Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Dietary Guidelines

Okay--I may not have stated clearly, but I am actually on vacation this week, and I don't have the best internet connection. Not That I really want to be plugged in during a glorious week at the beach. But I don't want to just hang up a big ol' closed sign. But I am going to take the easy way out today.

I have become a huge Ed Bruske fan. He is a Washington Post reporter (Former? Did I read that? I am not sure.) Who lives in D.C. and has become very involved with his daughter's school and the school lunch crusade in general. His blog is lovely because he rotates between posts about gardening and cooking and more political postings about food politics and school lunch. I am very interested in nutrition and nutrition education (or the lack there of) and last week had had an amazing post about the new governmental dietary guidelines. Rather than take credit for all his hard work and try summarize his words, I am simply going to provide a link to his posting. Enjoy!

The Slow Cook: A Very Different Sort of Dietary Guidelines

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Truth About Carbs, Day 2

More from my dear friend Christopher. Please check out yesterday's post, if you haven't already, for the full story. And again, you can find Christopher at his websites, and

Part Two – The Most Common Questions About Carbohydrates

(**NOTE – ‘Carbohydrate’ as discussed in this section refers to all digestible starches/sugars, whether the food source is considered ‘healthy’ (sweet potato, piece of fruit, brown rice, etc.) or ‘unhealthy’ (soda, cookies, candy, etc.).

Q: Are Carbohydrates Bad?

A: Of course, carbohydrates aren’t inherently evil. At the very least, they provide you with a burst of energy when you really need it; at best they’re an energy source packed full of vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc.

The thing is:
· We’re overeating carbs that are (essentially) trash – highly processed, high starch, high sugar varieties – while under eating those that our body prefers -- low sugar and nutrient-rich carbs like berries, leafy greens, and fibrous vegetables and fruits.
· We’re eating more sugar now than ever before (from an estimated 4 lbs/yr at the turn of the 20th century, to 150 lbs/yr today).

And all of this has society at large experiencing astronomical levels of obesity and chronic disease. That’s what’s ‘bad.’

Q: Are there exceptions to the kinds of carbohydrates I can eat? How about to when I can eat them?

A: In terms of achieving fat loss and reducing risk of developing chronic disease, there's little doubt that the best carbs for you are those with low starch/sugar content. Now, if the thought of living predominantly on leafy greens, berries and fibrous veggies makes you want to scream, here are a few things to consider before deciding to go heavy on starch or sugar:

· Your genetics. If you have a family history linked to ailments like obesity, heart disease or diabetes, you're likely better off leaning toward low starch/low sugar carb choices.
· Your genetics (Part II). If you happen to have a body that functions well on starchier foods, it is up to you to listen to your body and understand ‘how much is best.’

· Your current activity level. (i.e. Have you earned your starch?) Essentially, if you're going to eat starchier carbs, do it early in the day or in conjunction with strength training/other rigorous activity. These are the times when your body is most metabolically active and/or when muscle is demanding fuel, helping to ensure that the starch you do eat is put to good use by the body.

· Your current state of health/ The amount of fat you're trying to lose. If you're living with illness such as heart disease, diabetes, hypertension or cancer, you really ought to consider keeping sugar and starch ingestion to a minimum - if you eat it at all. Same goes if you've got significant body fat to lose.

The point here is that for the sake of your health and performance, you really have to make a diligent attempt at consistently eating reduced amounts of sugar and starch. Why? Because insulin - the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels - has been shown to play a role in obesity as well as many of the chronic diseases that afflict us today. Controlling sugar intake = regulating insulin = less body fat/reduced risk for chronic illness.

Q: Are all carbs created equal?

A: No. Aside from differences in nutrient content (vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, etc.), the most obvious difference between foods is the amount of digestible starches and sugars you get.

Q: How do you figure out the sugar content the food?

A: Look at the food's nutrition information, paying attention to the ‘Total Carbohydrate’ value (measured in grams). Subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrate, and the remaining number is the amount of starch/sugar you're getting per serving. It goes without saying that, if you're trying to keep your sugar intake low, you'll have to either choose foods with naturally low sugar content OR reduce the portion size. If you're hungry, of course, I'd suggest choosing the foods "low on the sugar scale" so you can eat to your stomach's content.

Q: Can you give specific examples of ‘good, low-in-sugar carbohydrates’ to eat?

A: The best carbs to eat in terms of regulating blood sugar are those providing high nutrient value, sustenance and minimal starch or sugar content. Examples include: salad greens, asparagus, artichokes, cauliflower, cabbage, celery, carrots, broccoli, garlic, green beans, mushrooms, onions, peppers, tomatoes, radishes, turnips, spinach and squash. Fruits include: cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, grapes, peaches and oranges.

Q: Does Low Carb = No Carb?

A: One big misconception of low carb nutrition seems to be that low carb is synonymous with no carb -- that carbs are completely axed from the daily menu when you follow a ‘low carb’ nutrition plan.

Simply put, this isn't the case.

In fact, instead of calling the diet ‘low carb’, it should probably be referred to as ‘low starch’ and/or ‘low sugar’ to remove some of the confusion.

Low carb suggests that we regularly choose carbohydrate sources that are low in starch and sugar. While this surely reduces our daily cumulative intake of starch and sugar, it doesn't necessarily equate to reduced consumption of foods considered to be ‘sources of carbohydrate.’

How? Because, as stated above, not all carbs are created equal.

Many people think ‘carbs’ and picture foods like bread, pasta, quinoa, baked potato, wheat flour and rice . . . foods that taste good, are full of energy and loaded with starch and sugar.

But carbs also consist of foods like spinach, lettuce, zucchini, broccoli, mushrooms, avocado, cantaloupe, raspberries, strawberries . . .foods full of vitamins and minerals, full of fiber and low in starch and sugar.

Low carb is about quantity - quantity of starch and sugar that we eat - but it's more about quality. It's about choosing carbs that provide significant nutrient density without overloading us with sugar and provoking chronic secretion of insulin. Look to eat quality carbohydrates (in terms of starch and sugar content) and there will be plenty of quantity to indulge in.

Q: I knew that your body could use protein for energy. However, I was led to believe carbohydrates are the better source. What's the deal here?

A: While it's true that carbohydrates are commonly considered the nutrient that ‘provides energy’ to the body, I'd contend that protein is the better source (for us) for these reasons:

· Protein consumption is essential for our survival. Carbohydrate consumption is not. Is it not logical to reason that if you ‘can't live without it,’ it's ‘better’?

· Protein is more nutrient dense, so you get ‘more bang for your nutrient buck.’ Put another way, because protein has so much nutritional value, you can eat less to get more of what the body requires, whether it be energy or a particular amino acid. (Example: To ingest 65 grams of protein, you could eat 8 ounces of elk meat OR you could eat 13 heads of lettuce or 56 bananas or 261 apples or 33 slices of bread. (from The Protein Power Lifeplan, p.9))

· Protein consumption doesn't elicit an insulin release like carbohydrate does. So, with protein you get the benefit of energy and nutrition while also regulating blood sugar and insulin levels. (which promotes reduced body fat, which decreases risk of disease . . . )

Q: How do I keep sugar/starch consumption to a minimum?

A: A few suggestions:

· Consume fresh, whole foods (especially of the leafy green, fibrous veggie, berry varieties) as often as possible. If you can't eat it fresh, frozen is usually the next best option.

· Minimize consumption of processed foods.

· Stay away from low fat foods. To replace fat content, sugar is often added to the food source. So, ironically, a ‘low fat’ food has more potential to fatten you than the ‘regular’ version . . . all because of the sugar added.

Thanks for reading! This, of course, only covers one small variable in the topic of holistically healthy nutrition. For more information that can help you get your nutrition and health on track, please visit

Monday, June 28, 2010

Guest Blogger: The Truth About Carbs, Day 1

Christopher Warden is a dear friend and an amazing personal trainer. One of the best I might add, as he was crucial to me regaining my pre-baby body (it ain't exactly the same, but he helped me become stronger than i ever had been). I have asked him to write a little something for The Table of Promise this week while I am on vaca and so I have two lovely postings about his expertise on Carbohydrates, that most misunderstood of nutrients. You can find Christopher at his various websites, and and also Thank You, Christopher!!


Finding information about ‘what to eat’ and ‘how to be healthy’ is easy . . .

. . . knowing what info is trustworthy and high-quality is another matter altogether. The topic of carbohydrates illustrates a perfect example of this. So much is written about them, but millions remain confused, if not misinformed.

