part of the solution. Which is too bad for them, because one of the keys to avoiding diseases caused by metabolic syndrome (a syndrome that anyone — not only obese people — can develop) is to avoid sugar-sweetened beverages.

"This explains why the reaction to the commercial was immediate and derogatory, even in the advertising community. 'Critics Jeer Coke’s Entrance Into Obesity Discussion' read a headline in a MediaPost blog. 'The soda giant makes an awkward first stab at addressing obesity,' said AdWeek, which called the video 'shameless.' Among food and health writers, the response was mocking, perhaps best represented by Marion Nestle’s 'Coca-Cola Fights Obesity? Oh, Please.'

"One might want to revisit the last soda video to go viral, the brilliant Real Bears animation of this past fall, which summed up the consequences of consuming excess sugar as well as anything I’ve ever seen or read. (What’s sadder than a cartoon bear losing a foot? The roughly 80,000 toe, foot and leg amputations a year undergone by diabetics.)

"Then there’s the 'honest Coca-Cola obesity ad,'' a remix of the original Coke video. It seemed to appear within hours of “the real thing,” posted by someone calling himself John Pemberton (the name of Coke’s inventor), and included the line 'Imagine if cigarette companies said they were doing something responsible to protect you. How would you react to that?' Exactly.

"The word 'chutzpah' comes to mind, but that implies some kind of sincere arrogance. This video is sheer manipulation, calculated to confuse, obscure and deny. (It’s not just Coke, of course, but the entire sugar industry that’s involved in a campaign of lies, described in detail in this splendid piece by Gary Taubes and Cristin Kearns Couzens.)

"There is virtual consensus that drinking too much soda is bad for you, and it’s not hard to understand the evidence. I asked Rob Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and the author of 'Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease,' if he’d sum it up for me. His response: 'A calorie is NOT a calorie. Different calories have different metabolic fates in the body. Those from fructose overwhelm the liver, forcing the pancreas to make more insulin and driving more energy into fat cells. And soda is nothing but a fructose delivery system.'

"Soda is a fructose delivery system as tobacco is a nicotine delivery system. (And if it’s not 'truly' addictive but only habit forming, so much the better; it’ll be that much easier to get people to cut back.) That’s why added sugar, especially in liquid form, is rapidly becoming the focus of savvy public health officials, scientists, physicians, journalists, parents and even politicians. And the ridiculous notion that government has no role in public health — the blind 'nanny-statism' argument, which ignores everything from seat belts to tobacco to guns — is being overwhelmed by the tide of evidence, as demonstrated by a recent poll by The New England Journal of Medicine, in which 68 percent of nearly 1,300 respondents worldwide 'favored government regulation of sugar-sweetened beverages.'
"The beverage companies see the writing on the wall and will lobby, cajole, beg, plead, propagandize, lie, spend and do anything else they have to do to prevent that regulation, just as the tobacco companies did. And chances are, in time, they’ll also accept regulation in the United States while aggressively increasing their marketing efforts overseas. But that won’t work either, because the word is out: Coke is not part of the solution. It’s a big part of the problem."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Incorporating Frozen Organic Fruit into Winter Fruit Rotation

Most of the fruit I eat during the winter is limited to fresh organic oranges, grapefruit and apples. It does get boring, though, so on occasion I work thawed frozen organic fruit (especially berries) into the rotation; my favorite are wild blueberries.

Any "fresh" organic berries available this time of year are grown in Chile or Argentina, are very expensive and, I find, have disappointing flavor, at best.

I really like Whole Foods' frozen organic wild blueberries, which have a true blueberry taste and are grown in Canada. Also good are the raspberries (tart!) and mangoes (sweet!). However, stay away from the peaches; their flavor and texture remind me more of wet cardboard than a peach.

There is a reasonable price difference between organic and conventional frozen fruit, but I am willing to pay a premium to avoid pesticides. That decision is personal, but I offer one question: "What price health?" 

Monday, January 21, 2013

MLK & RPE Both Have Dreams

Not to bastardize the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., but . . . 

"I have a dream that everyone reading this will abstain from processed and packaged foods, sodas, sports drinks and white rice today."

While I'm at it . . . 

