Thursday, April 28, 2011

Clover for Dinner

"What if I told you that I would make a salad for you for dinner out of clover!"

Thing 1's head turned toward me, interested.

"Like clover in the park?"

"Yeah, just like clover in the park except this clover is grown on a farm and is washed. It isn't icky at all. Would you like to try some? And if you like it, you can eat more. But if you don't like it, I promise, just one bite."

"Yeah! Clover for dinner clover for dinner!"

I have tried it all: bribery, time outs, limiting snacks. Nothing has really worked to get my kids to eat. Thing 1 just one day woke up more rational about food. If he is hungry and my food is decently seasoned and well cooked, he'll eat it. Since he is more rational he can ask for foods that he is interested in and he will eat them. Your child may have always been able to do that. Thing 1 would often say he wanted to eat one thing and half way through preparation he would change his mind. And sometimes even if he continued to say that he wanted a certain thing for dinner he might never even take one bite. Now at least things have gotten clearer for us.

It is easy as an adult to forget that our children's perspective is unbearably narrow. Even if we strive to show them the world, they know and understand only what you have shown them. My children for example don't know that most people don't shop at farmer's markets. And when I tell him that I am going to serve him hydroponic microgreens, he doesn't know what that is. Jesus, imagine you didn't know what that was and someone tried to sell it to you? But he does go to the park everyday and he does know what clover looks like.

I can stage an energentic lecture everytime an advertisement for Fruity Pebbles comes on. But do I even need to? Every night when I come home I make a hot from scratch dinner. They see that. This will be their food culture. They will grow up eating local foods. They will feel comfortable buying their meat out of a cooler on a temporarily converted street. I am giving them this world view by just playing out my beliefs every day.

And yes he did like the clover. He said it was a little spicy(from the arugula) but he had two helpings. And he has asked for more since.

Being there for my kids isn't a challenge for me. Loving them is easy. But thinking like them is really hard for me. I am all schedules and to-do lists and spreadsheets. I guess sometimes you have to stop and eat the clover.

Spinach and Belgian Stoemp

I am declaring the local food season officially OPEN!! After months of dwindling vendors and almost no produce besides apples and potatoes I am starting to see the people come back. Our Inwood farmer’s market is now sporting a new vendor selling sprouts! They are not quite as delicate as Two Guys from Woodbridge that works the USQ Greenmarket. But they aren’t bad. He has told me that his sprouts are seasonal unlike the Woodbridge Guys who grow them hydroponically year round.

Another fantastic thing I keep seeing is spinach! Spinach is a spring delicacy here in New York. I just don’t see it locally as the summer gets on. Our CSA sometimes has it in June. But that spinach has a tendency to liquefy after 2 days out of the ground. This time of year the getting is good for hearty spinach. It isn’t too old or too babyish. It is simply perfect. And I think we have a few weeks too, because I am just starting to see it show up. By the middle of May the stalls will be overflowing with spinach.

The week before last, I bought 2 big bags thinking that they looked small. But when I got home, it was as though the things had had babies. There was so much spinach I almost didn’t have room for it. We now throw it into everything! Pizza, green eggs, guacamole (it is actually amazing in guacamole), and even the smoothies that Thing 2 is currently boycotting. But then again, he is currently boycotting everything. I am breathing deeply and cherishing the fact that his older brother is now eating everything from braised brisket to kale soup.

If you have trouble getting spinach clean, try this. Fill up your sink with cool water. Add a bit of vinegar. I use Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar. Float your spinach in the water for 30 minutes. Be sure to agitate the plants so that all the sediment comes off. When you feel that they are clean enough, remove the plants from the water, shake off the excess and towel dry. Store wrapped in a plastic grocery bag in the fridge. Even if you place them in the crisper, they will stay good longer in a plastic bag. Or you can remove the stems and store in a large glass Tupperware in the fridge. That’s what I do. All my lettuces go together in a 4 quart glass bowl with a tight fitting lid. My greens are good for a week or two. A few days ago my colleagues at work questioned whether my stuff was really organic because it lasts so long. But they are organic. I think it is the soak in the water before storage.

Recently I went to one of my favorite place to eat a stick to my ribs lunch in New York, Le Petite Abeille. Their croque monsieur and omelettes are to die for, as are their French fries. I try to stay away, but these are hand cut lovingly fried Belgian fries. Though I try to stay away from the polyunsaturated oils and fried foods in general, I find I just can’t do it sometimes. C’est la vie, n’est-pas? Well, on my recent trip I did manage to order something that didn’t come with fries. But it did come with this oddity they called stoemp. I had never heard of it. The menu seemed pretty devoted to it. I ordered and hoped for the best.

When my plat arrived I saw, stoemp was just mashed potatoes with stuff mixed in it. My stoemp had spinach and leeks in it. Brilliant. I didn’t even have to look up a recipe for this one. I have now made the dish twice, and I highly recommend peeling the potatoes. My first batch was ruined by some very bitter red skinned potatoes. And don’t even bother cooking the spinach. I did that in the first batch, and I really didn’t need to. Uncooked spinach will wilt down when added to the mashed potatoes, but stays fresh enough to give the final dish some bulk and nice color. By the way, I made the pictured batch on Easter Sunday with a perfectly braised brisket (so much better than my overcooked Crockpot versions) and we all agreed that this was the best Easter dinner ever!


2 very large potatoes, I used peeled redskins

2 tablespoons of good quality butter

1 leek, white and light green part only (throw the top into your freezer stock bag with other veggie scraps, and if you don’t currently do that—start!)

2 handfuls of washed spinach, chopped.

Boil the potatoes until soft, drain and add milk sufficient to make mashed potatoes. Mash the potatoes by whatever means you prefer. In a small skillet melt the butter and add the leeks. Fry the leeks on medium heat until they are soft and just starting to turn brown. Mean while, fold the chopped spinach into the hot potatoes. When the leeks have cooked, add them and all the butter into the mashed potatoes and mix well. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Our kids don’t like mashed potatoes (I know, I don’t get it either…) so DH and I couldn’t finish it. Therefore there were enough for me to have leftovers with a hardboiled egg for breakfast the next morning. Hallelujah, it was an Easter miracle!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Authentic Puerco en Adobo

I am thrilled to host my dear friend and frequent commentor TQ. TQ has been reading and supporting The Table of Promise since my forst post, for which I cannot thank her enough. Today she has written a lovely guest post on authentic Puerco en Adobo as she learned it from her Mother-in-Law. TQ, thank you so much for taking the time to contribute.