How do I know?

Well, aside from the time I spend educating myself on nutrition -- wading through volumes of confusing and conflicting information – I spend the better part of each day fielding questions from clients who are trying to get a handle on the topic so that they can optimize their performance, aesthetics and health.

And the questions (debates?) never stop.

Not from my clients – from everywhere. I hear people debating about carbohydrates all over the gym floor. I hear conversations in the street. On the subway. In restaurants. On Oprah . . . and I rarely watch Oprah.

So, as a way to help curb the confusion about carbohydrates (and to make it easier for me to relay the information without getting a sore throat from talking incessantly), I’ve put together this report on the topic.

To keep things simple – and to keep the reading light – the report is written in Q & A format . . . It’s just me, answering questions as if you and I were sitting down having a conversation together. Part One aims at ‘defining carbohydrate and it’s components’ (sugar, starch and fiber) – a technical FYI, if you will; Part Two focuses on answering the questions most commonly asked about carbohydrates, including the types to eat . . . and why.

Enjoy! And if you have any questions or comments after reading, please feel free to contact me at

Part One -- What the #@*% Is A Carbohydrate? And Why Do We Discuss Them So Often?

Q: What is a carbohydrate?

A: Carbohydrate:

· is one of six nutrients utilized by the body. (The other five are protein, fat, vitamins, minerals and water.)

· exists in simple or complex form. Simple carbohydrate is sugar. Complex carbohydrates (simple carbohydrates linked together) are known as starch and fiber.

· is primarily used as a fuel source. The building block for (nearly) all carbohydrates - the simple sugar glucose - is a universal source of fuel for all cells, particularly the brain.

Q: Where are carbohydrates found?

A: Anything containing sugar, starch or fiber is a carbohydrate. Bread, pasta, oatmeal, cereal, baked goods, candy, rice and potatoes are considered most often, but it's safe to say that every food source from the plant kingdom (leaves, vegetables, fruits, legumes, fungi) - as well as nuts and dairy products - contains carbohydrates.

Q: What is sugar?

A: Sugar is the simplest form of carbohydrate. It either "stands alone" - as sugars like sucrose (cane/table sugar), lactose (milk sugar), maltose (malt beverages), fructose (fruit/corn sugar) and glucose (blood sugar) - or it's linked together in chains to create the complex carbohydrates -- starch and fiber.

Q: What's the difference between sugar, starch and fiber?

A: Sugar, as mentioned above, is the simplest form of carbohydrate and requires little/no processing before being absorbed and used as a fuel source the body. Sugar (especially glucose) is also the building block for starch and fiber.

Starch is a complex carbohydrate that can be broken down, absorbed and used by the body.

Fiber is a complex carbohydrate that is unable to be broken down and absorbed by the body.

Q: Are carbohydrates essential for survival?

A: Contrary to common belief, carbohydrate is not an essential nutrient for survival. Is it tolerable and usable? Absolutely. But if carbohydrates were unavailable to us, we could get/create all the energy we needed from fat and protein. (That being said, every individual has his/her particular needs – some can tolerate only minimal, fibrous carbohydrate . . . while others thrive on higher proportions of starch in their diet. It is incumbent on each individual to listen to his/her body (hopefully one that’s healthy!) and understand it needs.)

Q: Why are carbohydrates such a significant topic of conversation?

A: Countless studies show that one of the key factors to health and fitness is the control of insulin - the hormone whose primary role is to regulate blood sugar levels. Chronic, excessive consumption of starches and sugars - something very easily accomplished with the prevalence of grains and processed foods - contributes to chronic, excessive secretion of insulin. This, in turn, has been linked to many of the diseases of civilization: diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, colitis and cancer, to name a few. Carbohydrates are and will remain an important topic of discussion as professionals educate the masses about the ideal carbohydrate sources for controlling blood sugar, insulin release and overall health.

Tomorrow Christopher will answer the two most common questions about carbohydrates.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust, Take 2

Fridays have turned into Pizza Fridays here at my house. It always seems that we have friends over or we just feel like having pizza on Fridays. It has been this way for 5 weeks or so!

Well this week our CSA recommended a pizza recipe of spinach, feta and garlic scapes and that sounded amazing. So I made it but also added parmesean cheese, olives and onions. I simply cannot eat pizza without onions. And we had some lovely friends over to share it! Our friends have also recently had their second child so the decibal level in the house definitely went higher than normal.

I would like to take this time to revamp the whole wheat pizza crust recipe previously posted. Since the weather has been so hot and humid, my pizza dough has been too sticky and has needed almost a cup of additional flour. Since that actually creates more dough that then doesn't fit on my pan I decided to adjust the recipe for all to see,

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust

1 cup all purpose flour 1 cup whole wheat flour
1 pkg instant yeast (.25 oz)
1/2 tsp salt
6-7 oz water, warmed to 110 degrees (i used the hottest tap water I could get out of my tap and it was fine)
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1-2 tablespoons of honey (use sugar if you are feeding a baby under one year, like I am)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare pizza pan by spraying with non-stick cooking spray (i just lined the pan in foil) Combine all dry ingredients, except whole wheat flour, into a large mixing bowl. Next, add liquid ingredients and gradually add whole wheat flour, until dough mixture becomes stiff and hard to stir. You may not have to use all the whole wheat flour. However if the dough mixture is still too moist, feel free to add more all purpose flour to stiffen the dough. Cover the bowl with a clean towel and set aside for 20-25 minutes, allowing the dough to rise. Empty dough out onto a clean, floured surface. Knead by had 6-8 times, it may be necessary to add additional flour to the surface to keep the dough from sticking. Roll into desired shape and thickness. Place rolled dough onto prepared pizza pan, add favorite sauce and toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes, depending on crust thickness.


Some highlights of the evening? Thing 1 dancing in his underwear and rainboots to Thing 2 hitting the piano to make "music". We ran out of paper towels and I had to use a nearby clean diaper to clean up a spill (way more pricey than paper towels!) Both Things passing out ahead of schedule due to extreme exhaustion. *Sigh*

I thought I would also include a final picture of what our kitchen looked like AFTER everyone had eaten and went home. For all you folks out there who wonder how we can cook all these meals, well, our house is a wreck most of the time! Enjoy!

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Bad Good Day

Yesterday I had an especially busy day at my office. Client meetings, a little entertaining, one meeting pushed back and all of a sudden I found myself eating croissants for breakfast and burgers for lunch and then for dinner, a half eaten week old muffin. That is really what put me over the edge.

I have been keeping a really good pace recently. But if there was a day for food to go horribly wrong, today was an okay day. Overall, meetings went well, bad situations ended up benefiting me. Even though I was late catching my train it was particularly fast this morning and I got to work on time. You know, one of those. But the food was really good bad. I am pleased to say that my baker's muffin from The City Bakery was excellent. They use all organic flours, and it is only lightly sweetened, but sooo delicious. My customer wanted to order lunch today and so we got amazing burgers from a little bistro around the way. Oh My Goodness! I never get bacon on my burger, and today I didn't ask them to make it without it, so guess what!! And I finished the fries. They were amazing.

But Dinner was the worst. I was so full from the burger that I couldn't eat dinner with the kids. So I waited until later and by the time everyone was asleep I was so tired that all I could do was finish a half eaten muffin I had bought at the farmer's market last weekend.

The funny thing is, everything I ate was organic or high quality. But I am realizing that that isn't the point. It is great that I minimized my effect on the environment by supporting organic agriculture. But since I literally did not eat any vegetables, I definitely did not give my body the fuel that it needs. While I value organic farming a whole lot, my body's health and well being is actually more important. I think that is the moral of my story thus far. Healthy food, veggies, fruits, whole unprocessed grains, eating the right foods is more important that eating organic if your organic choices are going to be highly processed.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Organic and Biodynamic Wines

I don't have any pictures to show you, because unfortunately that is what wine does to me. It makes me crazy forgetful.

Last Friday I had some girlfriends over for some yummy homemade pizza, a great homemade white bean puree and organic wine. Unfortunately no one really drank the wine. Well, I say unfortunately, but actually it was very fortunate for me!! I got to indulge myself all weekend!

