Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dirty Dozen

Okay, so there are plenty of good reasons to choose locally grown, organic produce whenever possible. However, I do understand that organic food is admittedly more expensive. If you want to maximize the good stuff, while minimizing the cost, you do have options. If you can avoid eating conventionally grown produce in the top 12 "Dirty Dozen" list, you can reduce your pesticide exposure by up to 80%! Holy moly! This list was compiled by the Environmental Working Group from approximately 87,000 studies by the USDA and FDA of the 47 fruits and vegetables listed between 2000 and 2007. Please bear in mind that there are many fruits and vegetables that are not on this list…these 12 were chosen simply because they are the most commonly consumed on a regular basis. Number 12 on the list is one you may find interesting (potatoes.)  Ask any potato farmer if they eat their own potatoes and the answer will be, point-blank, "never." Most of them preserve a separate plot of their land to grow their own organic potatoes that they feed to their own familes. The problem: root vegetables absorb herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides that wind up in soil. In the case of potatoes—the nation's most popular vegetable—they're treated with fungicides during the growing season, then sprayed with herbicides to kill off the fibrous vines before harvesting. After they're dug up, the potatoes are treated yet again to prevent them from sprouting. Try this little experiment; buy a conventional potato in a store, and then try to get it to sprout...it won't.

Shop organic only:
Sweet bell peppers
Grapes (imported)

Safe to buy conventional:
Sweet peas (frozen)
Sweet corn (frozen)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Eight Thanksgiving Survival Tips

Thanksgiving is tomorrow and there have been countless online discussions and recommendations on what to eat, how to eat, and how to stay healthy. Well, here is my list!

1. No Guilt. Okay, holidays are no time to start a diet or feel bad about poor eating habits. It’s all about family, tradition, and having a good time together. That said, a few simple adjustments, barely noticeable, but highly effective, can help you lower your stress levels this holiday.

2. Prepare a home cooked meal. It may be rich and full of calories, but at least you know whats in it and it’s low on preservatives, additives, colorings, and other artificial stuff your body does not need. Prepare the meal together with your significant other, children or friends and get the added benefit of quality time together.

3. Serve on small plates. Countless studies have shown that when plates are smaller, less food is placed on them, and less is eaten. Resist the urge to show off the entire China set, and use just the appetizer plates and soup bowls.

4. Color your table. The turkey, stuffing, gravy, and potatoes are all shades of beige-brown. Thank goodness for the cranberry sauce. But what about some hearty salads as sides too? Corn on the cob, Broccoli, beans, carrots and peas, beets, leafy greens, as well as peppers, eggplants, and so many other veggies can be an integral and healthy part of the meal.

5. Hors d’oeuvres. Make them small…tiny…bite size. This is important because most people consume 300 calories BEFORE the meal begins—just snacking!

6. Drink water and, of course, wine (my favorite!) But skip the soft drinks, juices, and other useless calories.

7. Wait before dessert. Take 20-30 minutes after finishing off the main course to let your body feel full. Then you'll be happy with a small portion.

8. Plan the next few days…you’ve got a long weekend ahead of you. Plan some physical activity outdoors; run, cycle, play basketball, or simply walk around the neighborhood. And don’t forget to have plenty of fruits and vegetables stocked up to accompany your leftovers from the holiday meal.

Most importantly, enjoy this magical holiday season.

Bon Appetit!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pan Roasted Duck Breast

Are you ready to spice up your dinner plans? This dish is absolutely delicious and super easy to prepare (recipe courtesy of Emeril.) The essence is a tad on the salty side, so you may want to adjust the amount of salt according to your taste. Add a side salad, steamed vegetables, or any side your heart desires and you have a delicious and satisfying meal in no time flat! I like baby field greens with shredded carrots and celery. Dress your salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar or a high quality salad dressing from your local health food store. I would avoid commercial salad dressings at all cost…they are loaded with MSG and other harmful additives.

• 3 duck breasts
• Essence (recipe below)
• 1 tablespoon olive oil

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):
• 2 ½ tablespoons paprika
• 2 tablespoons salt
• 2 tablespoons garlic powder
• 1 tablespoon black pepper
• 1 tablespoon onion powder
• 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
• 1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano
• 1 tablespoon dried thyme
Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Season the entire duck breast with Essence. In a large sauté pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil. When the oil is hot, add the duck breast, skin side down. Sear for 6 minutes. Flip the duck breast over and place the pan in the oven. Roast the breasts for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and allow to rest 2-3 minutes before slicing. Slice each duck breast into ½ inch pieces. Serve with fresh green salad or steamed veggies.  If at all possible, use organic spices for your Essence and choose organic duck breast if it is available.  Cooking for one? Not a problem, the Essence keeps for months if you store it in an airtight container.

