Friday, January 28, 2011

good fuel = productive day

You know you’re a food nerd when you wake up to a text message containing a photo of a kale smoothie…

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…which inspired me to make my own smoothie this morning. Because I used up all the kale in stock during my recent experiment, I decided to try another leafy green…swiss chard.

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Naturally, I had to play food detective to get the details on this colorful stemmed leafy green:

  • from the chenopod family (also includes beets, spinach, and quinoa)
  • contains at least 13 different polyphenol antioxidants that have detoxification and anti-inflammatory properties
  • may assist in blood sugar regulation
  • good source of thiamin, folate, zinc, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, K, B6; riboflavin, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper and manganese.

I have to say that my smoothie {which also contained an apple, banana, 1 T of almond butter, and 1/2 c. almond milk} was pretty fantastic.

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I felt super energized after drinking it…or maybe it was the yoga session right before? Regardless, it was good, and you should make it. Smoothies are a great way to sneak in extra servings of vegetables and fruit, too.

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Good nutrition helps set up a productive work day, right?! I conference called about the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans coming out on Monday [read my review of the first draft here], wrote material for cooking class # 2, and worked on info for private nutrition clients.

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What’s your standard morning fuel?

Happy Weekend!

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

i love green

My favorite color is green. I like this color because it reminds me of spring, sustainability, and one of my favorite vegetables, kale.

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For a long time I thought kale was bitter and was only edible to small herbivorous rodents. Fortunately, I gave it a second chance…and learned how to properly cook it in the process.

Some kale recipes I’ve experimented with:

My latest adventure in kale was inspired by 101 Cookbooks.

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If you’re a pesto lover, you will approve of this easy recipe [20 minutes tops!]. I opted to use feta cheese and whole wheat penne, but I’m sure the original recipe is delicious as it stands.

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Nutritionally kale is pretty fantastic:

  • contains phytonutrients that may help prevent cancer
  • increases production of enzymes involved in detoxification
  • excellent source of pro-vitamin A
  • excellent source of antioxidant vitamin C
  • good source of fiber  (1 cup cooked = 10.4% DV)
  • very good source of calcium (1 cup of kale supplies 93.6 mg of calcium, 9.4% of the daily value for this mineral)
  • good source of copper, vitamin B6, and potassium

Read about raw vs. boiled kale nutrition here.

All that green also justifies homemade blueberry ice cream.

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What’s your fave way to eat kale?!

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Monday, January 24, 2011

potato soup

Great discussion on the organic post! A little follow up:

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  • if industrial organic isn’t sustainable, what are my options? Industrial organic produce is still better than conventional produce because it doesn’t contain hormones and pesticides. Local food is also valuable because it is grown using the small farms model; you just have to ask about growing specifics.
  • what do I eat in the winter? Many of us aren’t fortunate enough to live in an area with a winter CSA (community supported agriculture), making it very hard to eat locally and seasonally. I’d recommend buying organic versions of the dirty dozen (if you can) and choosing fresh and frozen vs. canned produce.
  • how do I know if a farmer is telling the truth about his/her produce? There is an element of trust involved in the farmer-consumer relationship. However, you could play food detective and visit the farm to see firsthand how things are done. I’m actually really interested in doing this…

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All that said…I don’t have all of the answers. I do know that the industrial factory farming system in place is definitely not sustainable, and there is a great need to find a better way to grow and distribute food. Simply being aware of where your food comes from and spreading the word about being a responsible consumer is important. The food industry will mold to meet the demands of the consumer, and if we demand fresh, local food, perhaps we can shake up the system.

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Last time I checked it was still winter; therefore, I’m still eating soup. I decided to attempt a version of potato soup today with a few more vegetables hidden inside.

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[super easy] potato soup

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  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 onion or 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pound red potatoes (~6-7 small ones), peeled and chopped
  • 4 T butter
  • 4 cups vegetable stock

    Sauté the vegetables in butter until slightly browned (10-15 minutes). Add the stock and simmer until vegetables are soft (15 minutes). Blend soup in small batches via traditional or immersion blender.

    Then make these 15 minute oatmeal scones, and you’ve got an easy (but delicious), homemade meal.

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    Sometimes I think eating healthfully is only complicated because we make it that way…simple food can be fantastic, but we have to make time to cook (and enjoy) it.

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  • Saturday, January 22, 2011

    organic…what does it really mean?

    It’s currently –3 outside. It may warm up to 0 degrees by lunchtime. Lovely. But I can’t complain about this view…

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    It is one of my goals to watch the sun rise one of these mornings. I’m pretty good at catching the sunsets, but there’s just something about seeing the sun rise before the day starts…

    Cold weather calls for warm soup. This kale and potato soup is a perfect way to thaw after…walking out to your mailbox. Ha.

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    I had this tidy little post written up about organic food and the dirty dozen, but after reading a chapter on the topic in Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, my thoughts have changed.

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    Pollan presents two different views of ‘organic.’ It can be:

    • a labeling term to identify food that meets USDA standards as described below.
    • a philosophy; a way of growing food that most closely mimics nature.