When you love to cook and then you marry a Mexican man, an exciting culinary adventure soon follows! My Suegra (mother-in-law) has laughed at me many times as I follow her around the kitchen, pen and paper in hand, taking copious notes and asking a lot of questions. She’s told me more than once, “No te complicas toda!” Don’t complicate everything! Through her, and my husband and several of his aunts and sisters, I have learned to cook many amazing and delicious traditional, authentic Mexican dishes. As it relates to The Table of Promise, I have specifically noticed how modern processed foods have made their way into the traditional Mexican kitchen. I can kind of understand the appeal, after all, many of these dishes would take 8 hours to prepare without modern conveniences. But the down side, of course is that Mexicans are experiencing a rampant increase in obesity and obesity related diseases, thanks to our creeping western diet. Just Google “Obesity in Mexico” and you will see a woeful amount of results.

Since the dawn of this blog, whose author is my personal friend (a little bragging there) I have started asking my Suegra not how she makes it, but how did she make it 30 years ago. As much as I can I try to incorporate the traditional methods into my Mexican cooking. My MIL used to use lard and homemade stocks, she used to literally slaughter a pig, sell off parts to the townsfolk/neighbors and then cook or preserve the rest. She would grow their own corn and she would prep it and my then young DH had to run it into the village to the miller who would grind it and soak it in Lyme to make it into masa. One time he forgot to pick it up and got into trouble because they had no tortillas for dinner: a sacrilege in of his favorite stories.

Now she buys tortillas from the tortilla lady, uses American bouillon, and Wesson vegetable or canola oil. She resisted the microwave for years but has over the last two or three succumbed to its convenience.

I also see things in Mexico that make me sad. For example: traditional Mexican pastries are not very sweet at all, more like bread with a hint of sweetness. Their cakes always have fruit in them. But over the last 10 years there has been a proliferation of prepackaged, ultra sweet Hostess like things. A company called Bimbo makes these packaged sweets. I used to think they were owned by Hostess or Little Debbie or Entenmanns' but it's not. Bimbo is just a huge sugar producing conglomerate like any other. Mexican sodas used to be club soda with fresh fruit syrups, now it's all chemicals, food coloring and added sweeteners. Dominos Pizza, among other obvious fast food restaurants has become increasingly popular in Mexico, as has Wal-Mart and its wholly owned subsidiary Bodega, which is the same thing only cheaper if you can believe it. Originally Wal-Mart put up Bodegas because Wal-Mart was not a terribly recognized brand. That's changed over time and they have been putting up more Wal-Mart’s instead of Bodegas lately…with devastating affects on the already unstable economy and putting thousands of small businesses out of business.

I see Mexico following in the footsteps of the gringos for better or worse and I try to be a positive influence against the tide of cheap, refined food. I try to encourage my Suegra and sisters-in-law to stick to their traditions, but often time and money win out over things like taste, tradition or nutrition. To me, the flavor of the traditional Mexican cooking is worth the effort, but I find many dishes are just as easy to prepare in the traditional method.

The following dish is one of my favorites and I try to make it as authentically as I can. Puerco en Adobo is pretty spicy normally but you can do it with less spice if necessary…me and my DH, we like it burning hot, so this is tailored to our preferences:

Puerco en Adobo:

Lard or your preferred cooking fat

Meat, any kind in any amount, for this recipe I used about a pound of pork loin, cut into manageable pieces

Dried chilies*, any combination of your favorites, I prefer Ancho for spice and Guajillo for depth, but I used Pasilla this time cause it’s what I had around. I also like Morenos but they are REALLY spicy.

1 cup Chicken Stock (or 1tsp bouillon, that’s what Suegra uses today)

3 to 5 Whole peppercorns

2 or 3 cloves

1 to 3 cloves of garlic

Rice, prepared as you like

Beans, already cooked and mashed

Tortillas, preferably corn

Queso Fresco to garnish

Crema Mexicana (sour cream) to garnish

*A note about dried chilies and other traditional Mexican ingredients, you can find them in any Mexican or Latino grocery store. I PROMISE you almost every town in America has one: it’s a tiny little hole in the wall place with a sign like Mexican Deli, or Latino Grocery. They’re everywhere if you just look for them. They have bags of dried chilies and cans of adobo and boxes of Tia Maria cookies or Abuelita hot chocolate mix. And behind the refrigerated counter they have the fresh chorizo, queso fresco and fresh chilies. I have lived in NYC, Bumble Town, USA and many places in between and I can always find one.


Get your rice going first, it should be ready by the time the meat is.

Place 5 or 6 chilies into a small sauce pot, cover with water and bring to a boil. Cover and let them boil for about 5 minutes or so. Turn off the heat but leave them covered while you do the next part.

Trim and slice your meat however you like. If it’s big, boney pieces boil them with lots of salt and pull them out when done. If it’s smaller boneless pieces (like mine were) salt and pepper both sides, heat some oil or fat in a pan over medium heat and put the meat in the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 5 to ten minutes. Keep an eye on the meat and flip it when ready sometime during the next few steps.

Crush and peel the garlic, toss it into a blender (or mortar and pestle) along with the peppercorns and cloves.

If you’re using a blender you can also add the bouillon or stock, if you’re using a mortar and pestle, you won’t add the stock till you’re putting things in the pan.

By now your chilies should be nice and soft. You can pull the stems right off and the seeds will just fall out. Put the chili skins into the blender or mortar. If you’re using a blender, also pour some the chili water in to the blender, use a strainer if you’re spice-conscious or the seeds will go in and make it killer hot! Blend till smooth, or mix and mash till a nice thick paste forms.

By now your meat should be done. You’re supposed to take it out of the pan and then add it back in after your sauce is well mixed, but I never do, that just dirties extra dishes IMHO.

Pour the sauce into the pan. (if you’re using the mortar and pestle you kind of have to take the meat out, add the paste and mix well with juices in the pan, then stir in the stock and a little chili water for added depth and flavor - about ½ cup, then add the meat back in)

Bring to a boil (WEAR AN APRON!! It will be bright red and splattery, I’ve ruined many shirts) then simmer for 5 minutes or an hour…depending on how much time you have and how much liquid you put in. If you used the mortar and pestle you’ll probably have to simmer longer to get the thick gravy-like consistency we’re aiming for.

While it simmers you can get your beans and rice together and heat your tortillas, preferably on a Comal, or put each one directly on the flame of your burner for about 3 seconds on each side. Wrap them in a towel or put them in your tortilla warmer.

Serve your meat in Adobo with the rice, beans and heated tortillas. If desired crumble the Queso Fresco over the top and keep the crema handy in case you made it spicier than you thought…heehee.