Question of the Day

What do margarine and butter have in common? You can spread both of them on bread (you can also spread shoe polish on bread.) To make margarine, the oil must be hardened. This is done by bubbling hydrogen through the vegetable oil at high temperature. The hydrogen saturates some of the carbon-carbon bonds of the oil. The product then becomes hard or solid at room temperature. When the carbon bonds are saturated, the product is called a saturated fat. The final product also usually contains some trans-fatty acids, no matter what the label says. These are man-made fatty acids. Research shows that trans-fatty acids increase inflammation in the body. This can worsen illnesses such as colitis and arthritis. Very recent research indicates that trans-fatty acids in margarine raise LDL levels. LDL is the "bad" cholesterol. Yikes! Pass the butter, please.

What is butter? Butter is made from the cream that rises to the top if milk is allowed to sit for a time. Butter is made by churning cream. This causes a chemical reaction that causes the cream to harden slightly, giving it the buttery consistency. Butter is a fabulous fat that contains a number of natural fatty acids that are excellent for the body. Butter is an excellent source of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A, D, E and K. These are not found to any degree in margarine. The vitamin content of butter varies seasonally, depending on the diet of the animals from which it is derived.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Break An Egg!

Omelets look easy (and they are once you learn some tricks.) The most important thing to remember about making an omelet; if you mess up, don’t worry about it…just call it a scramble! Before you start, make sure you have all your fillings prepared and ready to go. If you are using veggies, be sure to lightly steam them ahead of time. First, wisk the eggs in a bowl, adding the salt and pepper.  Over medium-high heat, it takes only about a minute to cook an omelet. Stay focused…do NOT walk away from the pan! Constantly shake the pan to redistribute the eggs, roll the unset eggs around the edges (you want the base to be fairly done before you add the fillings.) Put the filling on one side, use a spatula to fold, and then slide the omelet onto the plate.

This is one of my favorite recipes, but you can use any fillings that your heart desires!

3 eggs
2-3 Tbsp Milk
Salt and pepper (adjust amount to your own taste)
Broccoli, steamed and cut into small pieces
Cheddar cheese, grated
Garnish with fresh parsley

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fast Food Worth Eating!

When conversation turns to restaurants that buy seasonal ingredients from area farms, fast food restaurants usually do not come to mind. Unless you’re talking about Chipotle Mexican Grill! When Steve Ellis opened his first Chipotle Mexican Grill in Denver in 1993, he knew that his success depended on the fresh, flavorful ingredients in the restaurant’s hand-prepared salsas and guacamole and on the marinade and dry rubs used on the never-frozen chicken, pork, and beef grilled on-site. For Chipotle and its suppliers, naturally raised animals are those served vegetarian feed and given neither antibiotics nor added-growth hormones. This goes far above and beyond the USDA’s requirements for “natural” meat. The company’s success has come because customers are willing to pay a little more for great-tasting, fresh food! To learn more, visit their website at http://www.chipotle.com/ and read their manifesto. Bon Appétit!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Healthy Tips For The Day

Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated. You can start today (yes, today!) Here are a few simple tips to get started.
1) Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants....Michael Pollan wrote it, live it!  2) Eliminate Processed Food: whether you are concerned about losing weight, feeling better, or helping the environment, eliminating processed foods is the answer.  3) Eat Local and Eat In Season: eat food that's in season whenever possible to ensure freshness and reduce food miles.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Brasco Broth

This delicious soup is filled with gelatin-rich, collagen-building substances and is a satisfying meal in itself. Protein and fat (yes, fat is good for you!), carbohydrates and fiber (supplied by the vegetables), and antimicrobial substances (supplied by the garlic). This soup is one of the many delicious digestive restoring recipes from “Restoring Your Digestive Health”; Jordan S. Rubin, N.M.D., and Joseph Brasco, M.D.
The use of organic produce and organic free-range chicken is ideal. However, if you are on a tight budget, it is okay to substitute conventional products. Just remember, the more wholesome and fresh the ingredients, the better the broth!