"I have a dream that everyone reading this will eat at least one organic fruit or vegetable today."

I think I'll leave it at that. Enjoy the day.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why Are Fresh Vegetables in Styrofoam and Plastic Wrap?

Maybe I should get out more. In addition to having no idea (until this week) about suburban parking lot machinations, I didn't know supermarkets had started to encase vegetables in plastic wrap. When—and why—did that begin?

In the same Florida Publix in which I saw packaged sliced apples selling for $3.76 per pound, I came across loose organic beets and summer squash that were packaged in Styrofoam and plastic wrap (beets) and plastic wrap (summer squash).

(Fifteen minutes just passed as I tried figuring out why such gross, unnecessary misuse of Styrofoam and plastic wrap were needed for vegetables that do quite well when left up to their own devices. Bueller?)

Want to make sure your fruits and vegetables are clean and free of bacteria? Use a water-vinegar solution to wash them

Want to avoid pointless contact with BPA? Stay clear of food service-grade plastic wrap, much of which is formulated with BPA. (Household plastic wrap is, for the most part, free of BPA.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Tale of a Closer Parking Space and a Lost Opportunity

Being that I live in a huge city, I rely on walking, biking or public transportation to get around. That's why the following episode—which occurred earlier this week when I was in Florida—may seem a little more inane to me than to those who live in the suburbs and rural communities.

I had just shopped at a Whole Foods and was leaving the parking lot in my rental car. Unfortunately, my exit was blocked by a car whose driver was waiting for another car to vacate a parking space that was very close to the store. I looked to my left (away from the store) and saw, starting just 10 yards away, a small sea of open spaces.

The driver had begun to wait when the exiting shopper—with bags in hand—had just approached his parked car. All in, counting loading, seat belt fastening and backing out time, I was idling for roughly five minutes behind a driver who could have easily managed three sets of 20 push-ups and a handful of sprints in the time saved by parking just a short distance away.

Actually, in retrospect, I'm the fool; I should have done the workout while I was waiting!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Pound of Non-Organic (Sliced) Apples for $3.76? No Thanks!

From the "This Is Not a Good Deal" aisle of a Publix supermarket in Florida:

A 14-ounce package of conventional (non-organic) "sweet apple slices" sells for $3.29, which translates to $3.76 for a pound of pre-sliced apples (that may or may not have a tiny bit of flavor) packaged in a plastic bag.

The far better choice—just a shelf below—is a 3-pound bag of whole (I can't believe I had to write "whole" to describe apples) organic gala apples for $4.99. That's $1.66 per pound, or less than half the price of the seemingly more convenient already-cut apples.

How much time does cutting an apple take? Thirty seconds? And putting the slices into a plastic bag? Five seconds?

Ditch the saved pesticides, but use the extra money to buy organic whole grains (instead of conventional white) or organic ketchup. "Organic food" does not necessarily mean "more expensive food," especially when compared to so-called convenience and packaged foods. (Boxed cereals are a great money drain.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

More Proof of Link Between Pesticides and Parkinson's

Pesticides have been linked to cancer, decreased intelligence, reproductive issues and obesity. Now, there's further evidence that certain pesticides have a role in the development of Parkinson's disease. Here's a story "Pesticides and Parkinson's: UCLA Researchers Uncover Further Proof of a Link" from the UCLA Newsroom, which reports on the research done by UCLA neurologists.
"For several years, neurologists at UCLA have been building a case that a link exists between pesticides and Parkinson's disease. To date, paraquat, maneb and ziram — common chemicals sprayed in California's Central Valley and elsewhere — have been tied to increases in the disease, not only among farmworkers but in individuals who simply lived or worked near fields and likely inhaled drifting particles.
"Now, UCLA researchers have discovered a link between Parkinson's and another pesticide, benomyl, whose toxicological effects still linger some 10 years after the chemical was banned by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
"Even more significantly, the research suggests that the damaging series of events set in motion by benomyl may also occur in people with Parkinson's disease who were never exposed to the pesticide, according to Jeff Bronstein, senior author of the study and a professor of neurology at UCLA, and his colleagues.
"Benomyl exposure, they say, starts a cascade of cellular events that may lead to Parkinson's. The pesticide prevents an enzyme called ALDH (aldehyde dehydrogenase) from keeping a lid on DOPAL, a toxin that naturally occurs in the brain. When left unchecked by ALDH, DOPAL accumulates, damages neurons and increases an individual's risk of developing Parkinson's.
"The investigators believe their findings concerning benomyl may be generalized to all Parkinson's patients. Developing new drugs to protect ALDH activity, they say, may eventually help slow the progression of the disease, whether or not an individual has been exposed to pesticides."
 Click here to read the entire story.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Cooking 101: How to Make Cod in Tomato Sauce with Veggies