This post s part of Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays

Monday, April 25, 2011

How to Make Homemade Tortillas

I have been really obsessed with Mexican food of late. I can’t say why. It just tastes good! Chorizo and super green guacamole, tacos…but its homemade tortillas that are knocking the socks off of anything else. And their ease has fueled my obsession.

A couple of things to know about corn tortillas before you make them at home, or buy them...

· Corn tortillas must be made with Masa Harina, Spanish for ‘dough flour’. Masa Harina is not just cornmeal, you CANNOT substitute plain ole’ cornmeal. Dried corn kernels are cooked and then soaked in lime water. Then the kernels are dried and ground to make masa. Check out this link, it is really interesting. I am pretty adventurous, but maybe not enough to make my own masa.

· The vast majority of corn grown in North America is Genetically Modified. And we avoid GMO’s at all costs. I bought Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina because they are a great organic resource and in the FAQ section of their website they state that they do not use any GMO seeds. But when I pulled out the package today, it did not say organic!! Rats! But then thankfully, I saw online that the process of soaking the corn in limewater is not allowable under organic guidelines and so BRM cannot use the term ‘organic’ on the labeling. So if you have been searching trying to find organic masa in vain, now you know why.

· The masa I have been buying is kind of pricey, and I only see it sold in 1 lb 8 ounce bags (24 ounces). I have searched for 5 or 10 pound bags. But it is probably better that it comes smaller. Smaller packages stay fresh and turn over more often. You can buy Bob’s Red Mill Masa Harina online in 4-packs. But BRM not package it in larger sizes. I did however find this very interesting family farm in Idaho. Some of their various flour prices are the same as my local Cayuga Pure Organics and some are lower. It is interesting though. I am not convinced that buying online gets you anything except a shipping bill. That is, if you already have a good local source.

· One 24 oz package is about enough to make 2-3 batches of tortillas. The below recipe is for one batch. But in my pictures I am making a double batch. My double batch made slightly less than 40 tortillas that are 4-5 inches in diameter. Your number per batch can change depending on how large you make them. And of course wetter dough will make thinner tortillas because the press will press them out more.

· I really recommend a tortilla press. The effort required to roll out 20 tortillas with a rolling pin might defeat the purpose. The dough can be slightly sticky, not like gluteny wheat dough. Presses are cheap. Mine is cast iron and was only about $15.

· I used a cast iron griddle to fry my tortillas. Any cast iron pan would do. Although much is written about reheating tortillas directly on your gas burner without using a pan, that is only for reheating. Cooking them is different. The tortillas are a soft and mashable dough before being cooked. They need to be cooked on some kind of pan. I have a feeling that any skillet would do. Just be careful to not use too much fat and deep fry them, you may end up with something crispy, more like a tostada.

Place 2 cups of masa harina into a large mixing bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of salt. Mix in 1 and ½ cups of water. If the dough feels too dry, add up to ½ cup more. If your dough feels too wet, add in more masa and mix it in with your hands. My dough was a little too wet today. I think I might have put in an extra cup of water in making my double batch. I guess I wasn’t paying close enough attention. But I fixed it before I started cooking.
Let the dough rest for an hour with a towel covering. When you are ready, form a small ball. I haven’t bought wax paper in years, so I used a plastic baggie (that I use over and over again with my press). I don’t have anything against wax paper. I just haven’t bought any in a while. Place the ball in the tortilla press and…well…press.

The dough needs to be handled delicately. The tortillas can fall apart or get stuck to the paper or plastic you are using. Expect that the first few will be terrible looking. Ball them up and try again a few times to get the hang of it.

On your griddle, with the heat on medium, put a little lard. You could use coconut oil too. But lard is so good. And I just rendered some this week! Use just enough fat to keep the tortillas from sticking and burning.

My griddle fits three tortillas. Let them fry on for a few minutes on each side. I noticed mine started to look dryer and started to curl at the edges when they were ready to be flipped. When both sides have cooled, transfer them to a plate. I tend to wrap them up in a clean dish towel to keep them warm. That is perfect is you are making tortillas right before they are to be eaten. But also I think it softens and finishes them even if you will be freezing them.

I froze mine in 2 packages of 10 each and one container for this week to make something. And of course I ate 3 while cooking straight off the pan with butter and honey. Ridic. What I haven’t decided is what I will do with my tortillas, enchiladas? Chilaquiles? Tacos? The possibilities are endless. Seriously, try this. Regular tacos suck in comparison. I might never be able to eat store bought tortillas again.

This post is part of Sustainable Eat and GNOWFLINS Simple Lives Thursday

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yup, It is me, awake at 1am posting winners of the OV Giveaway. Note to self, when hosting a giveaway, allows comments through NOON rather than MIDNIGHT. Oh well, we gotta learn somehow. FYI, there was one accidental duplicate comment which was removed to allow everyone one entry. gave me the following numbers for the year's supply of Organic Valley products: #16 Rachel P CONGRATS!!

For the Earth Dinner Books: #6 Michelle, #5 Anonymous (Dreamwvr1414) , #12 Bethany and #17 Teresa

For the reuseable totebag #20 Jill

Please email me by the end of Sunday April 24th at thetableofpromise(at)yahoo(dot)com with your shipping address to claim your prize.

Thanks again to Organic Valley for the fantastically generous giveaway. OV is doing great things for family farms and they bring a high quality product to market all across the country. Happy Eath Day and I hope that your Earth Dinner is deliciously local and sustainable!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fairway Markets' Steven Jenkins on Olive Oil

I decided to split up Steven Jenkins’ email response to me and the essay that he sent me into two posts. I originally wrote to Fairway Markets inquiring more information about the Organic Olive Oil I buy and I received an impassioned response from their esteemed head buyer, Steven Jenkins, who is arguably the most informed cheese and oil man in the entire United States.

Jenkins has been in the cheese business since way before I was born. His first book Cheese Primer was published in November 1996 and to date it has been reprinted more than ten times. Cheese Primer was awarded a James Beard Foundation Award in 1997. He is also an active member of the American Cheese Society, and a regular contributor to The Splendid Table on National Public Radio. Jenkins had another book published in 2008, The Food Life, written with the esteemed Mitchell London.



Sheer, absolute and tiresome rubbish, all this misinformation and nonsense I read on innumerable internet sites about olive oil. Truly, I despair of the worldwide stranglehold the internet has us in, such a muddle of cant and blather, and one can only imagine the mess we’re in if all of life’s other subjects are treated so poorly.

