Monday, January 31, 2011

An Education...Part 1

You are already aware of the Genetically Engineered Alfalfa problem that I brought to you the other day...recently, my friend sent me this article here asking me to explain exactly what it means.

In short, it means we are losing.

I want to explain the whole situation to you, but it is rather technical and mind numbing, so I am going to give it to you in parts. The first step to understanding the fiasco that the government is leading us into is knowing exactly what a "Genetically Modified Organism" is.

The video here explains it fantastically. It is 7 minutes long, but give it your full affects your lives more than you know.

While you watch this remember 2 things:

1. There is absolutely no required labeling by law to let the public know when they are buying/cooking/eating genetically engineered foods. This is why, YOU, yes you, have been eating them for more than ten years. I am not talking about processed and pre-packaged food. I am talking about plants- apples, tomatoes, lettuces, corn, broccoli....

2. Until now, the only way to ensure you were not eating GMO's was to buy organic. This is about to drastically change.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blueberry Deception

It seems as though my blogger path has been chosen for me. I can't log on to the internet without finding another great food justice "bit."

Friday, January 28, 2011

Pear recipes. One I made and one I want to make.

Mid-week guests are about one of the best treats a person could ask for. Doesn't everyone get sucked up in the Monday through Friday drudgery of sleep-work-eat-clean- sleep? There is no rule that says we are not allowed to have fun on weekdays, and yet that is what seems to happen to the best of us.

My remedy: have some friends over on a "school night" for these mini pear and almond cakes. Now, I have to tell you: as delicious as it probably is, I totally skipped out on the poached pear topping. It is mid week, after all. Who has time to bake cakes and poach pears in a wine that's certainly not one of my pantry staples? No, I just made these cakes- these marvelous little cakes- and put sliced pairs on the top before I baked them. They were beautiful, and divine on the tongue when served with a little bit of raspberry jam.

And later, when you have, say, and entire afternoon to devote to the construction of a dessert masterpiece, I would suggest trying this beautiful Caramel Pear Terrine.

{photo form Martha Stewart}

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sorry in advance

I was planning on taking a break from food news and politics- I know I've been posting a ton lately- and going back to something lighthearted such as muffins. However, this one was just pass up. I just couldn't resist. After I stopped laughing, I immediately logged on to pass this article to you.

Let the one-liners commence.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Fields of Tears- from The Economist

In December, The Economist Magazine wrote an insightful article about immigrant farm workers in America. As important as it is for you to know how your chicken and beef got to your dinner plate, so you should be educated as to how your grapes and strawberries made it as well. The article is very objective- pointing out the despair that drives Hispanics to cross illegally and work in poor conditions for pennies, while also presenting factually why what is going on is so harmful for everyone involved. It is good reminder of the potential "high cost of low price" when buying food.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A new battle every day.

I just took action, calling on Secretary Vilsack and President Obama to reject the approval of Mosanto's GMO alfalfa and protect the integrity of organics. Approving GMO alfalfa will potentially destroy the integrity of and access to organic food, as well as the livelihoods of organic farmers.

The approval of GMO alfalfa is only days away and the Obama administration needs to hear from you and all of your friends who care about organics that the contamination of the organic dairy industry is not acceptable to risk an entire industry simply for Monsanto's corporate profits.

Please take a moment to let Vilack and President Obama know that you care about organic integrity by following this link from Food Democracy Now! Then please pass this link on.

Every voice counts!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Washingtonians man up!...a ballot measure I can get behind.

I wish I could say different of myself, but I never get excited about voting. In my politically humble opinion, most ballot measures harm as many people as they hurt, with hidden agendas and addendums (or apparently grammatically correct is 'addenda') that implicate who-knows-what? The same goes for politicians themselves being completely self serving and out of touch. Like many, I am just sick and tired of politics being so....political.

However, I am looking forward to picking up a ballot this November and voting on behalf of the chickens in the photo above. If you haven't seen the documentary Food, Inc. yet WATCH IT, FOR HEAVEN'S SAKE! There is not a person in this world with a soul- carnivore and veggievore alike- that cannot be affected by this film to some degree. If not for the sake of the animals, for the sake of your own dinner plate! You will see hundreds of thousands of chickens like the ones above, crammed into cages in sheds that never show the light of day. This is the norm on egg farms in the United States. The government has permitted it so.

Here is the whole story, but the summary is this:

"Washingtonians for Humane Farms submitted language to the Secretary of State to place a statewide measure on November’s ballot.....The measure would require that egg-laying hens have enough room to turn around and extend their wings and that eggs sold in the state are produced in compliance with this humane standard."

It's all quite simple and straightforward. For the chickens, it breaks my heart that "having enough room to turn around and spread their wings" is an improvement. But it IS an improvement on the horrid conditions the food stock in this country is put under. It's a step in the right direction. For us....EW! The health implications- especially the spread of salmonella, which is always a raw egg danger in the US- of this many animals in a confined space, not knowing which egg came from which part of which factory.....EW!