I went to a nearby wine store, Vines on Pine. (Follow the link for their website an yes they do ship) There are a couple of larger wine and spirit stores in our area, but they are 10-15 blocks in either direction. That's kind of far for just one bottle, and really far for five heavy bottles. They are great stores, but they have an intimidatingly large selection. I guess some people like all that choice. I would much rather a manageable selection of wines that I knew I could not make a mistake with. Enter Vines on Pine. They are a small locally owned store front on Pinehurst Avenue in Northern Manhattan. Their selection is tight, but every bottle that I have gotten there has been excellent. And the varietals have all been different and interesting, many from small farms or vinters. I have had some great bottles from the larger wineries at the $10-15 price point, but at Vines on Pine I get to try things that I never would choose on my own. That's because I always ask the gentleman who runs the store and makes the buy. He has a vast knowledge of his inventory and always suggests something great while staying within my price range.

So before my friends came over I asked him for help with organic wines. Surprisingly he had an extensive selection. Some wines in the store were labeled as organic or biodynamic (more on that later) and others were not labeled, but my new friend knew the vineyard was organic, even if it wasn't certified. One must take into consideration the international nature of wine in it's relationship to the organic movement. The legal term 'organic' is an American invention. Yes, I am sure that it came from a variety of places and countries. But when the USDA created the certification process and legally defined the term 'organic' to mean no pesticides and non chemical fertilizers, etc. it became a word with a specifically American meaning here in the US. Other countries have farming regulations, but when you buy a product in this country that is labeled 'organic' it needs to meet USDA Organic standards. Wines comes from everywhere. Many international vineyards are adhering to the USDA standards without purchasing the coveted USDA organic logo through certification. It can be prohibitively expensive for some small farms. I don't care about certification because food is about trust. If I am putting the fruits of your labor into my body, I need to trust you. And if I trust that you are being honest with me in telling me the way you grow and prepare my food, then we will do business. Fortunately at Vines on Pine I trust that they are knowledgeable on what is organic and not.

Now biodynamic farming is different. It has a more extensive definition, and I do not believe that this terminology is regulated by the USDA (at least not yet). But it BEYOND organic. Wikipedia describes it as:

"a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a self-nourishing system without external inputs insofar as this is possible given the loss of nutrients due to the export of food.
Regarded by some as the first modern ecological farming system and one of the most sustainable, biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts and excluding of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar."

I have started to see a few places define themselves as biodynamic. Particularly our local Hawthorne Valley which I have mentioned a few times here on this blog. I will be sad the day that the USDA decides to regulate that term.

I purchased two reds and one white. The white was a Blanc de Pacs 2009 Parellada Xarello Macabeu from Spain. The reds were Mas de Gourgonnier Les Baux de Provence Appellation les Baux de Provence Controlee 2008 from France, and the other bottle got recycled before I could write down the title. They were all excellent.

Now I love wine, but I am really intimidated by the culture that surrounds it. My palette is relatively simple, and I cannot always distinguish between cherry and blackberry notes. I know what I like, not much wood, clean finish, drinkable with food but on it's on too. I really like a smooth mellow red, and for a white, something tart and crisp. All of the bottles that I got were excellent. One thing I dislike in a red wine is too many tannins. Tannins are of course that bitter taste that you get in the finish of the sip of red wine. I noticed that neither of the red wines had the bitter flavor of tannins. It seemed like a cleaner finish. I attribute this to less sulfites and a cleaner product.

Overall, I definitely tasted a difference in the organic and biodynamic wines. I will absolutely look for them again. Most of all I was really pleased with the amount of selection. Not just from my local store but from the wine industry in general. I was actually really surprised that there were so many vineyards adhering to better farming techniques. But I should have suspected it, after all, there are few as passionate as the winemaker. And those with passion tend to go the extra mile for a higher quality product.


Biodynamic agriculture. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 23 June, 2010

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

CSA Week 3

So there it was, Tuesday morning. I knew a new batch of veggie goodness was to be delivered in the evening. But I still had veg from last week's CSA delivery! What's a busy girl to do??

Well, the last of the radishes got tossed in my salad. And the head of vitagreens got worked into breakfast. You may have noticed that my Honey Ice Cream recipe uses 9 egg yolks. And that is just half of the original recipe!!! (though a full batch of Gale Gand's vanilla ice cream won't fit into my ice cream maker.) Don't throw out 9 egg whites! They are of course full of healthy protein, virtually no fat and no cholesterol. All of an egg's cholesterol is concentrated in the yolk. Though today there is significant evidence that an eggs are healthy regardless of their cholesterol.

In a big pan I sauteed the vita greens with a chopped up garlic scape in a little butter (I should have used more butter, it stuck so bad it was more like scrambled egg whites). When the greens were all cooked, I evened out the greens so that they were evenly distributed in the pan and poured the egg whites over them. It was when I tried to flip them things got ugly. The enormous omelet broke up into three pieces. But wait! I can fix this!! I put one of the unattractive pieces onto two slices of whole wheat sourdough bread along with some cheddar cheese. Whoa. It was beautiful again. And amazing. What a great way to start the day. Too bad that Thing 2 turned his nose up at it. And I do mean straight up!!

And I am pleased to say that I ate all my CSA veggies before I picked up this week's share. It is a rare, but momentous occasion.

This week from the CSA we got Spinach--really lovely spinach I might add, last week's spinach liquefied before I got a chance to eat it--kholrabi, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, a big bunch of radishes (I am kind of disappointed that I didn't choose the turnips but the radishes were so delectable looking), bok choy and strawberries. I cannot wait to dive into that spinach. The farmer recommended making pizza with feta cheese and spinach and garlic scapes. That sounds like it is right up my alley. I can go to the Union Square Green Market tomorrow for some fresh sheep's milk feta!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Honey Ice Cream

Forgive the pictures, I couldn't get the blogger software to work right and now the eaten picture is the first one you see. It is completely out of chronological order.

I thought I would sneak in one last posting about sugar. There are natural sources of sugar of course, rather than processed corn and refined cane. Maple syrup is a staple in our house to sweeten oatmeal and yogurt, and of course, there is honey.

Honey comes from bees. Duh. Worker bees have a special 'honey stomach' in which they store sugary flower nectar. Upon returning to the hive they regurgitate and re-ingest the nectar a number of times until it is partially digested. The bees work together in this process until the honey is of the desired quality. If that grosses you out, well, more honey for me!

I had heard most of that, but I did not know that honey is particularly low in water content. It's shelf life can be measured in decades (sometimes centuries). When it is fresh in the hive, the liquid nectar is still high in water and yeast, which would make it ferment if left unchecked. The bees actually flap their wings inside the hive creating a strong draft that helps the water evaporate. This removes the water and prevents fermentation. Speaking of fermentation, honey does still contain some natural yeast and it is the main ingredient in mead. Now my brother makes beer in his home (really good beer I might add) so I bet I could find out a way to make mead. Hmmmmm.....I am going to have to look into that.

Some honey facts (because you know I love incidental information):

The sugar profile of honey is closest to that of high-fructose corn syrup in that honey is liquid at room temperature. Typically honey is 38.2% fructose, 31.3% glucose, 1.3% sucrose, 7.1% maltose, 17.2% water and 1.5% higher sugars. Honey tastes about as sweet as table sugar.

Humans began hunting for honey at least 10,000 years ago as evidenced by cave painting in Valencia, Spain. The paintings show two women carrying baskets and using a long wobbly ladder to reach the wild nest.

The Maya regard the bee as sacred.

In some parts of post-classical Greece it was formerly the custom for a bride to dip her fingers in honey and make the sign of the cross before entering her new home.

In Jewish tradition, honey is a symbol for the new year, Rosh Hashana. The traditional new year dinner includes apple slices dipped in honey to bring in a sweet new year.

Excessive heat can have negative effects on the nutritional value of honey. At around 98-104 degrees Fahrenheit much of the antibacterial properties and enzymes are destroyed. Around 120 degrees Fahrenheit the honey sugars caramelize. Apparently you can make caramel sauce from honey. I saw it done on one of those shows where families try to eat locally for 90 days or such.

Well, I wanted to make some ice cream this weekend. And I thought it would be fitting to make ice cream with honey rather than sugar. I bought cream from Milk Thistle as well as milk. I used 2% milk but you could use whole milk or even half and half (which is really just half cream and half whole milk). And I also got my eggs from the farmer's market and I bought my honey at our Farmer's Market from a place called Nature's Way Farm. I bought the most amazing wildflower honey for $5.50 for a one pound glass jar. They have several varieties though. The only thing that wasn't local about my ice cream was the vanilla and the cinnamon.