Yes, this is a rant. I’ve been holding off for months, but I can’t hold it back any longer. I thought I’d wait until most of the new oils are in, the 2010 and early ’11 pressings. Don’t want all that negativity in the air while these sweet and innocent, golden and virid liquid kisses are wafting about.

The last fifteen years, and deeper the last six or eight, I have been immersed literally and figuratively in olive oil in much the same manner as with my concentration for cheese starting in the mid-‘70’s. I know of which I speak, and I know also if I feel like I have to announce such a thing I’m going to sound like a jerk. I have forgotten more about olive oil than anybody in the business knows. Anybody. Any chef, any chemist, importer, retailer or worldly academic whose jaunty hobby is food, travel, and, say, Mediterranean history. I have forgotten more than they will ever know. The way I can prove it is just you come to any of the Fairway Markets and spend a few hours looking at and tasting my olive oils, and reading their signs and the labels on the bottles and tins. After a few visits, each an investment of hours-long perusal and study, you will be able to proclaim that you yourself are more knowledgeable about olive oil than just about anybody drawing breath. Certainly anyone who chose to educate himself via the internet. That being said, the only way you would be able to ascend to my lofty level of command is to travel to each of the groves and mills that are responsible for the oils I import for my Fairways. Travel to them during all seasons, not just the autumnal culmination of each grove’s raison d’etre. Walk the rows of olive trees. Palpate the tree bark and leaves, and the soil in which the trees reside and consume; breath the air in which the trees respire; turn your face up into the sun for extended contemplative periods, as do the olive trees’ leaves, and talk with the farmers and the mill workers. Or, rather, listen. Talk, and then listen. Listen, listen.

The only more ignorant information than that from the internet is found in the weigh-ins and replies submitted by the readers of these websites that purport to be founts of authority.

There is no ‘best’ olive oil. Olive oil, as with any other sensory thing, is a matter of taste. ‘A chacun son gout’ – to each his own taste, it is said among French people. A Turk will have strong emotional attachment to the olive oil from his family’s groves, and a Kiwi will feel no less adoration for his. But neither is better than the other. Nor does the price of the two oils have any bearing on ‘good, better, best’. A professional such as myself may opine that the Turkish source is an oil of bitter and/or bland organoleptic sensation, and that the NZ source has an undeniable tomato and citrus tang to it. But one cannot and should not take away from a professional’s articulation of an oil’s properties any cumulative positive or negative value. Again, ‘a chacun son gout’. The professional will attempt to dazzle the listener or reader with words that take on objectivity, rococo and filigree, smoke and mirrors. The daughter of a grove’s patron will similarly attempt to impress, to elevate her family’s oil to mythic status via hyperbole. But none of it means a thing, neither the clinical authority of the professional nor the poesy of the owner of the very soil of the grove. It is all just one person’s opinion, mine included.

But one thing I do know about olive oil that is unassailable, and cannot be said to be a product of prejudice or emotion: There is a lot of bad olive oil out there. And there is probably some of it in your kitchen right this moment. Unless, of course, you are one of my habitual customers.

There is no country that can be said to produce ‘the best’ olive oil. I have always said the same about cheese. The country in which a grove resides is vastly less cardinal than the specific region of it; or indeed the sub-region. Or the sloping terraced hillside or ridge-like spine, or rock-strewn stretch of a particular neighborhood of that sub-region. And then -- and then more important is how the trees were tended, when the olives were harvested, what is the name of the olive involved in the soon-to-be-derived oil. More than one variety? Which? How were they taken from the tree? Were they shaken down and did they bounce on the ground and mix with the soil, and thereby become bruised and soiled? Or were they hand-stripped by workers on ladders wearing hollow goat’s horns on their fingers, or modern plastic-molded goat’s horn-like claws, and were they ripe or were they under-ripe those olives falling into basket or bucket, or were they gently bouncing on nylon nets carefully arranged and shrouded around each tree? Were they then taken immediately to the local mill where they were culled of all or most of the branches and twigs and leaves that were stripped away with them, and were they weighed and then pressed before the olives began to get stale and ferment and change utterly from the crisp and spotted, jewel-like, living nuggets they were to the mushy, lifeless and soggy lumps they are now? Were there obvious olive-fly boreholes in the olives? More than one? Was there any evidence of a filmy mold upon any of them? Did anyone notice how many leaves fell into the press along with the olives? Those leaves will affect the flavor, you know; leaves are chlorophyll and chlorophyll is not without taste, not to mention color. An oil’s viridity can be directly related to an overabundance of leaves in the press, and still those dunderheads on the internet that profess to know something about olive oil will attest to an oil’s wonderfulness being directly related to how green it is.

All of these things matter. All of these things determine the fragrances of an olive oil, the odors of it, too, if it has been created carelessly; the texture of an olive oil, that is, the mouth-feel, the way an oil feels on your tongue and on the roof of your mouth and the back of your throat. The way the ardence, the power, of an olive oil attacks your palate, the taste buds on the outside edge of your tongue, and the sensory buds high in your nasal passages that fire as you exhale through your nose across the slurry that has slid down the back of your throat, and the incipient bitterness that often arises on the back of your tongue at the approach of an early-harvest oil, the glucosides of green olives making themselves known, a challenge to all but the most enthusiastic of olive oil-lovers, that adult bitterness that thrills us like horehound, Campari, licorice or absinthe. And finally the frequent and cherished peppercorn sensation that some oils offer -- fresh-ground black and sometimes green peppercorns, so diametrically opposed to some oils’ sweetness on the finish, a finish like honey, like unsalted butter.

All of these things matter. And none of them can be said to come more or less from any specific oil. Unless, of course, you want to. Unless you believe it. Because then it is there. And that oil is the one that thrills you. After all, isn’t that the point?

Fairway Market Wrote Me Back!!!

I wrote in my recent vinaigrette post that my Fairway olive oil came from Puglia in Italy. I reached out to Fairway for more information but wrote that they had not responded. Well bust my buttons if I didn’t open my inbox on Saturday morning to find an email from Steven Jenkins. Jenkins, whose exact title (head buyer and VP?) I am not exactly sure except that he is now pledged to be my personal grocer, was highly dismayed that I had not received his original email response. He quickly forwarded it to me along with 4 very impassioned essays about olive oil and cheese with olive oil and barreled versus non-barreled olive oil. I was struck by the vigor and volume of his words. And Jenkins kindly said that I could run them here! Awesome.

