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Nation’s farm groups fight bad publicity

February 2, 2011

I’ve been so busy lately I haven’t been cooking much, but I’ll get back to recipes soon! In the meantime I’ve found more news on my quest to better understand where our food comes from and what goes into it.

In the LA Times yesterday was an article about farmers joining together to try to improve their image after recent campaigns to end animal suffering and improve farming practices.

(Image Source)

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/wire/sns-ap-us-food-and-farm-farmers-coalition,0,4949825.story

They say the bad practices and bad farmers are only a small percentage, and the American public doesn’t see that.

In the article the director of the Humane Society’s campaign to end factory farming said it wouldn’t make a lot of difference because their efforts are aimed at the large factory farms.

I can’t say if the farmers are right or if animals rights groups are right, but that’s the problem. There’s almost no visibility it seems, and due to the amount of meat fast food restaurants alone produce it would appear it would almost have to come from a factory farm. But as I’ve said, my lack of knowledge is why I’m trying to learn and read all I can.

I still can’t help thinking about the bad things though. For example, I read about how some factory farms have to cut pigs’ tails off because they’ll eat each other’s tails when in confinement, and they get so depressed that they won’t do anything about it so it gets infected and they get sick. That makes me so sad! Even if that happens on only one factory farm it’s too much!

Government’s latest advice? Eat less.

February 1, 2011

Am I the only person who thinks this article is a total joke?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/01/business/01food.html?pagewanted=1&adxnnl=1&smid=tw-nytimes&adxnnlx=1296546012-Cjk5z/1sxFc%20XRUzJV4kuw

Seriously. All the “experts” in this article are basically shocked at the news and are delighted that the advice is so simple!

If only we’d thought of this before! Wow!

“Enjoy your food, but eat less?” Absolutely not going to happen. Even if it did, going from a large Big Mac meal to a regular meal isn’t going to make a whole lot of difference in terms of health. We need to change the way we think about food from a young age.

The article says the new guidelines are “understandable and actionable,” and that guidelines in the past have been too vague, such as telling people to eat more vegetables. This could include putting a tomato on your hamburger, the article says, but the new guidelines say to fill half your plate with vegetables.

Also in the article are suggestions that we should reduce the amount of salt we eat. First it was fats, then carbs, now salts. It’s always something, but nothing ever changes.

People ignore all these warnings because we’re constantly getting told different things which are bad/good to eat, and it’s confusing. We don’t learn much about it in school, so we rely on fad diet books and confusing, or outright stupid, government information.

The last thing I want to sound like is a Tea Party nutcase, but I’m not going to trust the government when it comes to telling me what or how to eat. They’ve done a pretty poor job so far if the weight and health of the United States is any indicator, so how is this any different?

Meat grown in a lab – good or bad?

January 31, 2011

Hey lil cow!

(image source)

I’ve been reading reports that scientists have found a way to grow meat in a lab, which is certain to be a controversial issue in the future.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/6684854/Scientists-grow-meat-in-laboratory.html

I can’t say for certain one way or another given that I’m no expert in this field, but it seems wrong. We weren’t meant to eat genetically modified products, and I think the consequences of doing so long term still aren’t clear as there aren’t always immediate effects. Look at mad cow disease! There are many people who agree with this view, people who have much more knowledge on the subject than I do.

A couple positives are that it would drastically reduce damage to the environment and provide people in third would countries with much cheaper access to food.

I don’t think I’d ever eat meat grown in a lab unless I had no other choice. Although we possess the ability to change the properties of foods and animals at our desire, we are still just animals on this planet and I think we should eat what nature gives us. We’ve evolved and thrived eating this diet, so why change it?

Would you eat meat grown in lab? Why or why not?

Taco Bell beef is only 36% meat?