The recipe I used here I altered from an amazing basic vanilla recipe that I found at the Food Network Website. It is from Chef Gale Gand of Chicago. It is a great basic recipe that is just ripe for the addition of flavors. The egg yolks are essential for that custardy flavor. A lot of recipes omit them, but I find it has a real homemade flavor because of them.

Honey Ice Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 cups milk or half and half
9 egg yolks
3/4 of a cup of honey
1 teaspoon vanilla
A couple of shakes of cinnamon

Put a large mixing bowl in the freezer to chill. In a saucepan over medium heat, bring the milk and cream to a simmer, stirring occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't burn or stick to the bottom of the pan. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey, vanilla and cinnamon. When the cream mixture reaches a fast simmer turn it off, do not let it boil! In a thin stream, whisk half of it into the egg yolk mixture. Then pour the egg-cream mixture into the saucepan containing the rest of the cream mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. At 160 degrees, the mixture will give off a puff of steam. When the mixture reaches 180 degrees, it will be thickened and creamy, like eggnog. If you don't have a thermometer, test it by dipping a wooden spoon into the mixture. Run your finger down the back of the spoon. If the stripe remains clear, the mixture is ready, if the edges blur, it is not quite thick enough yet. When it is ready, quickly remove from the heat. Meanwhile, remove the bowl from the freezer, put 4 handfuls of ice cubes in the bottom, and add cold water to cover. Rest a smaller bowl in the ice water.
Strain the cream mixture through a fine sieve to remove any pieces of cooked egg, into a smaller bowl. Chill 3 hours, then freeze according to the directions for your ice cream maker.

It was nice to know that my ice cream was local. And this recipe made about a liter and a half of ice cream. I used my super premium milk and so total the 3 pints of ice cream cost me about $16 for the ingredients used. That is more than a half gallon of Bryer's, but I think about even to three individually purchased pints of Haagen Dazs.

It was delicious. It will be equally delicious every night this week. Michael Pollan in In Defense of Food says that we should be able to eat as many high fat foods as we are willing to make at home. Now yogurt has been easy to make, and I have been making that every week since I wrote about it. But ice cream really requires you to be standing over the pot for the whole time it cooks. That doesn't work for me. I will make ice cream once in a while, but I think it is more likely that we will just eat it less, maybe once a month instead of every week.
Honey. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 18 June 2010.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are There Things I Shouldn't Eat?

The above questions came to me yesterday as we ordered lunch. It was of course Father's Day and a little family tradition has become getting brick oven pizza on Father's Day. DH really really really loves pizza. As we were ordering I had a real hankering for a Coke. I will drink a Diet Coke every now and then, but a full calorie Coke is a rare occasion. And I am even rethinking the Diet Coke thing because I don't know enough about the apspartame.

But as I was ordering, I stopped to think, after doing so much research about sugar this week, should I be drinking soda? It is a philosophical questions of course. A full calorie soda once a month will not be a huge hit to your health. And I have always been a "moderation" kind of person. I love the rich food, but I am able to have it once in a while and really enjoy it. However my hesitation yesterday was about principle. If I disagree with the politics behind a certain food or company, does that mean I can never eat it again?

I maintain that I have always tried to eat well with the food I have control over. I try to buy organic, try to cook most things from scratch. But if someone invited me over to their home I would NEVER turn my nose up at the food I was given. I feel that regardless of my principles that would be very rude. But what about that odd time I am craving a Coke? That is kind of gray.

There are some things I would never eat. But they are usually the kind of things that are gross AND against my principles (KFC's Double Down anyone??) But what do I do in this case? I am undecided.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Clever Time Saving Tricks

When I tell people about my 'little project', to get myself and the fam off processed foods as much as possible, I usually get one of two responses. Sometimes people tell me, "Oh I don't eat processed food." (More about that response later.) The other one I hear is "How are you able to stay away from the junk? How do you possibly have time? That requires so much effort."

I won't lie. It does require alot of effort. But let's face it. It is not rocket science, it is not beyond my capabilities, and I am really passionate about this. And with some proper planning it can be pretty easy. But there are a couple general rules that make it this way:

1. We are home every night. One of us at least. We have kids!! DH and I don't troll the social circuit, so we rarely have to face the 'grab-something-quick-maybe-fast-food' dilemma. We want the kids in bed at a certain time, it helps for behavior for them to be on a schedule. Because we are home so often we have alot more control over what we eat.

2. We cook. We cook every night. Take-Out has become a once or twice a month phenomenon in our house. But overall we are committed to cooking. It has become a habit, but commitment is key.

3. I bring a salad to work virtually every day. While I will go out and get some protein at a local healthy favorite City Bakery (I swear their food talks to me as I walk down the street. If you live in NY and you haven't been, you must go this weekend), I bring a salad to work almost every day. I really love salads, so it is not a terrible thing. I am not doing it to try and become a better person. I would choose a salad over a burger most days. But I have found that being in the routine of bringing a salad helps me to ensure that I get all my veggie servings in a day. Then I don't worry so much if dinner is steak and potatoes. If I don't have a good veg to go with a dinner, at least I know I had over 2 cups of greens with all kinds of raw goodies at lunch. Also salads are really easy to make. I rip up some lettuce and throw it in a tupperware, sprinkle a few croutons, chop up a carrot and an avocado if they are in season. And boom, done. I will make a big batch of dressing on the weekends and leave it in the refrigerator at work all week. You could even prep a head or two of lettuce on Sunday and have a salad mix in a large tupperware just waiting for you all week. That is a two second salad!

4. Cook on the weekends. I usually spend a couple hours each weekend cooking. I try and make a special large Sunday dinner, that we can eat leftovers or use the leftovers to make something else (glorious roast chicken becomes chicken tacos??) Then weeknight cooking is easier because as you know, I only get 10-15 minutes to bring a meal together on a weeknight.

5. Make big batches of freezable things on the weekends and freeze them in single use sizes. I will make a big batch of things I know freeze well, spaghetti sauce, soup, pesto. Then I freeze in one time use sizes so that all I have to do is grab and defrost and go. I am known for making two lasagnas at once, because it is a heck of a lot of work to make lasagna!! Make two at the same time and then freeze a whole tray. I am envious of anyone reading that has room for a separate deep freezer. I am so limited by them amount I can store. I yearn for a day when I can buy 15 pounds of local cherries in season and then freeze them and nibble on them for months down the line. My freezer is small, so I can't store alot.

6. We eat pasta once if not twice a week. I don't have an issue with carbs and I have read that pasta is a low glycemic index carb which does not raise the blood sugar as much as say white bread (does anyone care to comment??). So I don't have issues. But with Pasta you can saute any veggies lying around the house, and leftover meat, it can be a super quick catch-all-get-rid-of-the-random-stuff kind of dish.

7. Find a good grocery store. I do buy a few items premade. Croutons are a good example. But I am careful to buy my supermarket's brand because they bake the bread and they use their loaves to make croutons. I know that I am getting a fairly homemade product. Their ingredient list is short. If I were to buy a name brand, it would come with 40 ingredients and it would be sealed in a silver plastic pouch with all kind of additives to keep it fresh on the shelves for weeks before I maybe bought it. By buying the store brand (and from a local store) it may not truly local fare, but the ingredients are alot cleaner and I can purchase a ready made product without fear of contaminating additives. Grocery store chains are doing this all over the country now. If you can find a good quality chain with a small number of local stores your chances are better. Look for simple packaging. My croutons come in an open ended plastic bag with a twist tie, not packaged for a long stay on a store shelf.

8. When you are cooking on the weekends, make things that take a long time to cook, but not a long time to prep. Broth based soups are a good example. You can throw the items in a pot and walk away. The thing is--COOK ON LOW HEAT! If you cook on low heat, things take a little longer, but if you have kids, you can leave things like soup or pasta sauce or beans or strawberry jam or braised meats (pot roast?? Yum!) cooking on the stove top without fear that they will burn. Your slow cooking fare does not need to be stirred every thirty seconds. Just check on it when you need to. But otherwise, WALK AWAY and do something else.

9. Snack on things that are whole (or mostly whole) that are ready to eat, nuts, dried fruits, yogurt (not really a whole food, but definitely good for you if you are going with a plain variety), whole fruits or raw veggies. These filling snacks are packed with nutrients and require no prep time at all.