As I began to copy his words into the blog format to show the world the time and care that Fairway takes in responding to the questions of even the smallest blogger, it hit me. Oh. My. God. This man espousing olive oil and cheese knowledge to me was the truly incredible cheese monger of Fairway Markets; the man that David Kamp in his eloquent The United States of Arugula calls “America’s foremost cheese expert”. Jenkins has been in the cheese business since way before I was born. His first book Cheese Primer was published in November 1996 and to date it has been reprinted more than ten times. Cheese Primer was awarded a James Beard Foundation Award in 1997. He is also an active member of the American Cheese Society, and a regular contributor to The Splendid Table on National Public Radio. Jenkins had another book published in 2008, The Food Life, written with the esteemed Mitchell London.

It is my great pleasure to publish the words of Steven Jenkins. First the email I received and then in a second post, his essay on olive oil which I found so compelling. Who gets a letter like this when they email the grocery store?? I am a lucky gal.


Hey there Christa

First, thanks for appreciating the work we do here. Makes a lot of sense, and makes us really happy.
As for the olive oil, I first want you to understand that there are two kinds of olive oil. There is artisanal-production olive oil, and there is mass-production olive oil. Almost all artisanal-production olive oils are extraordinarily good. Almost all mass-production olive oils are not so good. In fact, most of them are execrable. Oxidized. Killed by fluorescent lights. Stale. Musty. Made from low-quality olives. To stock decent locally distributed olive oils (mass-production) requires that a buyer with expertise (such as ME) be involved. This is extremely rare around town and around the country.

Fairway is one of the few stores that stocks artisanal production olive oils. I import the most remarkable array of artisanal olive oils in the entire history of the industry. No other store or importer comes close to the range and selection here.

Our organic oil with the Fairway label is a blend of Umbrian oils and Pugliese oils, about 50/50. This is nonetheless NOT artisanal-production olive oil. But it IS olive oil from a family I know intimately and have visited and done business with for 16 years, exclusively. I am positive that there is no other private-label oil anywhere that is as fresh, tasty and expensively inexpensive as ours. It is my pride and joy. I pay a lot for this mass-production oil, because of its quality, and I charge very little commensurately. The farmers involved in my (our) private-label oil are around six for the Umbrian constituent, and another six or eight for the Pugliese constituent. Their oil, each year, is bought by another family whose business is blending these oils and then selling them to people like me. The oil is harvested and pressed (mulched and centrifuged, actually) at Spoleto, a mill just outside of the Umbrian town, and at Martina Franca, another pretty town in north-central Puglia. this Pugliese oil is pumped under pressure into stainless steel tanker trucks and is delivered to Umbria (Spoleto) where it is blended with the local Umbrian oil, bottled (again, under pressure) and shipped to me via the port at Genoa.
I create the flavor profile for it by tasting quite a few samples of each harvest's October/November pressing from both regions -- Umbria and Puglia.

You have to contrast this procedure of mine with the non-procedure for the two-dozen or so 'artisanal-production' olive oils I import as well, and with the 13 barrel oils I import in 200kg barrels each from a very specific farmer with whom I have been doing business for, again, almost 16 years. I am loyal, and I am very fond of each of my 13 (14! -- the Baena is moving to private-label! Very exciting for us!) Barrel oils. This aforementioned 'non-procedure' is that I BUY THE PRESSING HOWEVER IT TASTES FROM THE MOST RECENT HARVEST AND PRESSING. The farmer has it trucked to the nearest port, and that's it. I receive it at Port Elizabeth (NJ), and that's the end. Until you buy it.

So what you are choosing, that is, the oil YOU use at home, is the finest mass-production private-label olive oil on the face of the earth. That being said, I am urging you to taste the barrel oils, each of which is somewhat more expensive than the organic Umbrian/Pugliese blend you have been devoted to, but that are still the greatest value in our entire store. The greatest value in the entire store. You're paying, what 10 or 11 dollars for the organic. Awfully good olive oil. I am urging you to spend a few dollars more for any one of the 14 barrel oils, two of which are certified organic (Luque/Andalusia and Pugliese) for olive oil that should knock your socks off. And after you have luxuriated in all of my barrel oils I will graduate you to any of the 3 dozen exclusively-imported artisanal HALF-LITERS of generations-old mills and families of farmers from specific regions in Spain, Italy and France. Very expensive olive oil, but magical substances, each of them. And nobody imports them but Fairway.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Organic Valley Earth Dinner GIVEAWAY!!

This Friday April 22nd is Earth Day 2011.

In case you were wondering, the very first Earth Day was April 22nd, 1970. I found a lovely article written by former Senator Gaylord Nelson, founder of Earth Day. Nelson relates that Earth Day came about because of a disconnect between the people and the government regarding the importance of environmental concerns. The people were concerned about matters of conservation and environmental health while the political establishment was not. While at a conference in Seattle in 1969, Nelson announced that he was planning a grassroots environmental demonstration in the spring of 1970 that was open to everyone. The wire services carried the story from coast to coast and the response was electric. From that point on Nelson and his Washington DC staff organized demonstrations from their Senate office. But it soon became obvious that they could not organize the whole event. In the end 20 million people participated in the first Earth Day.

Earth Day is in its DNA a demonstration for environmental concerns. It is political and actionable. Earth Day is also open to all with no exclusions. And most importantly, Earth Day is an event that should be organized and carried out by the people. It should come from us, not the government.

Several sources I found online said that if everyone in the US would eat one local meal a week our country would save 1.1 million barrels of oil and 1.9 billion dollars would be pumped back into the economy. I cannot figure out which study first found out this statistic, so, sorry that there is no link back to it. But it seems to be the go to stat. National Geographic and Barbara Kingsolver and AgriGirl have all used it. So I feel it is pretty trustworthy. But jeez, 57 million barrels of oil a year? That is a lot! According to a University of Nebraska paper from what appears to be the late 90’s, US oil consumption stands at about 19.6 million barrels a day. Which means if we all had a local meal every week, we would save about 3 days worth of oil, or slightly less than 1% of our total annual supply. That might not sound like much to you. But to me that seems huge from just ONE thing, eating local.

Organic Valley recently challenged bloggers and their readers across the country to eat more locally by encouraging Earth Dinner. Earth Dinner is a completely local and organic meal that one can share with family and friends in conjunction with Earth Day. I think this is a beautiful way for anyone to deliciously celebrate Earth Day and support local business.

And just because they are pretty awesome, they are generously giving away to my readers:

1) One Year’s Worth of Free Organic Valley Products in the form of 52 free-product coupons ($520 value)

2) 4 Earth Dinner Books

3) And an Organic Valley reusable, packable shopping bag for carrying all those delicious Organic Valley goodies.