January 27, 2011

Taco Bell is being sued because of claims that its beef is comprised of only 36% actual meat, so calling it meat is misleading to the consumer.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/yblog_thelookout/20110125/ts_yblog_thelookout/attorneys-question-whether-what-taco-bell-calls-beef-is-actually-beef

Taco Bell says this is lie, and that their meat is 88% meat, 12% secret recipe, which includes spices.

http://i.huffpost.com/gen/242169/TACO-BELL-MEAT-BEEF-LAWSUIT-NEWSPAPER-ADS.jpg

As I’ll explain, while I think this is an unfair attack on Taco Bell, I do think we need to be thinking more about where our food comes from and what is in our food.

picture from tacobell.com

In recent months I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about not only where our food comes from, but also what is in our food. Everything I’ve found is shocking, and once you learn about it you realize how truly obvious it is that most of what we eat isn’t real food at all (which is most likely why as a nation we are so sick and so fat).

For example, pick up a box of cereal. How many ingredients do you actually recognize? Not many, I would assume, because not many of them are whole foods.

While I was never under the impression that eating fast food was in any way healthy, I didn’t understand how many fillers are mixed into processed foods and also how many of them are derived from corn.

Corn products are in almost everything Americans consume. Here are a few very common ingredients you’ll find in almost everything:

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Aspartame

Caramel Color

Citric Acid

Corn oil

Corn starch

Dextrin

Dextrose

Dyes

Ethanol

Flavoring – as in “natural flavors”

Fructose

High-fructose corn syrup

Lactic Acid

Maltodextrin

Monosodium glutamate (MSG)

Sorbitol

Xantham gum

Zein

For a full list of corn derivatives and descriptions, click here.

Overall I think this is an unfair attack on Taco Bell because it isn’t going to change the industry, it’s just going to hurt their sales for a short while. People are going to look at Taco Bell in a negative light while they continue to eat at other fast food establishments or shop at the supermarket and buy the same sort of processed foods or meats that come from factory farms.

We need to focus more on education. I  never learned about food or nutrition in school, and it was only after reading about this subject on blogs that I took an interest to educate myself.

People have such a distrust for the government on almost every level, but most people don’t question the government in terms of what they consider to be real or safe food.

An excellent book to read is The Omnivore’s Dilemma, by Michael Pollan. He extensively researched exactly where our food comes from and followed it from the field to the supermarket.

It’s a big book, but it’s worth it. Alternatively, the documentary Food, Inc. is a good place to start in terms of getting an understanding of how much corn dominates our food economy.



Ever since I started reading about it I’ve strived to eliminate processed foods from my diet. I cook almost all my meals at home and I pack my lunch every day. Due to the nature of the way meats are processed and the food animals are force-fed I’ve also had to eliminate most meat from my diet, which is why the recipes on this site are  mostly vegetarian. You would be absolutely sickened to learn what cows are actually fed in factory farms and by the amount of antibiotics and growth hormones that are pumped into them.

It’s a long road toward a total lifestyle change, but I’ll get there!

Baked Salmon With Creamed Spinach

January 20, 2011

Occasionally I’ll get a piece of salmon that’s so good I forget I don’t really like it. That happened tonight.

Knowing that I’m not a fan of salmon I thought: Shucks, I better think of something to put on this. This is what led to me experimenting with creaming spinach. Never done it before, and it was a smash hit! I got two high fives from Adrian!

Baked Salmon With Creamed Spinach

– 2 medium salmon fillets

– Frozen spinach (uncreamed)

– Milk

– 1 teaspoon of Corn starch (corn flour if you are in England)

– 1 tablespoon of butter

– Sea salt

– Pepper

– Olive oil

– Grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or any strong cheese)

I bought two nice salmon fillets, or as the Brits would say, “fillits,” and I baked them according to the directions. I lined the pan with foil, spread a little olive oil, and then placed the salmon in the pan, turning to each side to coat with a little oil.

Shake a little sea salt and pepper over the salmon, then lightly place more foil over the top. Cook in a pre-heated oven for 18-20 minutes at about 190 C or 375 F.

For the creamed spinach: Melt the tablespoon of butter in a small pan. Once melted, add the corn starch/flour and keep mixing with a wooden spoon until all the chunks are gone and you have a thick cream. Don’t worry, there won’t be that much there and it will get quite thick. A little at a time add some milk and keep stirring.