Here's an idea for a quick fish dinner—cod in tomato sauce with zucchini and kale—that you can have on the table in 20 to 30 minutes, depending on your proficiency in the kitchen.

First, heat a little fat in a sauté pan. (I use butter when cooking fish; I've read that the two complement each other nutritionally.) 

Add a little garlic and/or onion to the fat, making sure they don't burn. When those are soft, add a little bit of strained, crushed or diced tomatoes. When those are warm, add some chopped zucchini and kale (or any vegetable you like) and cook the vegetables for about five minutes over medium heat. Also, add some salt, pepper and lemon juice when you start cooking the veggies.

Mix the sauce and add a couple pieces of cod filets (or other fish). Cook until the fish is 85 percent done, flipping the fish occasionally if you aren’t using a lid for the pan. If you are, you won't need to flip, since the part of the fish outside of the tomatoes will cook via steaming. Just make sure that the temperature in the pan doesn't get too high, which may cause the sugars in the tomatoes to burn.

Don't be skittish about cooking the fish to 85 percent; carryover cooking will handle the rest. Taste the sauce and reseason accordingly. Serve over brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat pasta, polenta, mashed potatoes, etc.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Latest on Washington State's I-522 Labeling Initiative for GE Foods

Here's the latest news about I-522, an initiative to the Washington State legislature to establish mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering, courtesy of The Spokesman-Review and reporter Jim Camden. I-522 follows on the heels of California's Prop 37, which was unsuccessful in the last election.
OLYMPIA – State voters are likely to be asked next fall whether labels on food sold in Washington must identify any genetically modified organisms among the ingredients.
Supporters of a ballot measure to require GMO labeling filed petitions with an estimated 350,000 signatures Thursday, more than 100,000 above the amount needed to qualify an initiative to the Legislature. If the signatures pass inspection, the initiative will be sent to the Legislature during the upcoming session.

Supporters such as Chris McManus, of University Place, who managed the signature drive, said the proposal is about informing, not warning, the public: “A little bit more information never hurt anybody about the foods they eat.”

But opposition is beginning to coalesce. Farm industry representatives call the proposal an attempt to scare people away from food sources that have no known health risks. If the initiative wasn’t about scaring people, asked Heather Hansen of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, why did supporters deliver their petitions in an old ambulance?

The initiative would require special labels on any raw or processed food sold in Washington with any genetically modified ingredients. That would include fruits and vegetables, processed foods and even some seafood like genetically modified salmon, McManus said. Except for most meats and certified organic produce, “there wouldn’t be very much in the supermarket that wouldn’t be labeled,” he said.

Many foreign countries require such labeling, he said.

Opponents said that would create big problems for farmers and food processors, who would have to put different labels on the same products if they’re sold in Washington and in other states. Among the common food products with genetically modified ingredients are corn, soybeans, sugar from sugar beets and cottonseed oil. Those products are modified to resist insects or help control weeds.

Labeling standards should be set by the federal government, not individual states, said Tom Davis of the Washington Farm Bureau.

The proposed initiative comes two months after California voters rejected a similar ballot measure.

The Washington Legislature rejected a bill last year that would have required labeling for genetically modified food. It gets the first crack at I-522 and can pass it as written to make it law. Or it can reject the initiative, sending it to the general election ballot, or pass an alternative, which would send both I-522 and the alternative to voters in November.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Concocting a Delicious Dumpling Mixture, Save the Dumplings

I make dumplings about once a month (it's easier than you think; click here for the recipe and video), but last night I experimented and cooked a jazzed-up version of just the filling (ground pork-based), which I served over brown rice. With dumplings, the raw filling cooks inside the wonton skins when the entire package is pan-fried, steamed or baked, so a little jiggering was necessary.