I am sure there are others. But this is a good starter list of what we do in our house to make it through a crazy week and still make room for the foods we feel will fuel us best. Does anyone else out there have others?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sugar and School Lunch

School lunch is a hot topic these days. Whether it is Jaime Oliver or Michelle Obama, everyone seems the be growing aware of the swill that has been served to our children for decades.

I attended public schools for elementary, junior high and high school. I ate school lunch at my elementary school virtually every day for 6 years. I remember that lunch cost 95cents. You could buy ice cream for 40 cents, so I would try to keep up with all my leftover nickels for two weeks to get an ice cream bar. I remember the lunch room distinctly. The lunch ladies were very friendly. I remember there were some things I liked (tacos) and some things I didn't like (hot ham sandwiches) and I remember the square pizza tasting weird (it was actually rectangle pizza, I am fussy about my shapes!). I still ate it though. I don't remember there being a lot of choice. I am sure there were some veggies beyond potato flakes. There were virtually no raw vegetables, like carrot sticks. I remember lunch being hot every day. We did get whole fruit sometimes if I remember correctly. We were only served lunch, not breakfast.

In the summer I went to camp at a lovely place that functioned as a private school during the year. This private school had a huge estate of land, a pool, a lake with canoes, soccer field, a baseball field, a full playground, woods. The place was enormous! The food that was served there I noticed to be much better than what I got during my school year. The offering was simpler most of the time, peanut butter and jelly sandwich, pasta with meat sauce. There were lots of whole fruits available, and raw veggies a lot too. There might have been salads too. I can't quite remember.

When I moved on to junior high school and high school I never ate lunch at school even once. My mother never packed a lunch for me after that, it became my responsibility to pack my own lunch when I turned 12. School lunch was really gross at my high school. There was always a hot offering, but they served an alternate of hamburgers and fries or pizza virtually EVERY DAY. Now I was just learning to eat properly myself, so there were days that all I packed for myself was cheese and crackers (not that healthy). But when your lunch period is at 10:45am, a full meal almost doesn't matter. I had eaten breakfast four hours earlier and I usually ate again when I got home.

For the last couple of months I have been follow a great blog, Fed Up With School Lunch. An anonymous teacher by the pseudonym of Mrs Q has been eating school lunch every day since January and has been documenting the offering, what it tasted like, how she feels afterward and also how much waste is produced every day. It is a fascinating blog and the daily debate among followers is very interesting. She has guest bloggers from time to time. And last week she had a piece written by Ed Bruske of The Slow Cook and Better D.C. School Food. One thing he said really took my breath away. On a trip to his daughter's school, he had seen the kitchen where meals were being prepared. The breakfasts the children were eating were swimming in sugar. Candy frosted cereals, flavored milk, orange juice and POP TARTS!! The average kid was wolfing down 50-60 grams of sugar, or around 15 teaspoons! That is more than a quarter of a cup of sugar. Would you let your kid put a quarter of a cup of sugar on his first meal of the day?

Bruske's posting was what got me thinking about sugar in the first place. I mentioned earlier in the week that the Sugar Association had successfully lobbied the USDA to remove all mention of added sugars in their food pyramid literature? Well that directly translates to the National School Lunch Program. To date not one piece of legislation has successfully regulated the amount of sugar in school lunch. Now the American Heart Association came out last year with sugar limits for adults (no more than 5 teaspoons for a moderately active adult woman). But their recommendations failed to offer advise for children. Unfortunate, but not shocking either.

Several school systems and food service companies who cater school lunches have thrown their hands in the air saying "this is what the kids want to eat, we can make other food but how do we get the kids to eat it rather than throw it away?" Or one of my personal favorites "flavored milks are way better than sodas in the nutrition department, if we stop serving flavored milks the kids might not drink milk at all!" Well, I looked it up. Wisconsin Dairy Farmers have a very easy to use website that the shows the consumption of fluid milk and milk products since 1960. The data is the most complete between 1980 and today. Whole milk consumption has, as you would expect, gone down dramatically. Lowfat milk consumption has risen. Flavored milks were barely on the radar in 1960 and even today, although their consumption has more than doubled since 1980, they are only 7% of the total. What I think is interesting is that consumption of cream products(whipping cream and half and half and sour cream) have more than doubled since 1980. So although we are drinking more low fat milk, we are still eating the fat that has been taken out of our milk. We are just eating it in prepared foods now.

There is no clear evidence that kids won't drink regular milk if they are not offered flavored milk. This is just one more sales tactic of food companies to protect a business that they have carved out for themselves. But without proper legislation the sugar problem will never go away.

The newest Child Nutrition Act, which is up for review right now, also dos not discuss setting caps on the amount of sugar that children are served during the school day. In some schools now the estimate is that 44% of a child's school lunch calories are coming from solid fats and sugars. Remember what I said earlier this week, the WHO quietly recommends getting no more than 10% of your calories from sugar. And while they didn't stipulate different percentages for adults and children, I think this is a good gauge. Children's nutrient requirements per pound are enormous when compared with adults. Staggering physical changes and growth take place during the formative years. There is only so much room for food in a child's tummy, and I think that food really should be filled with the proper nutrients, vitamins and good things that will foster proper growth.

I could go on forever, and i probably will. The debate is on in many places. Follow the links I have provided to learn more.

I am really happy to say that after I wrote this, but before I published it, I read on Ed Bruske's blog the DC schools will be banning strawberry, chocolate and other flavored milks starting with the next school year! They will also be banning sugary cereals. Hooray! I love that there is so much dialogue out there, but what I really love is action!

Bruske, Ed. Sweet and Low. Grist, A Beacon in the Smog. 19 April, 2010.

US Fluid Milk Product Sales-1960-2007. Wisconsin Dairy. 16 June, 2010.

Nestle, Marion. Sugary school meals hit lobbyists' sweet spot. 2 May, 2010.

Main, Emily. Chocolate Milk Debate Rages On. 30 Nov, 2009

Thursday, June 17, 2010

CSA Week 2

All this research and talk about sugar has kind of got me down this week. It is a little depressing, no? So while I had planned to devote an entire week to the story of sugar, I need a break. And I bet some of you guys do too.

This week at the CSA we got Bok Choy (not sure what to do with it this week), Vita Greens (I chose this over the Kale), Radishes, Romaine Lettuce, Arugula, Spinach, Snow Peas and Garlic Scapes. For fruit, we got strawberries. The strawberries have pretty much been eaten already.

Last week I accidentally discovered a great side dish. Brown rice with sauteed vegetables. It is kind of a tasty non-chinese fried rice, or a vegetable-y rice pilaf. Truly it is a side dish that is neither here nor there. But that is part of it's charm.

A Really Great Side Dish
Saute one half a diced medium onion and a diced carrot in olive oil until soft. Add several chopped leaves of large mature greens. Vita Greens, Spinach, Kale, Swiss Chard or any other green that sautees nicely would work. When the greens look just cooked, add already cooked brown rice. If you are adding leftover rice from the fridge, go the extra step and microwave it for a couple seconds to warm it up. I always like adding warm rice to a recipe like this rather than cold rice. I also like an equal ratio of rice to greens, but I am a real veggie lover. You could add more rice and make it more like a pilaf.

I have such a hectic time getting dinner on the table on a weeknight, I am down to one side dish most nights. This would be a great thing to put with grilled or baked chicken or even slices of a leftover turkey breast. It really is a delicious addition to any meat or fish. The carrot makes it really yummy and sweet. One of these days I am banking that Thing 1 will eat this.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Sugar Addiction?

This topic came about due to a friend telling me how much she just loves sugar and feels like she has to eat it whenever it is around. I have never really been a sugar junkie. I have always craved things like french fries and popcorn and potato chips. Now I have met few cakes that I didn't like, but I have never planned an entire day's activities around being in the right part of town to get dessert (however, I have done that for french fries, and if you are ever near a Pommes Frites in New York, you will know what I am talking about.)

When I googled 'sugar addiction' I turned up a few anti-sugar blogs, a few advertisements telling me how to wean myself off sugar addiction, but very few articles regarding experiments or hard science or even industry findings. In fact even the Wikipedia article entitled 'Sugar Addiction' had a disclaimer saying that the article did not have enough contributors and that it was flawed in a couple ways. And Wikipedia is my go to for basic information!!