3 quarts filtered water
½ oz structured water additive (available at most health food stores)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
4-6 tablespoons coconut oil (4 is usually enough)
1 medium organic, free-range or kosher whole chicken, cleaned and cut into pieces (if you wish, you can substitute beef or another type of poultry for the chicken)
2-4 chicken feet (if you can find them, good luck!)
8 organic carrots, sliced
6 stalks of organic celery, sliced
3 medium-size organic white or yellow onions, peeled and diced
4 inches ginger, grated
5 cloves garlic, peeled and diced (omit if you have upper GI problems or severe heartburn))
2-4 tablespoons moist high-mineral Celtic sea salt
1 large bunch parsley

Place the filtered water in a large stainless steel pot, add the structured water additive and apple cider vinegar, and let stand for 10 minutes. Add the oil, chicken, chicken feet, vegetables, ginger, garlic, and sea salt; and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for 60 seconds, then lower the heat to the lowest setting possible and simmer for 12-24 hours. About 30 minutes before removing soup from the heat, add the parsley. Remove the soup from the heat. Remove and discard the chicken fee. Remove the chicken meat from the bones; and then place the meat back into the soup and discard the bones. This soup will keep up to five days in the fridge; it also freezes well.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cream vs. Non-Dairy Creamer

I must confess that I love coffee…the stronger the better…with whole milk (real milk, not non-dairy creamer.) Let’s see how these non-dairy alternatives measure up to the real deal.

So what is cream? Simple…it’s the butterfat layer that comes with real milk. That’s it…just butterfat. It’s about 64% saturated fat and has about 6g of fat per tablespoon, an amount I’d assume is sufficient for a mug of coffee.

Now what about the leader of the pack when it comes to flavoring coffee? Let’s look at the ingredient list for Coffee Mate Original, a variety of non-dairy creamer found in more than a couple household kitchens. “Corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut, palm kernel or hydrogenated soybean), sodium caseinate (a milk derivative but not a source of lactose), Dipotassium phosphate, mono- and digycerides, artificial flavor and annatto color.”

Okay, so we start off with corn syrup solids, which is corn syrup liquid dehydrated of most of its water. Next up is our good buddy, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (aka trans fats.) Here’s what I find mind boggling; coconut and palm kernel oils are both highly saturated, making them already stable at room temperature. Why is there a need to hydrogenate these oils? Then we have sodium casienate, which is marked as a milk derivative. Wow! How in the world is a product derived from milk considered “non-dairy”....hmmm? Regardless, it’s added to give a thicker creamier texture to the aforementioned sugar and trans fats. The dipotassium phosphate (or phosporic acid) and mono- and diglycerides basically serve to improve mouth feel, keeping ingredients together that normally don’t go together. Essentially, when you choose Coffee Mate in your coffee, you are basically pouring in sweetened trans fats.

Your best option: Ditch the Coffee Mate and go with full-fat cream or milk if you can’t stomach black coffee.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Beef and Green Bean Stew

The weather this morning was absolutely delightful. After weeks of searing heat and unbearable humidity, I awoke to a deliciously cool morning. Fall is my favorite time of year, and it paid an early visit this morning. I’ve been in the mood for soup lately, and today was the perfect day to experiment with a new recipe. This soup is satisfying, yet not too filling. Fresh green beans are fantastic, but frozen green beans just as well. If you’d like a more hearty soup, include potatoes and more carrots (sliced), along with an additional cup of beef stock.

2 lbs Beef (suitable for stewing) or Boneless Short Ribs
2 T Olive Oil
Fresh Ground Pepper
2 Cups Diced Onion
1 Cup Diced Carrots
1 Cup Diced Celery
3 Garlic Cloves, Minced
1 t Crushed Red Pepper
1 t Thyme
1 t Sea Salt
1 Cup Dry White Wine
28oz Diced Tomato (reserve liquid), preferably organic
4 cups beef stock (preferably homemade)
1 pound fresh, or 10 oz frozen and thawed green beans
½ cup minced fresh parsley

Wash and dry the beef, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. In a large pot, heat the olive oil and brown the meat on all sides. When meat is browned, remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the oil in the pan. Stir in onions and sauté until soft. Stir in the carrots and celery and continue to sauté until the onions begin to brown. Stir in the garlic and red pepper and cook for one minute. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has reduced by half. Return the meat and its juices to the pan, along with the tomatoes (and liquid reserve) and beef stock; stir well to combine. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the pan, turn the heat to low, and simmer until the meat is very tender (about 1 ½ - 2 hours) depending on the cut of beef. After the meat has simmered, stir in the green and parsley. Continue to simmer for 45 minutes, or until green beans are tender. Add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Delicious Homemade Mayonnaise