Once it thickens again, add a little more milk and keep stirring. Depending on how much spinach you have cooked, add more milk until you feel you have enough cream. You don’t need a lot! You can always add more if you haven’t made enough because it takes about 2 minutes. Mix the cream and about a 1/4 cup shredded parmigiano reggiano into the spinach until you have a good consistency, like this:

Normally I make fresh beans, but I didn’t have much time so I used one of the canned beans I keep on hand just in case I need an extra vegetable. My favorite way to have canned green beans is to drain all the water from the can and fry them with a little olive oil, garlic powder, sea salt and some pepper. Cook until they are slightly browned.

… and a ton of creamed spinach for me. I love it!!

The salad was also a really simple romaine lettuce salad with sliced white onion, more parmigiano reggiano cheese and a little ranch dressing.

Simple Stuffed Bell Peppers

January 19, 2011

Don’t stuffed bell peppers seem like they would be difficult? I always thought so. I got ambitious last week and decided to make some … with no recipe.

In keeping with my tradition of eating good food but not spending all night in the kitchen, I made a tasty recipe that has only a few ingredients.

You remember that little green salad you met a couple weeks back, the avocado & basil salad? Well, there he is!

Simple Stuffed Bell Peppers

This recipe can easily be adapted to how many peppers you want to make. I made three.

– Bell peppers (red, green or yellow)

– Garlic

– Cream cheese

– Salt

– Pepper

– Sharp cheddar cheese

– Whole grain rice (about 2 cups)

– Chicken or vegetable stock cube (2)

I didn’t really measure my rice, which is bad, but it worked out. I didn’t care if I made too much because I wanted to try other recipes with whole grain rice, like pumpkin rice pudding. (I’ll post the recipe soon! Yum!)

I cooked around two cups of rice for 20 minutes. I didn’t cook it all the way because I wanted to bake the peppers for about 15 minutes.

While the rice was cooking I finely chopped one clove of garlic, and tossed that in the water with the rice and the stock cubes.

If you have never cut a bell pepper before – it’s easy. Just slice the top off, and then pull out all the little seeds. Poor seeds. They didn’t know it but they were trash-bound the day they were born.

Once the rice has cooked for about 20 minutes, make sure there isn’t excess water. I used about 1/4 of the cube of cream cheese and mixed it in. How much cheese you want is totally your call. I didn’t want mine to be too cheesy, so I put just enough cheese in my mixture to hold the rice together. Salt and pepper the mixture, but taste along the way to make sure you aren’t oversalting.

Set the peppers upright in a small pan, then fill them to the top with the rice. Sprinkle the sharp cheddar cheese over the top, and then pop in the oven for about 15 minutes at 375 F, or until the cheese on top is golden brown.

If you want you can chop another vegetable, like eggplant or zucchini, and place the pieces around the peppers to cook at the same time. Just drizzle some olive oil and salt on the chopped veg before they go in the oven.

Done!

Spinach and Artichoke Bow-Tie Pasta

January 16, 2011

If you can boil water and open a jar you can make this dish.

Technically bow-ties are called farfalle, but who likes that word? Not me.

In the recipe below don’t worry too much about specifics. The great thing about dishes like this is that they are very flexible and you can adjust according to taste.

I like adjusting to taste because it means I get to eat the dish while I’m cooking. Who wants to wait to eat at the table? Not me.

Spinach and Artichoke Bow-Tie Pasta

– 1 jar of marinated artichokes (mine were marinated in oil, vinegar, oregano, etc.)

– 1 cup of frozen spinach. Well, one cup when it’s thawed.

– 1/2 lemon to squeeze in at the end

– Salt

– Red wine vinegar (about 2 tablespoons)

– 75 grams bow-tie pasta per person

Cook the pasta for about 10 minutes. Cook the frozen spinach.

Drain pasta and mix in the spinach. I put the whole jar of artichokes in the pasta, including the oil in the jar.

Salt to taste, then add the red wine vinegar. Squeeze the lemon juice in the pasta, but be careful not to let any of the seeds slip in. They are very hard and could hurt your teeth!

Sprinkle some parmesan cheese over the top, add a little sea salt and it’s done!