Well, from what I did find I have a feeling that sugar addiction exists, but no one has put any money into researching it. And why would they? The Government wouldn't think that was an appropriate use of taxpayer money. Plus they wouldn't want to turn up any information that would cause widespread panic. Because if you advertise that the food supply is unsafe, well that is anarchy territory and no matter what your political views no one wants that (even if they think they do). And the food processors certainly don't want that. They certainly don't want to admit that a food additive is causing addiction in their consumers. Right now the general consensus is that addiction to sugar and food is the fault of the addicted person, not the fault of the food, and no one who is selling food is going to change that. Can you imagine the lawsuits????

I did come up with a couple interesting bits of information on the topic though.

Addiction is classified as having three stages, a behavioral pattern of increased intake and brain chemistry changes, then signs of withdrawl and further changes in brain chemistry upon deprivation, and lastly signs of craving and relapse after withdrawl is over. Not enough research has been done to definitively prove the above with sugar.

What's more, Wikipedia states:

In 2008, Nicole Avena published data stating that sugar affects opioids and dopamine in the brain, and thus might be expected to have addictive potential. She references "Bingeing," "withdrawl," "craving" and "cross-sensitization" are each given operational definitions and demonstrated behaviorally with sugar bingeing as the reinforcer.... [She states] "Recent behavioral tests in rats further back the idea of an overlap between sweets and drugs. Drug addiction often includes three steps. A person will increase his intake of the drug, experience withdrawl symptoms when access to the drug is cut off and then face an urge to relapse back into drug use. Rats on sugar have similar experiences. Researchers withheld food for 12 hours and then gave rats food plus sugar water. This created a cycle of binging where the animals increased their daily sugar intake until it doubled. When researchers either stopped the diet or administered an opiod blocker the rats showed signs common to drug withdrawl, such as teeth-chattering and the shakes. Early findings also indicate signs of relapse."

That is just one study. I am sure there have been others. Rather than comb the Internet for more hidden studies of strung out rats, I will take my own experience. When I was pregnant, both times, my cravings for sugar were out of control. My strongest cravings were for pure sugar, like soda and jelly beans, not sugar with fat like ice cream or cake (though I had my share of that). I think that was because I would be full from a meal, but my body was still craving more calories. I could have spooned sugar from a bowl. The more I ate the more I wanted. Even after delivery, I had to keep myself on a low sugar diet so to manage my sugar cravings. Now I eat relatively low amounts of sugar and the cravings are gone. I worked to eliminate sugar from my diet a little at a time, switching to a whole grain cereal with no sugar at all, eliminating the honey from my berries and yogurt, and of course cutting back on dessert. I still eat a lot of fruit, but the fiber keeps the sugar from being digested so fast, so my blood sugar never spikes. But as with anything, I look at fruit in the cost/ benefit sense. You get so much nutrition from fruit with relatively few calories, even if there is sugar in there. The good stuff far outweighs the bad stuff!


Rubaum-Keller, Irene. Is Sugar Addictive? The Huffington Post. 18 June, 2009.

Sugar addiction. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 15 June, 2010.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Sugar vs. High Fructose Corn Syrup

When my friends and I talk about sugar, usually we are talking about all sugars in a general sense. Like 'that glass of chocolate milk has 16 grams of sugar'. The 16 grams are made up of a mix of lactose, sucrose or fructose and glucose (and probably others). All those -ose's together are what we talk about.

When I am talking about SUGAR on this week's posts I need to be more specific. The sugar I mentioned yesterday was all what we'd think of as table sugar, pure crystalline sucrose. Sucrose is a diasaccharide composed of glucose and fructose bonded together with a relatively weak molecular bond. That bond is broken when it's in your tummy being digested.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is different.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is produced by milling corn to produce starch, then processing that starch to yield corn syrup (think Karo Pecan Pie ingredients). Standard corn syrup is almost entirely glucose and doesn't taste as sweet to the human tongue as sucrose (or table sugar) does. Regular corn syrup was all we had for a while, but it doesn't fit the bill as a sugar replacement because it just doesn't taste right. Anyone who has tasted Karo knows what I am talking about. But in 1957 Richard O. Marshall and Earl P. Kooi added enzymes to that glucose corn syrup. Those enzymes changed most of the glucose into fructose.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is derived by mixing the original standard corn syrup (almost pure glucose) and the altered corn syrup (overwhelmingly fructose). The more fructose you add, the sweeter the mixture tastes on the tongue. HFCS 55 is 55% fructose and has a comparable sweetness to table sugar, only in liquid form. And that is the particular HFCS that is used to make soda.

Why is this significant? The current US Sugar policy began in 1934 to shore up prices for cane sugar. They implemented a price floor so that sugar(cane and beet) grown in the US would fetch a higher price when it was sold domestically. These policies are still in place, and so consequently the price of sugar in the US is about three times as high as the world market.

Conversely, The US Government has been, since the Depression, subsidizing corn growers (among many other growers of commodities). Every year the government sets a price floor for corn that is slightly above the free market price. Let's say that price is $3.00 a bushel. The government promises that every farmer will get no less than $3.00 for every bushel of corn, plus they give every farmer an additional 52 cents(at least that was the 2002 number) on top of that floor price. If the price of corn comes in at $2.95 the government will give that farmer the 52 cent subsidy plus the 5 cent difference between the market price and the floor price of corn, and they will do that for EVERY bushel of corn that farmer sells.

As a result, the only way to make more money as a corn farmer is to grow more corn. More bushels equals more money in your pocket. Only problem is, the more corn there is, the lower the price goes. Nowadays because of these subsidies, we have a whole lot of corn, and a whole lot of farmers who struggle to break even as the price of corn drives lower.

Now I am not going to sit here and bad mouth the Farm Bill. That is not the purpose of my writing. And I am not an economist, nor do I have a formal background in agriculture (or any background other than hailing from a state that still boasts a state agricultural college). But I do know that these policies create an oversupply of commodities like corn. And this over supply gives food processors access to a steady stream of cheap raw materials. The thing that is important about this is that since the thirties the price of sugar has been rising due to the policies surrounding sugar. That makes food made with sugar more expensive. But the price of corn has been falling, or at least holding steady amid inflation and other economic changes. And that makes food made out of corn less expensive. The next step is an easy processors put HFCS in everything these days because it became cheaper than sugar. And because it is liquid, it is super easy to make it into products like soda and baked good. This has been a win for the processors.

People recently have been fighting back against HFCS and I think they should. As a result, processors are removing it from hundreds of products. They are now advertising having real cane sugar as an ingredient as a health benefit. But because of the switch to sugar, food prices will naturally go up. I wish the dialogue out there at the water cooler, on the playground and on the Internet was more about eliminating HFCS from our diet rather than just replacing it with cane sugar. There has been some talk about HFCS being worse for you than sugar, or being more likely to trigger obesity. And there may be something to it. But I think that if you looked at enough studies and info on the subject you would see that obesity rates have climbed since HFCS has started being included in virtually every food except whole foods. The overall number of calories that are daily consumed by the average American have increased over the last 30 years. I think that better explains our current rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

In my reading I did uncover some interesting finds.

Coca-Cola switched it's operations to use HFCS in 1984. But they still make soda with sugar in other nations where the price remains low. Mexico is one of those countries. Apparently you can find this Mexican Coca-Cola in ethnic groceries. And some people swear they can tell the difference. I was allergic to something in the Coca-Cola formula while I was a child, so I did not have my first Coke until probably 1990. So I am sure that I have never had a Coke made with sugar.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest threatened a lawsuit against Cadbury-Schweppes in 2006 for labeling 7Up as "All Natural". The FDA has no legal definition of the word 'natural'. FDA regulations do define "natural flavoring" to include products of vegetables. The FDA has since stated that the agency does not object to labeling HFCS as "natural". But the CSPI does not believe that HFCS is a "natural" ingredient due to the high level of processing require to make it. (Neither do I) But in early 2007 Cadbury-Schweppes agreed to stop calling 7Up "All Natural" and they now label it "100% Natural Flavors", which does comply to the FDA definition.

And just in case you were waiting for me to say it, whole foods do not have any added sugar of any kind.

High-fructose corn syrup. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 11 June, 2010.

Agriculture subsidy. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 9 June, 2010.

Sugar and Sweetners Policy. USDA Economic Research Servie Briefing Rooms. 9 June, 2010.

Virata, Gillian. The Effects of the U.S. Sugar Policy. 9 June, 2010.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Big Sugar, Day One

This week at The Table of Promise I will relate the findings of my recent Internet digging surrounding sugar. There is a lot more to the story of sugar and sucrose/ fructose as it relates to our diet and health than you might think.