All you have to do to enter is “like” The OV Earth Dinner Facebook Page and comment down below that you did so. There is nothing else that you need to do, though signing up for my daily email or RSS feed would be a very polite thing to do to…I will choose 6 winners at random (through and will announce those winners on Earth Day Friday April 22, 2011. Here is to eating local!!!

This Post is part of Simple Lives Thursday at Sustainable Eats and GNOWFLINS

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Nice Healthy 200 Calorie Meal...

I am just noticing some discrepancies in nutritional math.

Much to the irony of my liberal arts education, I currently spend most of my work day doing math. Rates, percentages, some mid level algebra, spotting patterns-these were not things that I was good at growing up. But as I am required to do math at work, I have gotten better at it. And now I would say that I am a spot on pattern detector. I have a good sense for when numbers don’t add up (figuratively and literally). And I understand fully that in business, you can make numbers say anything.

If you operate by the assumption that one should eat three meals a day with maybe one small snack (or better yet no snack) You should have no more than four eating opportunities during the day. I am going to go with this number for the sake of the exercise, even though we know that things like dessert creep in. If we believe that 1800-2000 calories are the target for an average day, those calories should probably be split out fairly evenly, right?? Let’s say that 90% of calories should come from meals and 10% from that snack you eat. Of 2000 calories, that means 200 calories for snacking and 1800 calories for meals. If each meal is even, then that means 600 calories for each meal.

On one hand, this is not a lot of calories in each meal when one considers the amount of 1000 and 1200 calorie meals available at fast foods restaurants daily. With so many people eating huge portion of fat heavy foods, obesity is the natural result. But when one considers that 3.6 ounces of beef tenderloin with some fat left on the cut is only 275 calories, that a baked potato is also 275 calories and a cup of broccoli is about 85 calories-that is a good sized meal for 635 calories! I don’t think I would walk away hungry from that table. And not every one of my meals is 600 calories. Lunch might be less, making room for some butter and yogurt on my potato at night. So my conclusion is, 1800-2200 calories a day is probably sufficient for me to be satiated.

So why on earth do I see dieticians and nutritionists (and websites and morning talk shows and people in my office and other bloggers…) recommending 200 and 300 calorie meals??!!! And why do people think that eating one 150 calorie serving of breakfast cereal is enough to keep you feeling good and full?? I get it, dieters need to cut back in order to lose weight, but come on! Anyone can see that such severe calorie restriction leads to binge eating. Consuming a 200 calorie breakfast would have me panhandling snacks from my co-workers before 10am. And if you have 3 300 calorie snacks meals and a 100 calorie snack for your whole day, you have eaten a whopping 1000 calories in a day. How long do you think you could last on that diet? Do people who need to lose some weight think that a normal person is supposed to eat that little? How disconnected are we?

When I see people thinking that healthy eating means severe calorie restriction, my heart bleeds for them. We have become so far removed from what real food is that people are AFRAID to eat. And what a shame because food is wonderful. But we all know, all calories are not created equal. And calories in do not equal calories out. But real (simple) food is naturally lower in calories than fried tater tots and hot dogs, and of course higher in nutrients, vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, etc. It keeps you fuller longer. So you can eat a greater volume of food and weigh less. While I love the political and nutritional aspects of food, and I love examining the ethics of sustainability and family farming, the truth is, I just want to eat more while being healthy and looking good

This post is Part of Simple Lives Thursday at GNOWFLINS and Sustainable Eats

and Fresh Bites Friday at Real Food Whole Health

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Required Reading: Is Sugar Toxic? By Gary Taubes

When I have researched sugar in the past, it has been difficult to find definitive research about sugar being a toxic substance. There are a few people writing about sugar's role in heart disease and cancer. But the vast majority of nutritionists and doctors just see sugar as an empty calorie. Sure you shouldn't eat it, but sugar as a poison? Is it detrimental even in small doses? Does it make us sick? How could it contribute to heart disease? Isn't that what saturated fat does?

Last week on Twitter I saw several people a-twittering about the below article. The article was written by Gary Taubes author of Good Calories Bad Calories which I am told is an amazing book. It is high on the list. I respect Taubes' authority as well as the NY Times to bring to the reader only items that are thoroughly researched. I encourage every reader to read this rather long article. Particularly read this article if you think that High-Fructose Corn Syrup is worse for you than sugar. My hope is that this article gets people talking about GIVING UP sugar, or at least drastically reducing consumption of sugar.

What do you think? Is sugar contributing to our national sickness? Is Sugar Toxic? By Gary Taubes

Friday, April 15, 2011

Why I am Not Eating Traditional Foods

Now there is a headline that will likely get some readership.

I have been doing a lot of thinking this week. I have been thinking as well as working, commuting, number crunching, petty cooking, errand running, house cleaning, parenting and laundry. A lot of laundry. What I haven’t been doing was reading, researching, commenting on other people’s blogs, deep cleaning, talking on the phone, editing the various projects I have up in the air or cooking anything interesting. As much as I try to clear my backlog of work, more keeps on coming in. My life in the last week feels a lot like digging a hole at the beach. No matter how hard you work to keep the sea water out, it just keeps coming back in. There are crumbs on my floor, dirt on my bathtub, messages on my phone at work and 15 pounds of meat in my freezer that I don’t have the energy to prepare.

After getting back from vacation last week, I realized we hadn’t accomplished anything even though we had stayed home. I cleaned out one closet and went to the dentist and those were the only productive things I got done. And that was on the very first day of vacation! By the end of the week, the house was filthy and I still hadn’t made a fresh batch of granola.

I have a house full of food that I cannot make into anything. This week my pledge to eat homemade items seems overwhelming. More and more I am buying ingredients rather than prepared foods. And the time and energy it takes to prepare meals is more than I have. I haven’t found the time recently to make pasta on the weekends and forget about any new foods! I have the best of intentions, but some other obligation comes up and I cannot fulfill.

I am jealous of all these other bloggers who make such delicious food and take gorgeous photographs. I am not doing any of that this week. And I have read a few posts recently about the virtues of traditional foods. But I am unable to measure up to that ideal. I have been lucky to get dinner on the table at all this week. And so far this week it has been meat and one veg. Add to all of this two kids on different meal plans. Thing 1 thankfully eats most everything with a couple of annoying exceptions (like potatoes), while Thing 2 doesn’t touch anything but milk after 4pm. I don’t have the energy to make everyone happy. Someone is always crying. And frequently it is me.