First, I sautéed the ground pork (from Keith Gibson's Grazin' Angus Acres farm) and frozen turnip cubes (frozen carrots work fine as well) in a minimal amount of coconut oil, since the pork was very fatty. When the pork was about 80 percent cooked and the turnips defrosted, I removed them to a bowl and added minced ginger and leeks (in lieu of the usual scallions) to the pan. I let those cook in the pork fat for a couple minutes and then added minced garlic. (Since garlic will burn quite easily, it doesn't need as much cooking time as the ginger and scallions/leeks.)

When those ingredients were soft, I added the ground pork—which, thanks to carryover cooking, had cooked to 100 percent while in the bowl—and turnips, plus some chopped, raw baby bok choy greens and stirred to combine. (The residual heat in the pan cooked the delicate greens.) I then added the liquids: roughly equal parts soy sauce and water, a half part rice vinegar and a drop or two of toasted sesame oil. I stirred again to combine and sampled. The mixture's flavor mirrored the taste of the filling of my dumplings, exactly what I was hoping for.

Feel free to use any type of ground meat and don't hesitate to experiment with other vegetables and greens. I only added the turnips and bok choy greens to the mixture because I didn't want to dirty other pans. 

I use the Eden Foods brand of brown rice vinegar and toasted sesame oil. The soy sauce I use is Oshawa's unpasteurized soy sauce; its flavor and nutrition, I believe, make it worth its price. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Bittman: "Why Do Stars Think It's O.K. To Sell Soda?"

Here are the first handful of paragraphs from a recent Mark Bittman column in the online edition of The New York Times that criticizes celebrities for endorsing soda. (Click here to read "Why Do Stars Think It's O.K. To Sell Soda?" in its entirety.)
"Beyoncé Knowles would presumably refuse to take part in an ad campaign that showed her carrying a semiautomatic rifle. But she’s eager, evidently, to have the Pepsi logo painted on her lips and have a limited-edition Pepsi can bearing her likeness. 
"You’ll soon see her on Feb. 3 at the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show, where she’ll be introduced by 50 of her luckiest and best-gyrating fans who have been selected through a contest. (Yes, you can try out!)
"For this and other efforts, Pepsi is spending $50 million, part of which will support her 'creative projects.' And unless she’s donating some or all of that money, this is an odd move for a politically aware woman who, with her husband, Jay-Z, raised money for President Obama and supported Michelle Obama’s 'Let’s Move' campaign, meant to encourage children to exercise.

"Knowles is renting her image to a product that may one day be ranked with cigarettes as a killer we were too slow to rein in. From saying, as she once did in referring to Let’s Move, that she was 'excited to be part of this effort that addresses a public health crisis,' she’s become part of an effort that promotes a public health crisis. I suppose it would be one thing if she needed the money or the exposure but she and Jay-Z are worth around $775 million.

"Nor is she alone: a partial list of soda shills has ranged from LeBron James to Madonna to the 'frenzy-inducing' One Direction, and on: Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey, Elton John, Christina Aguilera and David Beckham. Seemingly, no celebrities turn down endorsement deals for ethical reasons.

Monday, January 7, 2013

How Much Fat to Use When Sautéing Can Vary

An easy way to cook food is by sautéing, which entails heating a pan, adding a fat (butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc.), waiting for the fat to get hot (but not smoking), adding food (proteins and vegetables work well), stirring or flipping (if necessary) and cooking until the desired doneness is achieved (if the food item needs more cooking but is already nicely browned, finish cooking it in the oven).

Yes, that was a bit of an oversimplification, but I'll expand on one component—how much fat to put in the pan—which I get asked about often. I suggest coating the bottom of the pan with a thin layer of fat when cooking most food items. However, if you are sautéing a low-fat protein such as a skinless chicken breast, you'll need more oil to make up for the breast's leanness. Conversely, if cooking bacon, no fat is necessary, since the fatty bacon will quickly render enough fat to make you forget that you started with a dry pan. (See photo above.)