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    A little trip to the USDA’s website revealed this information:

    • 100% organic: must contain only organically produced ingredients and processing aids.*
    • organic: must consist of at least 95 percent organically produced ingredients;* remaining product ingredients must consist of nonagricultural substances approved on the National List.
    • made with organic ingredients: 70% organic ingredients; can appear on the front of package, naming the specific ingredients.
    • contains organic ingredients: contains less than 70% organic ingredients.

    *excludes water and salt; can be labeled with USDA organic seal

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    Most of us view organic food in the context of the first definition. It has met certain criteria; therefore, we view it as safe and environmentally responsible to eat. However, many organic farms are starting to follow the factory farm model and no longer fit into the second definition of organic.

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    While they do not use chemical pesticides, they grow so many crops that the land is depleted, and they must use artificial means to put nutrients back into the soil. While they do not treat their animals with hormones, organic farmers may still confine them to small spaces and feed them “organic grain,” when the animals are naturally meant to digest grass.

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    The produce you find at Whole Foods is not likely from small farmers; it is more expensive to deal with these farmers, and they do not grow enough produce to stock a grocery store. Instead, your produce may have come from a mega organic grower somewhere across the country.

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    So…what does this say about the farming model and the benefits of purchasing organic food?

    • there is still value in using organic methods to farm vs. hormones and pesticides.
    • the closer organic farming moves toward factory farming, which is not a sustainable practice, the more it becomes harmful to the environment.
    • seeing ‘organic’ as a philosophy vs. a labeling term changes the way we view products like organic tv dinners, organic cookies, and organic high fructose corn syrup (???!!!).

    Personally, I find it more beneficial to purchase food from local farmers, since I can find out firsthand how they grow their crops and raise their animals. I know that is not possible for everyone, and it’s one of the things about modern culture (as in, most of us cannot choose farming as a viable occupation) that has also changed our food system.

    Thoughts? How do you define organic food?

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    Thursday, January 20, 2011

    homemade vs. processed

    Maybe I’m the only one who gets stressed out by going to the grocery store these days. There is so much food that is not food, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of choices available.

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    For example, the deceivingly simple ice cream sandwich has always been a fave. But…have you checked the sketchy ingredient list lately?

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    I’m pretty sure half those ingredients are euphemisms for genetically modified corn. Fantastic.

    When I saw a recipe for homemade ice cream bars from Mama Pea (anyone who successfully raises children on a veg diet is a hero in my book), I decided to test the waters.

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    Mixing, chilling, microwaving [because I tried to speed the chilling process by using the freezer], rolling, cutting, and baking…these little treats are a ton of work!

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    Sprinkles are a lot of fun, but they contain all sorts of weird food dyes and strange ingredients…and I just couldn’t buy them. Instead, I decided to use chopped pecans  and dark chocolate chips for garnish.

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    Don’t expect these to taste like a storebought ice cream sandwiches because, well…they aren’t. But you at least get the satisfaction of recognizing every single ingredient.

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    Things I have learned:

    • Making homemade ice cream sandwiches is a lot of work.
    • Homemade ice cream sandwiches do not taste the same as machine made, chemically filled treats.
    • You will savor a homemade ice cream sandwich and have more appreciation for it because of the hours it took to create.
    • You will not eat ice cream sandwiches as often (see above points).

    Now, I’m definitely a fan of moderation, and I’m not on a rampage against mass produced ice cream sandwiches.

    It’s just that I realize I have the power to choose, and the more I think about it, the less excited I am about giving any money to sectors of the food industry that I don’t support.

    Any similar baking adventures?  Any homemade versions of treats that have been amazing?

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    Tuesday, January 18, 2011

    a snack and a lesson

    Alright, friends. Get yourselves a cup of coffee and a muffin…it’s story time.

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    Yes, I still have 20 cans of pumpkin in my basement…after the great pumpkin shortage of 2009, one can never be too prepared. But anyway, make these pumpkin gingerbread muffins.

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    *substitutions: 2 cups of whole wheat flour vs. 1 cup, applesauce for the oil, 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar instead of 1 cup of regular sugar.

    Now that we’ve covered the snack part, it’s time for a lesson. When I published Patrick’s guest post as part of the 12 days of giving series, I alluded to the fact that fair trade might not be as fantastic as it sounds…here, Patrick presents another solution.

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    Patrick: I will be the first to admit that in today’s coffee world, where you can find anything from Organic to Fair Trade to Bird Friendly-certified coffee, the last thing most people want to worry about is another coffee certification. But before you give up on this blog, what do you really know about the Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, or Bird Friendly Certified coffee that you bought this morning?

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    The whole point of certifying a coffee is that the end consumer knows that certain standards have been met, but these standards are often so complex that it would take a college course to understand them all. There is a certification just starting to grow in the coffee world that is refreshingly simple and, in my opinion, much more beneficial to farmers:

    Direct Trade Coffee.

    There are three simple guiding principles behind Direct Trade Coffee:

    (1) High wages.

    (2) High quality.

    (3) Direct purchasing through a relationship between farmer and buyer.