Yes, fewer eggs will come from fewer chickens from the farms, which will most likely temporarily drive up the price of eggs. But these factory conditions are also poor because workers are paid unfair wages and labor kept to a bare minimum...You see? It's not good for people, either! These artificially cheap eggs have put smaller egg farms and competition out of business for now. However, this act would also give smaller farms a chance to step up again and produce food worthy of our consumption.

I will remind you of this later, but for now, Washingtonians, look forward to November! And non-Washingtonians, hopefully this comes to your state next!

Broccoli and Bean Soup

The idea for this soup came from my sister-in-law. I was fooled by it's fullness and creaminess , and shocked that there was, in fact, no cream or potato in the soup at all. Instead, beans give the soup a wonderful amount of protein and add to the perfect texture. The original recipe is from Eating Well, but I made quite a few changes to it. Even with the changes, the entire recipe takes only 10-15 minutes from start to finish (the quicker time being if you have a immersion blender).
Saute 1/2 and onion and 1 clove of garlic in a soup pot. Add 3 cups of chicken or vegetable stock and 1 pound of broccoli crowns. Bring to a boil, and cook broccoli for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse 1- 14 oz can of cannellinibeans, add to stock, and cook for one more minute (until hot). Puree with a bar blender in batches, or just use a stick blender. Add 1 cup grated parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon of each). I served it with a few drops of truffle oil and a bit more parmesan for garnish.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Homemade Ginger Ale

One of my favorite presents that I got for Christmas this year was a Soda Stream. Since I now have bubbly water whenever I want it, I have been inspired to make different kinds of mixers to go with it. I started with this home made ginger ale recipe. It was so easy, and so fun to make. Not to mention the actual finished product blows any store bought ginger ale out of the water. I have been mixing about 2 oz of syrup with about 16 oz of soda water, and don't leave out the lime, as it really gives it that added kick that it needs.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Truth About Estrella Family Creamery

The battle has been on for nearly a year now, and I am yet to form a solid opinion. Here is the background information:

Estrella Family Creamy is (or was?) a beloved, award winning, artisan raw cheese maker based in Western Washington. Fine dining establishments carry and serve their cheese all over Seattle, and even as far as Los Angeles and Manhattan. High end grocery stores and farmer's markets also feature Estrella's amazing cheeses (I know they are amazing, because I have sampled quite a bit in the past). Now, however, instead of selling the cheeses at the farmer's markets, the family is going out to speak on injustice.

Last February, the Washington State Department of Agriculture found Listeria (what is listeria?) in the creamery's production areas and in some of the soft cheeses. These cheeses were recalled....then more again in March when the bacteria was found in a cave used to age the cheeses. Estrella was apparently taking care of the problem when suddenly, it seemed, in October, 2010, the FDA was aggressively demanding a recall of all the cheeses the creamery produced- an estimated $100,000 worth of cheese...more than enough to put the family business under. The fight began when Estrella refused, saying there was no proof that any of the hard cheeses were contaminated.

You all know me. I want to believe in Estrella and the power of the locavore supported small business. I love to hate the FDA and all their special interests an inconsistencies. Most importantly, I love gourmet food, and cheese above all. However, this situation still seems a bit sticky to me.

I certainly do not think that small businesses should get a free pass when it comes to sanitation (or lack thereof). Especially in a business that deals with raw (aka unpasteurized) milk. They should be extra careful, taking every possible precaution in milking and production to avoid contamination. (By the way, I would like to point out the lack of care with conventional dairy in milking and production is masked by the use of antibiotics and pasteurization). Perhaps Estrella Farms should have cleaned their caves a little better....

However, I still cannot believe that completely shutting a company down and forcing a recall on hard cheeses that did not test positive for listeria benefits anyone involved other than big agriculture. (Big agriculture, mind you, was what the FDA was originally set up to protect us from, not force us into like they do today). The FDA and small business do not speak the same language, and situations like these change the problem from a mere translation issue to all out war.

Did Estrella Family Creamery deserve what they got? I am not sure. What I do know is that this should be a lesson to other small farms and businesses. I can only liken it to a sports game where the referees are blatantly and outright in favor of one team over the other: The underdog team has to clearly and unmistakably outplay their opponent in order to become the victors.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

San Francisco to ban McDonald's Happy Meal toys

This topic is all over news sites, but I like the discussion from the Harvard School of Public Health.

"Toys may disappear from Happy Meals and other kids' meals in San Francisco starting December 2011, unless the food carries less than 600 calories and is accompanied by fruits and vegetables and healthier drinks. The chief sponsor of the new ordinance, passed on November 9, 2010, told the San Francisco Chronicle that it was a modest policy that "holds fast-food (businesses) accountable." The city's mayor disagrees. Promising to veto the ordinance, he is quoted as saying: "Parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat."

There are more than 32,000 McDonald's restaurants in more than 100 countries. Other cities across the globe may or may not follow San Francisco's lead, which makes us ask: What role does legislation have in stemming the childhood obesity epidemic across the globe?"