For me it all started as a simple question, "There is a sugar lobby in Washington?" Yes, in fact there is. There are a group of lobbyists in Washington DC whose job it is to promote sugar and it's use, both to the general public and to lawmakers.

Meet the key players to US Sugar Policy:

The Sugar Association: they are who we know as the Sugar Lobby. The Sugar Association was formed by growers and refiners in the US sugar industry. They began in 1934 under the name of The Sugar Research Foundation, dedicated to the scientific study of sugar's role in food and the communication of that role to the public. In 1947, the foundation changed their name it's current name. On their website, they state

"The Sugar Association continues with its mission of educating health professionals, media, government officials and the public about sugar's goodness."

Florida Sugar Growers (among other states): Florida contributes the largest amount of domestic sugar to the US sugar supply each year. Cane grown in Florida account for 24% of all the refined sugar in the US. The single company US Sugar alone contributes 10% of the domestic supply. Sugar Cane and sugar beets grown in cooler northern climes each account for about 50% of the domestic US sugar supply. Many of the cane and beet farms are connected as different branches of the same conglomerate company. But the Florida contribution to the total is more significant that any other.

The World Health Organization (WHO): This international organization conducts research and make statements to the international community on health issues as wide ranging as diet to childbirth. Their current statement on sugar, as made in 2003, is that sugar should not exceed more than 10% of a person's total caloric intake.

The USDA and the USDA Food Pyramid: The USDA and their food pyramid have been taking a lot of heat in recent years for the new and relatively unpublicized discovery that suggesting that we root our diet in grain products actually worked against it's intention to guide the country into better health. Rates of obesity and diabetes have soared in the last 30 years creating the greatest health crisis in modern history. For the first time in US history, our children's generation has a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The USDA has revamped the food pyramid to suggest that we eat more fruits and veggies than anything else, 5cups of veg versus 3 cups of grains. But the way the pyramid is designed breaks up fruits and veggies into their own categories. This makes it look like grains are still the most important, or at the base of the pyramid. This is a great creative way to not have to come out and say "we screwed up, you really should make plant based food the most important part of your diet". I don't have many issues with what is in the pyramid, but at least come clean to the American Public. The public has proven over the last 30-40 to be listening to what the government says about nutrition.

Now that we know the players we can look at their interaction. In 2003, the WHO published it's latest report regarding diet. They stated that sugar should make up no more than 10% of a person's total daily calories.

The Sugar Association fought back hard stating that they had evidence that said that a person's daily intake of sugar could safely be 25% of a person's calories. WHO subsequently reworded their recommendation on sugar stating that no one should eat sugar more than four times a day. But of course they don't say how much you can eat in any of those times, so draw your own conclusions.

The head of the expert team that wrote the Association's scientific evidence saying that sugar could comprise 25% of your calorie intake per day and still be safe, is Harvey Fineberg. Amongst all the highly publicized fighting, Fineberg called the US Health Secretary at the time, Tommy Thompson, to say that his report was being misinterpreted by the Sugar Association. Even he did not want to be associated with the fallout.

The Sugar Association was so outraged by the WHO's report that they contacted our legislature to suggest a law that all future WHO funding should be predicated on an agreement from WHO to base it's reports on science. (Huh? Really?)

The Sugar Association has also successfully fought to eliminate the USDA's ability to mention sugar in it's dietary suggestions. If you click on the link to the new food pyramid I provided you will see that the top part of the pyramid that was up there for years, the "use added fats, oils and sweets sparingly" is now missing. Their recommendations regard only food. This has a couple of effects. It eliminates the sugar dialogue from the consumers mindset, and it levels the playing field among food products. If it is good to eat 6 servings of grains per week, the USDA has made no recommendation that you should limit breads that have added HFCS (Hi Fructose Corn Syrup). And furthermore I bet that a packet of instant flavored oatmeal with 16g of sugar added to the flavoring counts as a serving of whole grain. The fact is that the government is hush hush about even discussing the issue of sugar.

Thousands of products have added sugar. They lurk in the obvious places like cookies and soda. But they also are in less obvious places like breads and yogurts, flavored milk (I kinda think milk tastes pretty good the way God gave it to us), pre-made pizza crusts, rolls and hamburger buns, ketchup, dried fruit, juices marketed as real fruit juice, the list goes on an on. The average consumption of added sugars has reached record highs! In 1996 each American consumed a record average of 152 pounds of caloric sweeteners!! That is about two fifths of a pound PER DAY. By contrast, total meat consumption in 1996 was 192 pounds. That includes all red meat, poultry and fish.

Food for thought.

Tomorrow, Real Cane Sugar vs. HFCS

Virata, Gillian. The Effects of the U.S. Sugar Policy. 9 June, 2010.
Bosley, Sarah. Sugar industry threatens to scupper WHO. The Guardian. 21 April, 2003.
Big Sugar. The Washington Post. 16 April, 2005.
US Agriculture--Linking Consumers and Producers. United States Department of Agriculture. 9 June 2010.
An Overview of Florida Sugarcane. University of Florida IFAS Extension. 11 June 2010.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Cherry Rhubarb Pie

I mentioned earlier this week that I got some rhubarb from the CSA. I have never eaten rhubarb. So I didn't know what to do with it. I looked for a couple of recipes online but they looked kind of basic. I suppose we were supposed to make a strawberry rhubarb pie or some such thing, but I wanted to eat the strawberries that we got on their own. I had some extra cherries laying around, so I came up with Cherry-Rhubarb Pie.
There were several things working against this pie from the start. First, when I cut everything up there wasn't really enough to fill a standard pie pan. Also when I cut the fruit it was around noon and I put some sugar on it, intending to make the pie right away. But Thing 1 was being a handful and Thing 2 needed to nurse and nap, so everything just sat there leaching out juice. I didn't get to make the pie until 4:30 in the afternoon. Whoops.
When finally I was able to make the pie crust, it was so crumbly that I could hardly spread it out. I am not sure if my flour-butter ratio was off, or if I used too much water, or if the butter was just too soft. BTW-I never use shortening, butter tastes better and you know the whole story about trans fat. Anyhow, I did finally get it into the pan and did some minor surgery to get all together. I was right, there wasn't enough fruit to make a nice fat pie, but at least it covered the bottom. There also wasn't enough crust for a top, or even a light lattice. So I took the leftover dough and rolled it out and dotted it on the top. That's why the picture looks so funny.
We had the pie after dinner and it was good. I had several friends reach out to me to say that they loved rhubarb and that I should do this that or the other with my stalks. I am not sure that I understand the devotion to rhubarb. When it was fresh cut, I felt like it smelled a little like dirty laundry. After we ate the pie, I told DH that it tasted like feet. But I don't want to be mean. It was pretty good. And it was definitely different. The rhubarb lent an almost sour vegetable-y taste to the pie. But with all the sugar it was a nice balance. And the sweet cherries were a good idea.
The pie was good. I don't want to offend any die hard rhubarb lovers. I will definitely make this pie again. Because we might get more rhubarb next week from the CSA,but we definitely will get more next YEAR. I am not sure though if I would pull over on the side of a country road and inquire which farm to buy the stuff from.
If any of you have some better recipes for me, please email me or post them. I am open to trying new variations. And I was kind of looking forward to being part of the rhubarb-in-crowd. So I am still searching.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Thank You!!

A dear friend and colleague sent me a lovely and thoughtful birthday present this week. I am trying not to mention full names here since this is a public forum (so you know who you are!) It was a cookbook called Clean Food by Terry Walters. What an amazing book! It has more than 200 recipes and all of them center around seasonal produce. I am pretty sure it is vegetarian, but I haven't been able to delve too far into it just yet.

Walters has a lovely vision of how food should be. And the recipes really are great and simple. Tomato and Chick Pea salad with Cilantro Dressing? Asparagus with Mustard Vinaigrette and Toasted Pecans?? Maple Poached Pears??? She has a great understanding of unprocessed ingredients and speaks at length about organics and their importance.

On another note, On Sunday I will be featured as a guest blogger on the parenting website I have loved Mamapedia for a while. They have an open forum for parenting questions. I have gotten some great advice when I have reached out with questions. Now I am so excited to be able to contribute to their section for bloggers. Please come and check it out at My piece will air Sunday June 13th. Hooray!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Incidental Strawberry Facts

Anyone who knows me well knows that I love interesting facts and details. I find the smallest things fascinating, and you never quite know what I will find interesting. My biggest problem is that I keep telling everyone all the things I think are interesting. Maybe that is why I am doing this blog at all. I feel like you might just think this stuff is interesting too!

