On Food and Health
Archives: July 2009
I never advocate artificially-flavored-dyed-sweetened drinks. Planning ahead is better. I only allow bottled drinks as a last resort. My children drink pure water and eat a refreshing fruit medley over the course of their play day during the summer. The water keeps them hydrated, while the fruit medley provides electrolytes and calories. I am careful about allowing them to play outside for prolonged periods during very hot days. I prefer to punctuate outdoor activity with indoor rest to keep the heat stress under control.
Visit my sponsor,
This is my favorite summer fruit salad recipe:
All-Day Fruit Medley, serves 8
Amount Measure Ingredient
1 cup diced watermelon
1 cup red grapes
1 cup diced pineapple
1 cup diced cantaloupe
half cup chopped raw, unblanched almonds (or walnuts)
2 tablespoons local honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
half teaspoon sea salt
1. Dice the fruit into small, bite-size pieces.
2. Place all the ingredients in a bowl.
4. Serve chilled and enjoy!
Nutritional Facts for half cup serving: 103 Calories, 2g protein, 15g carbohydrate, 5g fat
Healthy & Seasonal!
For Northern Hemisphere Inhabitants, think all-things-fresh out of the garden. If you don’t have one, but want one now, why not buy grown and ready plants from your local nursery? If you don’t have a plot of dirt, use pots placed on a sunny window sill. Try tomatoes in a dozen different varieties, zucchini – squash and blossom, greens, peppers, cucumbers and green beans…avoid contaminating your food with pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Good compost and manual removal of pests ensures clean food from garden to table!
Do you do health food? Check out this site:
Squash Blossom Fondue
When your squash plants start budding flowers, clip a few. Cut the blossom at the base, blow off bugs and dirt (if any). They are rarely too dusty, but if they are, give them a gentle rinse under running water.
1. Place you blossoms on a lightly-buttered (or oiled) ceramic dish.
2. Arrange a modest amount of your favorite mild cheese(s) inside and over the blossom. Salt is optional, depending on the flavor of the cheese(s).
3. Add just a little more butter in tiny chunks (optional).
4. Sprinkle a light layer of bread crumbs over everything.
5. Bake at 350 degree F oven (or toaster over) for 10-12 minutes to melt the cheese.
6. Remove from the heat and eat immediately. Try a cheesy blossom over some French bread and enjoy heaven on earth!
Southern Hemisphere Inhabitants ~ July is the middle of winter, but the root veggies are ready for harvest: beets, carrots, celeriac, parsnip, rutabaga (Swede), turnips, radish, etc. Other delights include butternut squash, peas, spinach, chicory, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Chinese cabbage, kale and the long harvest greens like chard.
Maple-Sweet Butternut Squash and Pecan Bisque, serves 8
Amount Measure Ingredient
3 cups peeled and med. diced butternut squash
1 cup chopped celery
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons lightly roasted pecan
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup
3 tablespoons light olive oil
4 cups vegetable broth or water
2 cups fresh, unfiltered apple cider
one fourth teaspoon nutmeg
salt and pepper -- to taste
1. Toss the squash, celery, onion and garlic in the oil and spread over a cookie pan. Oven roast for 45 minutes at 390 degrees F (reduce roasting time by 20 minutes if using a convection oven).
2. Place the roasted ingredients in a soup pot and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, skimming any froth off the top with a ladle. Discard the froth.
3. Simmer for 30 minutes and remove from the heat.
4. Allow the soup to cool a bit, transfer to a blender, and puree to a smooth consistency.
5. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, as desired. Enjoy!
Nutritional Facts per 1 cup serving: 145 Calories, 1g protein, 22g carbohydrate, 6g fat
Visit my sponsor,
Is "Organic" Better?
This is a question that I frequently encounter. People want to know if it’s worth paying more (sometimes a lot more) for the organic label. While we can all agree that we want food that is produced free of chemicals, pesticides and all things that contribute to disease, global warming and pollution, does that little green symbol on the package truly give us what we want? How de we know that the organic denomination is not another marketing gimmick?
Visit my sponsor,
The National Organic Program (NOP), an administrative body set up by the USDA, says that Organic production is a system that integrates cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.* The NOP also accredits third parties (foreign and domestic) who inspect organic production and handling operations to certify that they meet USDA standards.**
Farmers passionate about organic practices point out that the language used by the NOP is not specific enough and that the many resulting loopholes have watered down the original significance of the organic movement. They believe that this has allowed some not-so-faithful producers (be them conglomerates or individuals), with less than sincere intentions, to use the organic label to project an undeserved image of organic wholesomeness. I agree with our passionate farmer friends on this point.
Another valid observation is that many organic-labeled producers are, in fact, factory farms. While the animals under their care may be feeding on organically-produced rations, the same crowded, forced production techniques from conventional farming practice are being applied. Similarly, large-scale, organic produce farming corporations must employ techniques of monoculture (the cultivation of a single crop) to be cost effective. The fertilizers and pesticides, while naturally-derived, must be taken from somewhere. Where? What are the environmental consequences?
In contrast, a few farmers are practicing techniques referred to as Beyond Organic. They are applying methods that are nearly or totally sustainable. In simplified terms, this means that their farms, tiny in comparison to factory farms, produce the plants they need to feed the animals and the animals produce the fertilizer the plants need to grow. This is a high art form where farm management is seamlessly integrated through the use of various species of animals and plants to nearly eliminate waste and the use of synthetic inputs – pesticides and fertilizers. Visit www.polyfacefarms.com and www.footstepsfarm.com to see living examples or read Michael Pollan’s landmark book, The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, for more information and references.
Notwithstanding ecoli scares and product alerts, conventionally-grown foods and the food system of the United States are safe. It is a system based on trust, buttressed by the rule of law, standards and regulations, and a desire for continued business: the conservation of livelihoods. Although accidents and recalls occur, these are rare and miniscule relative to the population size of this country. The negligence of a few is not an indicator of the whole – no one wins when a consumer takes ill!
Most people are willing to take the extra time to seek out the best food they can afford. I always encourage a path of food variety. The supermarket will always have everything we need, but local farmers’ markets are quickly becoming the shopping stop of choice for many, offering everything from handmade soap to cheeses, meat, fish, seafood, eggs, produce, jams and sauces.
It has been my experience that while many of the farmers and vendors there may not have an organic certification, all take pride in what they produce. They work hard to build their clients’ trust and will likely use little, if any, synthetic substances in their cultivars that are detrimental to health or environment. The best practice that we, as consumers, can employ is to develop a relationship with our local producers. Ask the questions that reassure quality and wholesomeness. For example, are your animals raised humanely? What do you feed them? Did you grow the foods that you’re selling? Do you use fertilizers or pesticides? What kind and how often? Purchase only after you have been sufficiently reassured and only if you believe that you are dealing with a trustworthy individual. Thereafter, continue to fortify this relationship and encourage the farmer to grow some of your favorite foods. Ultimately, the more people that patronize their own, local producers, the stronger their community.