Other foods and some tips:

  • Eggplant will soak up tons of fat, so you'll need to keep adding more during the cooking process.
  • Onions, if stirred often, will give off some of their water, so you may not need as much fat as you think. I cook onions at a slightly lower temperature than other foods.
  • Slice harder vegetables (potatoes, carrots, turnips, etc.) thinner than vegetables that contain more water (zucchini, mushrooms, etc.). Carrots cut too big will remain hard in the middle.
If you end up with extra fat in your pan, don't throw it away! Save it for the next time you cook (it's sort of free!) or do what I did last night with my excess bacon fat: soak bread in it and enjoy while you are cooking. 

Another option is to make croutons.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Calling Mrs. Agurto and Her Quartered Oranges

I was watching a teenage sporting event recently and was disappointed that the majority of kids were drinking Gatorade and other sports drinks and eating energy bars. The only food to be found were a handful of bananas.

It's obvious that we are taking our consumption cues from the omnipresent marketing that so dominates the sports-entertainment complex. It's truly a shame, as these foodstuffs do not provide the needed nutrition and, I would argue, actually hinder performance in the long term.

How about just eating some real food while playing sports?  Maybe mixing a little protein, sugar and carbohydrates in the form of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich (using unadulterated ingredients, of course)? Or drinking water flavored with a little lemon juice and honey, in lieu of the Gatorade that is full of refined sugars and petroleum-based artificial colors?

When I was playing high school soccer, one mom—a native of Chile—would bring a plastic bag full of quartered oranges (peel and all!) for the team to eat during halftime and other stoppages in play. This world would be a better place if every youth sports league had a Mrs. Agurto, who took the time to provide real nutrition.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Kitchen Tip: Soaking Wilted Greens Helps Revivify Them

Dark leafy greens such as kales, mustards and chards have a tendency to wilt as they sit in the refrigerator, especially if they are not stored correctly. (Click here to see the method I prefer for storing greens.)

However, if wilting does occur, not all hope is lost. Revivifying is possible by soaking the greens in cold water for several minutes. They won't be as good as new, but you should notice a definite perking up. (Before photo above, after photo below.)

Some dishes that I've recently made which I've added kale to include chicken soup, macaroni and cheese, an omelet and a winter quinoa salad (with red cabbage, diced sweet potato and walnuts).

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My 2013 Wish: Word Spreads That All Butters Not Bad for Us

My New Year's resolution? I want to get as many people as possible to stop reflexively believing that all butters are bad and that all strawberries are good.

It'll be a tough battle, though, since this thinking has so pervaded our societal ideas of food and nutrition. I encountered another example of this myopia when following a recipe for a lemon yogurt cake (delicious and straightforward) from one of Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

Garten skips the traditional butter, using yogurt and vegetable oil instead. She purports that this substitution makes the cake healthier, without any regard for the genesis of her ingredients:

"Despite my reputation for starting all my recipes with a pound of butter, I really do look for ways to make desserts lighter. When I came across a delicious yogurt cake by cookbook author Dorie Greenspan, I decided to see if I could update my favorite lemon cake with her method of using yogurt and vegetable oil instead of butter. Not only is it good for you, but you don’t even need an electric mixer to make it!"
Hey, Ina, is this lemon yogurt cake really good for me if I use yogurt made from milk from cows administered hormones and antibiotics and fed genetically-engineered and pesticide-laden corn and soy?

Hey, Ina, is this lemon yogurt cake really good for me if I use vegetable oil made from genetically-engineered and pesticide-laden canola and treated with hexane? (For more information on why we should avoid commercial vegetable oils, click here.)

Hey, Ina, is a traditional lemon pound cake really not good for me if I use nutrient-dense butter made from milk from grass-fed cows? Aren't the omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, lutein, conjugated linoleic acid and beta-carotene found in grass-fed meat and dairy products the epitome of health?

Start keeping track of these knee-jerk descriptions of what constitutes "healthy" in this fat-, calorie- and cholesterol-phobic era. Unfortunately, little or no heed is paid to the pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, refined sugars, processed grains, preservatives, emulsifiers, etc. that are the true devils of our time.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year

The Delicious Truth will return tomorrow full of vim and vigor.