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    Since Direct Trade is a new idea, these ideals manifest themselves in different ways. Industry leaders like Counter Culture Coffee, Intelligentsia, and Stump Town Coffee Roasters each have their own standards for what these principles mean, but these standards all include a minimum purchase price, minimum cup quality, and minimum amount of contact between farmer and the company. Although Counter Culture may set quality standards based upon their proprietary tasting system, while Intelligentsia bases it on their own system, these companies are establishing their own set of guidelines they think best fulfill the three guiding principles.

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    In my mind, Direct Trade is the logical step forward from the current obsession with Fair Trade. First, Direct Trade is set up so that buyers, not farmers, pay fees. Fair Trade, on the other hand, requires large up-front costs from the farmers themselves. This policy actually excludes the small-scale, independent farmers that consumers often associate with the Fair Trade logo!

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    Second, Direct Trade is more sustainable. Since Direct Trade is as focused on quality as it is on price, it gives farmers a reason to continually improve their coffee growing and harvesting techniques. Fair Trade certification says nothing about the quality of the coffee. As such, people often end up paying a premium for inferior coffee grown by a large coffee plantation that can cover Fair Trade Certification costs. At least it has a Fair Trade Certified sticker on the bag, I guess.

     

    images via Counter Culture Coffee

    Finally, even though we may just be “average coffee drinkers,” we should still have the opportunity to learn how our morning coffee got to where it is today. When buying a Direct Trade coffee, coffee shops will know if it came from a small-scale, independent farmer or a large-scale plantation, how much was paid for the coffee, and probably more than we would ever actually care to find out. With this knowledge, it is no longer coffee intermediaries, exporters or importers, or even local coffee shops that determine who we buy our coffee from and how much we pay them. It is us, the coffee drinkers of the world, that get to make this important choice.

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    I think we buy fair trade products to feel better about ourselves, but in reality, do we know what this certification really means? I had never heard of direct trade before, and I find the difference from fair trade both significant and interesting.

    Have you heard of direct trade? What are your thoughts on direct trade vs. fair trade?

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    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    snow running & a recipe…

    Thanks for the great responses to the commuter cycling post. Check it if you haven’t yet!

    It has been a super busy week. Sometimes the best stress relief is a good run, even if there is a lot of snow outside, drivers don’t want to share the road with you…and you get sprayed by the snow plow. 

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    Another thing that can ease stress after a busy day is a quick meal. This recipe was a little tricky for me to write out because I don’t usually measure anything…I just mix until things look right and taste good.

    black bean burgers

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    • 1 (14 oz) can black beans, drained and rinsed (rinsing for 30 seconds can remove 30% of the sodium).
    • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
    • 2-3 T olive oil
    • 1-2 cloves of garlic
    • 1/4 cup crackers, crushed
    • 1/4 cup salsa
    • pepper to taste

    And here are my secret weapons…pastry cutters are traditionally used for making delicious pies, but they’re also great for mashing up black beans. Also, a jar lid greased with a little cooking spray is the best way to make burgers of uniform size that won’t fall apart. Any other helpful hints?

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    Heat 1-2 T of olive oil in a pan and cook burgers for 3-5 minutes on each side (depending on thickness). Top with a little guacamole for perfection.

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    Oh…my other favorite thing about winter is scraping the snow off the roof. It’s about as much fun as it sounds. And yes, the snow is up to my knees!

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    Alright…confession time. Are you a diehard outside exerciser, or do you stay inside in the winter?!

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    Thursday, January 13, 2011

    sustainability inspiration…

    As I’ve explored nutrition and responsibility, I’ve found that the principle of sustainability, or living in a way that contributes to the preservation and restoration of the world, is most certainly relevant.

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    Day 12: Give back to the environment

    Although sustainability encompasses many things, I most often think about its relation to the environment. There are many ways [both big and small] to practice environmental responsibility:

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    One thing I have always found interesting is the concept of commuter cycling…not only for its positive effect on the environment but for its contribution to health. I had the pleasure of interviewing 4 fantastic individuals from all over (St. Louis, Nashville, Chicago, W. Michigan) about their experiences with cycling as a primary form of transportation.

    Dan is one my classmates from SLU’s dietetic internship. While the rest of us drove to our rotation sites and classes, Dan braved the crazy St. Louis drivers on his bike.

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    Dottie lives in Chicago and is a fantastic photographer. She and her husband decided to ditch their car after a year of living in Chicago…and never looked back.

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    Dave is a friend who’s made a lot of great strides toward sustainable living in a very non-progressive town. He loves Michael Pollan’s books and discussing food responsibility [and also commuted by foot for the first 1.5 years without a car].

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    Trisha is 1/2 of the blogging team behind Let’s Go Ride a Bike. She still has a car but bikes 2.5 miles daily to work.

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    What are some of the ways you practice sustainability? Have you ever thought about commuting via bicycle? If you have any questions, leave some comment love, and I’ll forward them to my contributors. Thanks to Dan, Dottie and Trisha at Let’s Go Ride a Bike, and Dave for collaborating with me on this post. 

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