The difference between mayonnaise and some of the popular commercial spreads is actually frightening. For example, lets take a look at the ingredients in Miracle Whip; water, soybean oil, sugar, vinegar, food starch-modified, salt, cellulose gel, microcrystalline cellulose, mustard flour, egg white, artificial color, sodium caseinate, xanthan gum, cellulose gum, spice, paprika, natural flavor, betacarotene (color).  Yuk!  Now, here is a simple mayonnaise recipe; eggs, lemon juice, paprika, salt, and oil.  It's that simple (and I can pronounce all of the ingredients!)  Of course, when making homemade mayonnaise, it is important to choose the right oil. There has been an ever-expanding choice of oils at most local grocery stores over the past few years. Not long ago, our options were limited to corn, canola, safflower and maybe olive oil. But now choices include walnut, almond, coconut, grape seed and other types of oil as well (like fragrant truffle oil.)

A combination of olive oil and coconut oil is the perfect balance to providing a high quality and nutritious mayonnaise. Wow, mayonnaise can actually be healthy for you! This recipe is a good balance of coconut oil and olive oil in flavor. Yummy! The coconut oil adds just a tad of sweetness to it, without overpowering the olive oil.

1 whole egg (fresh, free range eggs from the farm are preferred)
2 egg yolks
1 T Dijon mustard
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t sea salt
1/4 t white pepper
1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil (melted)
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (preferably organic)

Combine the eggs, mustard, lemon juice, salt and white pepper in a blender or food processor. With the blender or food processor running on a low speed, start adding oils very slowly. Start out with drops and then work up to about a 1/16 inch stream. It takes a good 5 minutes to accomplish this, but the end result is well worth it! Continue blending until all the oil is incorporated; yields about 1 ½ cups. Place in refrigerator to thicken and store in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. may take the real food revolution to a new level. As endnotes to the movie put it, we can all vote to change the system, three times a day. Every choice we make of how to spend our food dollars, of what to put in our mouths, is a chance to say, this is what I value, this is what I want more of, and this is what nourishes me.

Remember when food was real?

Remember when food was real? I don’t...but most of our grandparents do. Sadly, most of what we are consuming today is not actually food at all. A stroll down the grocery store aisle can be a tempting experience. Rows and rows of delicious food all wrapped up in beautiful packages. Processed foods have been altered from their natural state to prolong shelf life. And scary as it seems, about 90% of the average grocery bill is spent on processed items. Fortunately, more people across the country are finding new and reliable ways to put fresher, healthier food on the dinner table. There has been an increased awareness on buying locally; milk, eggs and meat from the farm down the road, delicious tomatoes and peppers from an open-air market and herbs from your backyard. Increasingly, such choices are easier to find.

What's with the mysterious ingredients in food?

I find it interesting that something as simple as real food can be transformed into a complicated mess! See if you can guess what food product this is: A pasteurized blend of egg whites, water, nonfat dry milk, modified food starch (corn), corn oil, sodium steroyl lactylate, cellulose gum, magnesium, chloride, beta carotene (for color), ferric orthosphate, zinc sulphate, vitamin E acetate, calcium pantothenate, TBHQ (to maintain freshness), vitamins: cholecalciferol (D3), riboflavin (B2), pyridoxine hychloride (B6), thiamine (B1), cyanocobalamin (B12), folic acid.  These ingredients are so scary that my spell check didn’t even have any suggestions! Give up yet? Second Nature No Cholesterol Egg Product. Yikes! I think I’d rather take my chances on eating a real egg.

Where's the Beef?

The perfect compliment to homemade soup is homemade stock. Yum! Good beef stock should include grass fed, organic beef—and bones (the marrow and gelatin are particularly nutritious.) When pressed for time, it can be tempting to pick up a beef broth mix from the grocery store. Well, I wasn’t so tempted after reading these ingredients for a popular mix: Salt, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, sugar, monosodium glutamate, dehydrated onion, maltodextrin, dextrin (with beef extract and partially hydrogenated soybean oil), caramel color, autolyzed yeast, corn oil, dry malt syrup, disodium inosinate, disodium guaylate, natural flavor, not more than 2% silicon dioxide added as an anti-caking agent.  Really? Yuk! I can’t even pronounce most of these words, let alone begin to figure out where the beef is.  I think I'll pass.