So when I read someone’s post about unctuous roasts, or an ingenious guacamole dip with pureed greens or homemade sourdough bread and when I read someone’s tweet about chickens roasting away alongside chunks of butternut squash or home smoked meats well I am giving you all the middle finger behind the safety of my computer. Because I am not doing that stuff this week. I did manage to make some rather lousy sweet potato fries, but while sweet potatoes are traditional foods, does it count if they are baked into sticks in the oven? I used coconut oil, does that get me extra points? I don’t feel like I have been making a home this week. I feel like I have been merely sustaining life. And seriously I am out of stuff to blog about until some new vegetable comes into season or work slows down or something. Until then I hope you can accept these picture less posts of my incoherent ramblings.

And THAT, my friends, is why I am not eating traditional foods.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Weight Watchers Brand Produce?

I saw this as I walked past the grocery store the other evening. It was so strange that I had to show you! I am not opposed to Weight Watchers marketing produce, but I always think of them as being a processed food company, aside from the whole diet thing. This kind of surprised me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Full Story of My Vinigarette

When I was in high school, I thought salad dressing had to come from a bottle. I whole heartedly believed that aside from oil and vinegar (which seemed relatively easy to comprehend), a major company and an industrial kitchen were necessary for making salad dressing. Not that I knew what an industrial kitchen was… When I had my first job at a bakery with a full service kitchen I finally learned that vinaigrette was a humble mixture of vinegar, mustard and oil with maybe a couple of other flavorings, garlic, herbs, mayo if you are so inclined. That was an important moment for me. It was humble salad dressing that made me realize that everything (or nearly everything) that one could buy in the grocery store could be made at home. But when one doesn’t know HOW to make salad dressing, even something as EASY as salad dressing is just a big mystery. Like it has a big wall up blocking its history.

I was thinking about how easy this recipe looks from the outside. It seems so easy, but yet when you think about it, it is quite complex. I recently made a salad dressing from lemon juice, my preserved lemons, some garlic, my homemade mustard and olive oil. Just a few ingredients, but where everything came from is amazing to consider.

The preserved lemons I made myself. I know that weeks went into their preparation. The organic lemons came from California. The whey used to preserve them was strained from yogurt that came from Hawthorne Valley Farm in Columbia County, NY. The salt that aided in their preservation came from France according to the package of Baleine. The Cinnamon? That’s anyone’s guess. The preserved lemons sat on my counter for 10 days until being transferred to my fridge to sit for a month before I used them in this dressing.

The lemon juice is from my new favorite organic company Lakewood Juices. I have reached out to their Miami, FL based company but have not heard back from them in regards to where their fruit is grown. I assume Florida, but maybe it isn’t good to assume.

The mustard too seems like such a simple ingredient. But it requires painstaking work to get it to a useable condition. Mustard seeds are harvested and ground into a powder, packaged and sent to my beloved Fairway. I asked them where the seeds come from but haven’t heard back… I bought the seeds ground and mixed them with whole brown mustard seeds, steam distilled water (that came from Pawco Mt Pocono, PA), garlic from California, the same salt from France and more whey that came from that same batch of yogurt from Hawthorne Valley as the lemons. After fermenting and before I stored in the fridge I put in a little French White Wine for flavor (And don’t forget the wine was made up of grape juice and most likely SOMETHING else, but for the sake of this exercise I am counting wine as one ingredient).

The Olive Oil is labeled as being from Puglia in Italy. But that wasn’t good enough for me, so I reached out to Fairway markets for more information. Sadly, they have not written me back.

I also purchased the garlic from Fairway. I am assuming it is from California, but I am not sure. But in the case of garlic, I do know that most domestic garlic is from good ole CA. I added to the dressing a little more of the French sea salt and pepper of unknown origin. So that makes, including all the separate ingredients, and not counting any ingredient more than once (like the salt that was used in the mustard, preserved lemons and the final product) I count twelve ingredients altogether in this seemingly simple dressing recipe. And of the twelve ingredients, five are domestic: one is local to me (the whey); the lemons and garlic came from California, the lemon juice from Florida and the distilled water for the mustard from Pennsylvania. Three are definitely international: the salt and the white wine in the mustard are from France, the olive oil is from the south of Italy. And four are of unknown origin: the ground yellow mustard, the brown whole mustard seeds, the black pepper and the cinnamon sticks, though likely they are international too.

I am not bragging (really I am not) but I am trying to do most of the prep myself in my ingredients. There is something to be learned from preparing items from super scratch. I have knowledge of what went into my mustard and how it was made, which to me makes any recipe I use it in (or sandwich I use it on) appear more complex. If I had the opaque veil of “store bought” hanging over my mustard, I think I might think of it as one ingredient, rather than six separate ones. Maybe that is our biggest problem in motivating people to think about their food choices. To most people, mustard is mustard, one simple ingredient. Except that unequivocally, mustard is not mustard. Neither is it simple nor one ingredient. But the acknowledgement of complexity often comes from perspective. And when people envision ‘mustard’ as being only one ingredient they don’t read labels or ask questions. That is why I highly recommend making foods from super scratch. Know your farmers, make jokes with them at the markets, call them by their first names. Reach out to your supermarkets, tell them what you want as a consumer, ask them questions about a particular item, be an active shopper.

I am not opposed to non-local food. Things like pepper and spices have long since traveled great distances to get to the plates on which they were consumed. If the bulk of one’s calories are coming from local sources, like your meat, milk, cheeses, and most of your grains and veggies are local, I say don’t sweat some exotic grains like quinoa, or even some fruits and veggies from California. This is a modern world we live in. But knowing where the bulk of your calories come from, well, that I think is priceless. And always always remember, nothing is as simple as it seems.

Every one of these twelve ingredients started out as something in a field somewhere. The mustard grew on a mustard plant; the garlic grew underground, the lemons on a tree. They all took in nutrients from the soil, were rained upon and saw sunlight. They all grew at an actual address. Some person in the world(with a name and a story) harvested it, washed it, packaged it in a crate, shipped it, tied it with twine or bagged it or bottled it and put a label on it to sell. So when I see my salad dressing, I can’t exactly congratulate myself on how easy it was. So many items came from so far away in so many different ways to end up on my plate today.

Yet the moral of the story is that I am able to tell the real story of my vinaigrette at all. Had I picked up a bottle of Wishbone Zesty Italian for example (an old pre-blog favorite), I would surrender my knowledge at the register. Besides my objections to the actual ingredients, it would be impossible for me to find out where the soybeans were grown and how they were processed into soybean oil. It would be hard to know what kind of vinegar they had used. Hell, it’s be hard to even know what are all those red bits floating around in the dressing and can I assume that they are adding flavor, or it is the added ‘natural flavors’ and what factory production line did they come down?? No, the customer service department at that conglomerate food company won’t be able to tell you. They would rather lose your business than tell you the origin of the food you are eating, if they even could.