From the CSA this week we got a delicious quart of strawberries. Thing 1 and 2 ate many of them during the day. So when I came home at night there were only about a third of the quart left. I felt that it was the good and responsible thing to share the last of the berries with the kids, but did I do that? Nope. I hadn't eaten a single one since we got them. So I selfishly saved them all for myself.

I thought some fun strawberry facts were in order and I found a great website that had a twelve page post about strawberries that I thought was just so cool. I have pulled out some of the best of those twelve pages here. In some cases, particularly the etymology and folklore sections, I have taken passages directly from the website, lest anyone think I am trying to take credit for their lovely work.

In prehistoric times, wild strawberries were so small that they were not a great source of food for man. Though some small strawberry seeds have been found in archaeological sites in Denmark, Switzerland and England.

Although strawberries were enjoyed in the Ancient world and are mentioned by some Roman writer, it is unlikely that they were cultivated. Most reference to the ground strawberry, or Fraga, in ancient texts regard the gathering of this berry.

In the 1500's in England, English ladies began planting strawberry patches in their home gardens because they loved strawberries and cream so much.

It was the gardener of King Louis XIV, Jean de la Quintinie at the Palace of Versailles who first kept a detailed account of how to develop larger berries in cultivated strawberries. This was good, because the King declared Strawberries his favorite fruit!

Strawberry plants grow in all 50 states and are very adaptable in nature. There are also indigenous varieties South America and Europe. And all cultivated strawberries throughout the world can trace their history back through the joining of a Virginian and a Chilean variety some time in the early 1700s (the website isn't specific)

The name strawberry came about easily because straw was used freely to mulch the plants during the winter, a practice that discourages weeds and lifts the berries up from the soil. When it came time to harvest the berries, children would pick them and string them on a blade of straw. At the London market the children would sell "Straws of Berries."

Originally strawberries were called strewberries, a name descriptive of how they grew. The berries appeared to be strewn among the leaves, and the runners themselves appeared to be strewn among the plants.

Each of the romance languages, French, Italian and Spanish, refer to the strawberry as Fraise which means fragrant.

The Naragansett Indians called it "wuttahimneash" which translated as heart-seed berry.

Legends often tell about love rituals. Be careful with whom you share a double strawberry. It is destined that the two of you may fall in love.

Because of their bright red colors and heart shapes, strawberries were the symbol for Venus, the Goddess of Love.

Henry VIII's second wife, Ann Boleyn, was thought to have been a witch because she had a strawberry shaped birthmark on her neck.

One cup of fresh strawberries contains only 43 calories. It also comes with a healthy content of every vitamin and mineral except Vitamin B12.

Just 5 medium-sized strawberries will supply your minimum RDA of Vitamin A and includes the following nutritional benefits:
1 g. protein (who knew??)
.5 g fat
10 g. carbohydrates
3 g. fiber
.6 mg iron
1 mg sodium
20.2 mg calcium
30 mg phosphate
39 IU Vitamin A
.03 mg thiamine
.10 mg riboflavin
81.6 mg Vitamin C
239 mg potassium
.02 mg zinc
14.4 mg magnesium
.09 mg Vitamin B6
25.5 mcg folacin

Strawberries do not ripen after they are pick--but they do go bad, so eat them within 3-4 days (sometimes less!)

Wash and cut up only what you will eat that day. Strawberries you want to store should have their stems intact. Wash your berries before cutting the tops off because this will avoid excess water entering the berry.
So I had strawberries and cream for desert. And you know I don't think I have ever had that. When I was a kid my father would make that for me, but I think we always used to put sugar on the berries. I highly recommend that you try just strawberries and cream with no sugar. The sweet and tart flavor of the berries is balanced by the almost salty flavor of the unsweetened cream. It is an altogether different experience. Strawberries and ice cream is great, but try it without all that sugar and you are in for a super simple treat.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Paper Towel Issue

Paper towels are a hot button issue for my family. We seem to go through them at lightening speed. Which just seems like a waste to me! If you spill a glass of milk, you can easily use a sponge right? Well in my house it seems like the bigger the amount of liquid spilled, the more we will just reach for a roll of paper towels.

I keep a dozen or so cotton dish towels around for spills like that too. But now that I have thought about it a little, I might finally understand the thought process behind wasting half a roll of paper towels. For a spill of something like a glass of milk, it's a yucky sticky mess. If you soak up all the milk with a paper towel, you can just throw it all away. Whereas if you use a dish towel, a few days later you have to confront it again as a damp sour smelling lump in your hamper. It is just me, but I feel that that is worth it to use the towel and suck it up when laundry day comes. DH prefers the easy paper towel though, so we keep buying them. I am starting to get my way sometimes when what is spilled is a glass of water or something non-offensive like that.

I think I might have finally found the thing to get us off the paper towels (or at least a drastic reduction). Seventh Generation. Sorry, this is not news breaking stuff. Virtually everyone I know uses this brand, but today I learned that their paper towels use 100% recycled paper, no chlorine, and at my grocery store they were $5 for three rolls (??!!). I went to grab one yesterday and I thought twice about using them. In fact, I finished the job with the sponge. Whatever the motivation is, consuming fewer paper products are a good thing. FYI-I started using to order Seventh Generation products like dish washing detergent and counter top dish soap. So far I am super happy. In case you guys don't will ship for free on order greater than $50 and they literally have EVERYTHING that you need to raise children. Seriously.

The thing that moved me the most was the quote on the front of the package: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generation." This is from the Great Law of the Iroquois. And it is a humbling thought because so much of what we do in business, agriculture and foreign policy is not good for future generations. Maybe there is hope for us yet.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

CSA Opening Day

CSA Opening Day is one of the best days of the entire year! It signals the beginning of summer, fresh organic veggies and seeing old faces. I love seeing the streams of families walking out of our park with bags of greens and quarts of strawberries.

Today I noticed though that a lot of faces were new. I have had several friends opt out of the CSA this year. And I doubt that I am the only one who has had a few friends. There has been a steady influx of new faces into our neighborhoods in the last couple of years. So it seems understandable that a turnover would happen in the CSA too. Or perhaps it could be the timing. Last summer I was pregnant and then delivered Thing 2 in the summer. So the Tuesday CSA pickup was a weekly highlight. I would go early with the kids and I got to know some of the core members who handle the site organization. I was able to volunteer an extra time, so I grew to recognize many people. But now I am working of course so I see the evening crew. The early crew are the folks who work flexible schedules or stay home. The evening crew are the working folks who probably have to leave work early to make it home in time to pick up their veggies. Like me.
Today, as you can see from the photo, we got Bok Choy, Mizuna, Vita Greens (think of a sturdy chard with greens stems), Kale, Arugula, Red Leaf Lettuce, Scallions, Radishes, and a pot of thyme and oregano. This is the first year I have been doing the fruit share as well and we got a big quart of delicious strawberries and some rhubarb. Now I know you can make strawberry-rhubarb jam or pie, but I want to eat the strawberries raw. If anyone has any rhubarb recipes without the strawberries, let me know. I am a little at a loss.
The herbs will come in handy this week when I make pizza. Thing 1 still has not had my homemade pizza crust (there are never any leftovers). The Arugula and Mizuna and Lettuce will go to make a big salad with the radishes. I bought several avocados this weekend that will work well there too, yum. But I am the most excited about the Vita Greens and the Bok Choy because I have been looking forward to making stir fried noodles.
This couldn't be easier. Take an onion and saute in hot oil. Add any meat that you like. I like pre-cooked meats like chicken or pork (great for leftovers--but more often than not I make this vegetarian) or if you add shrimp, add it raw now. Then I will add the greens and a quick sauce of soy sauce, sesame oil, white wine vinegar (I suppose I should be using mirin, but I don't usually keep it in the house), honey and hot chili sauce. When all the stuff has cooked down I add in cooked Chinese noodles, but regular spaghetti works well too. I last year got really into adding rice. And though I think the Chinese tradition is to use leftover rice, I tried it and I still like adding fresh cooked rice. White or brown, it doesn't matter.
This is a simple unmeasured recipe, but it is one that I look forward to during this time of year when the basic greens are so good and in season. I love the sauce because it is based upon the hot-sour-salty-sweet idea that Asian cooking is balanced and so delicious because it has some ingredients from all of those flavor points. When I make this, I will try to get Thing 1 to eat it. I'll let you know how it goes.