According to the Huffington Post, "McDonald's could, theoretically, reformulate the Happy Meal for San Francisco to allow it to be sold. Here are the ordinance's specific requirements for a packaged fast food meal targeted at children:

  • Calories: Less than 600
  • Sodium: Less than 640 milligram.
  • Fat: Less than 35 percent of calories from fat; Less than 10 percent from saturated fat (with exception for nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese).
  • Fruits & Vegetables: At least half a cup of fruit or three-quarters of a cup of vegetables"

What I love is what this woman has to say about it:

Marion Nestle is a professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and former senior nutrition policy advisor in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"I'm surprised at the mayor's comment that "parents, not politicians, should decide what their children eat," because the San Francisco ordinance is not about the food. It's about the toys. Nobody is stopping parents from ordering Happy Meals for their kids. But as everyone knows, kids only want Happy Meals because of the toys. The idea that government has no role in food choice is ludicrous. The government is intimately involved in food choices through policies that make the cost of some foods—those containing subsidized corn or soybeans, for example—cheaper than others. It is not an accident that five dollars at McDonald's will buy you five hamburgers or only one salad. It is not an accident that the indexed price of fruits and vegetables has increased by 40% since the early 1980s, whereas the indexed price of sodas has decreased by 30%. Right now, agricultural policies support our present industrialized food system and strongly discourage innovation and consumption of relatively unprocessed foods. Agricultural policies are the results of political decisions that can be changed by political will. If we want agricultural policies aligned with health policies—and I certainly do—we need to exercise our democratic rights as citizens and push for changes that are healthier for people and the planet. Yes, individuals are the ultimate arbiters of food choice. But our present food system makes unhealthful eating the default. We need to be working for government policies that make healthy eating the default. The San Francisco ordinance is a small step in that direction."

Monday, January 10, 2011

My new cookbooks.

I love that my friends know me and give such thoughtful gifts. For Christmas I received two new cookbooks that I am very excited about.

Bon Apetit Desserts was put together by the magazine's Editor-In-Chief Barbara Fairchild. It truly is a great reference book with 500 pages of every classic recipe that you can imagine and then some. This will keep me reaching for my cookbooks rather than running to the internet when I think to myself "Wait a much sugar is in pate brisee?" Cooking through this thing could give someone an education nearly as good as going to pastry school.

Also, to make sure I stay healthy while eating all the yummy desserts, I have Northwest Essentials by Gregory Atkinson. Obviously, the focus is on eating local food produced here in the Pacific Northwest. Mushrooms, apples, salmon, berries, mussels...and did you know hazelnuts are grown here? This one will definitely inspire me to hit the farmers markets when they come back in the late spring. I already made the chanterelle and potato gratin, and it was fantastic! (if a little liquidy, but that's nothing that can't be fixed)

Saturday, January 08, 2011

Pie is the New Cupcake

According to the NY Times at least. In a not so recent article (from November...where have I been?) Pie to Cupcake: Time's Up this hypothesis is proven.

I, for one, like this shift.

I was on the cupcake train for a good long time. Heck, I even worked making cupcakes at a cupcake shop for a while ("cupcake faeries" we called ourselves). So, you see, I don't have any ill will toward cupcakes. I think I will forever hold a special fondness in my heart for the taste of a Trophy Cupcake. Not to mention, cupcakes are great for a crowd and really easy to turn into little dessert flowers. But let's get down to the nitty gritty...the most important factors....what matters most when one is eating many people can eat more than 1/2 of a rich, buttercream frosted cupcake without wanting to...yarp?

Not so with the pie. A fruit pie can go a long way, be satisfying and delicious, leave you filled with delight but not feeling like you sat down and ate two sticks of butter on your own. I suppose that's depending on what kind of pie you eat, but you understand my generalization.

So I say, bring on the pies NY Times! Let me have it!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Herb Vinaigrette

Many thanks to the person who left this issue of Martha Stewart Living on the plane for me to find and read from my flight from Seattle to Burbank a few weeks ago. In this magazine I discovered the world's most perfect salad dressing recipe, made by Chad Robertson of Tartine Bakery in San Francisco (which of course now I'm dying to go to). I have already made the vinaigrette three times, and not only does it taste great on any and every form of leafy green, but it makes an amazing dip for bread also. It has the perfect amount of tang for my taste, however you may want to add a teaspoon of sugar or honey which is also acceptable.

If you are like me, you will have to go out and buy sherry vinegar. Don't substitute with a different vinegar! I promise you, you will be glad. The other ingredients are very easy to buy and keep around.

ps. I cheated and used dried herbs.
pps. Sorry no pictures again! I just get way too into my cooking to stop and find my camera. I already broke one of my resolutions! Aaaah, the photos will come, I promise!

Herb Vinaigrette

1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tablespoon grainy mustard
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1/2 teaspoon each finely chopped fresh {or dried!} tarragon and thyme
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Whisk together shallot, mustard, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, thyme, tarragon, salt and pepper. Gradually whisk in oil.