So again, I urge you, be a skeptic. Ask questions. Eat local. Make friends. Food is love and food is life.

This post is part of Real Food Whole Health's Fresh Bites Fridays and Food Renegade's Fight Back Fridays

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I've Been Thinking About Kid Food

I have been thinking about 'kid food'. I have been thinking about the ingredients that go into kid food and their preparation. I have been asking myself why kids like kid food and why adults always seem to end up sneaking chicken nuggets themselves… I have wondered about the salt content. And the sugar content. I have questioned the vegetable content and why the vegetables always seem so processed. I have asked the question what does processing mean, and why does it seem so critical to kids being willing to eat something.

Thing 2 is now at the age where every food is questionable. More often than not he will eat things like pancakes, hot dogs (the grass fed farmer’s market kind!), homemade pasta and smoothies. I have gotten pretty savvy at recreating kid favorites to get him to eat things like kale in his scrambled eggs and whole wheat in pancakes. I do feel good that he is getting good wholesome homemade food. And that has been the purpose of this blog, to make more stuff from scratch. I am proud to say that I regularly make pancakes, pizza, pasta, smoothies, soups, even cream cheese from scratch-completely homemade. But recently I am questioning whether this is good, or missing the point?

Michael Pollan in Food Rules writes that we should only eat unhealthy foods like fried foods, ice cream, etc, if we make them ourselves. The thought is that they are so difficult that we will consume them less often. I love these foods and agree that they are unhealthy. So I set out to follow Pollan’s rules and make them at home with ingredients that I believe in like whole wheat flour and unrefined sugar. But it was this last weekend when I made a batch of those whole wheat cheese crackers that it hit me. The recipe contains 4 tablespoons of butter, and 6 ounces of cheese not to mention onion powder and ¾ of a cup of whole wheat flour. That is expensive-about $6-7 for the batch which yields what looks like about a half a box of Cheezits!! I used a great Organic Valley raw milk jack cheese because the kids like it. They did not like the first batch that I made with raw milk cheddar. But I figured they didn’t like the crackers because they didn’t like the cheese. But even this time, using a cheese they like, both Things turned down the crackers. I will be eating all 4 tablespoons of that butter by myself.

I love that the crackers are homemade. But even though they are made with local whole wheat flour, cultured butter and raw cheese (which all get high marks in my book), the crackers are pretty processed. Wheat must be harvested, dried and ground. Milk must be cultured and strained. Butter must be obtained from cream and then churned. And the onion powder is a ton of processing too. Onions must be picked, sliced, dried and then ground. About the only ingredient that is minimally processed is the salt which was just dried from sea water.

More and more I look at the food I am serving my family and I feel that the whole foods are the best: roasted chicken with boiled broccoli, baked potatoes with a braised roast, stewed vegetable soups, brown rice and beans. These are all foods that are cooked in their original forms, with little alterations. These are the simple foods that our parents and grandparent ate growing up, not pizza and pasta and chicken nuggets. These foods surely offer the best health benefits. But they offer little in the way of exciting blog posts. “Hey everybody! Fry a grass fed steak in a cast iron skillet. And make sure that you salt and pepper it.” WooHoo. You already know how to do that. Where is the story? The excitement? It is in the story about homemade Goldfish crackers for sure.

In the last several months I have become a better cook. I have made all kinds of exciting stuff. And some things I have learned are not that intimidating like making home cultured cheese, kombucha, granola and stocks. These are worth my time and efforts on a regular basis. These homemade varieties replace industrial versions of the same foods only with more flavor and health benefits. But cheese crackers? I remain as non committal as ever about them. Is the point of the real food movement to replace the white flour in them with whole wheat? Is it about using local cheese? Is it about making cheese crackers that don’t utilize controversial preservatives like TBHQ? Is it about using organic ingredients to ensure that one is not exposed to chemical pesticides? Somehow I don’t think so. As I ate my homemade cheese crackers by myself this weekend, with no help from my kids, I started thinking about the things I would rather them eat: raw nuts and whole and dried fruits, raw veggie sticks, raw cheese. What better snacks could there be?

I am happy that I have gone to the effort of making these crackers from scratch. But I do not think I am going to keep them in the house. They will be a thing I will make for parties only. Because truthfully, even with all the high quality ingredients they contain, they are not in any sense of the word, minimally processed.

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday

Friday, April 8, 2011

Smart Balance...Milk?

I am no fan of Smart Balance Products. But that doesn't come as a shock to you. I can't think of another product that says 'overly processed' more than margarine. But a dear friend called me last night to say that she had seen a commercial for Smart Balance MILK. Milk?

Yes, Smart Balance, part of GFA Brands, is making a line of milks. The milks are all low fat, but mostly are fat free. And many have other things added back in to mimic the taste of 2% milk. Basically the products are fat free milk (which I am opposed to anyhow) with all kinds of vitamins added back in. Some have calcium added in, some have Omega-3s, some have vitamins C and E (vitamin C in milk seems just weird to me). But the one that takes the cake is the Smart Balance Fat Free Milk that has Omega-3s, Vitamin E and Plant Sterols. Wait, huh? Isn't milk an animal product? Why should it have plant sterols? And if the milk is fat free, how come they are adding in vitamins like Vitamin E and Omega-3's that are clearly fat related vitamins?? This makes absolutely no sense to me. Neither does the nutrition label.

How on earth can a product with one gram of fat per serving be labeled as fat free? And how come it lists total fat as 1 gram per serving, but none of that one gram is categorized as saturated, poly or monounsaturated or trans fat. What other kind of fat could that be? Each individual fat might be less than .5 grams and so could be rounded down to zero according to labeling laws, but clearly that doesn't make the product fat free. Doesn't this qualify as against USDA or FDA rules? Clearly all the animal fats have been removed from the milk and Sunflower Oil and Fish oil have been added back in to achieve the Vitamin E and Omega-3 claims. But those are fats, so the milk should not be labeled as fat-free.

Also, more protein than whole milk? That is only because they have added milk solids. This milk is totally pumped up with oils, synthetic vitamins and plant sterols. Whatever they are! That should be another post altogether!

Skip this milk. Drinking it is exactly the same as drinking fat free milk and chasing it with whey protein and a fish oil supplement. According to, whole milk (my much referred milk) has only 146 calories per cup versus the 110 of this milk. So for all that processing that strips the milk of its goodness, the stripping of the healthy milk fat, the ultra pasteurizing, the adding weird plant oils and synthetic vitamins, you save 36 calories. You know what I am gonna say!!!