Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chicken, Orzo Super Salad and Dark Chocolate Pudding

Living in my car doesn't allow much time to blog or access to cook.  However, I did manage to cook up a scrumptious meal in a friend's kitchen recently. It left my tummy pleasantly satisfied  with no costly side effects from my traveling diet of convenience food.    

To go with my organic soy garlic marinated baked chicken, I prepared Orzo Super Salad (minus the cheese) from my favorite recipe site: 101 Cookbooks. For dessert- a common course in my kitchen- I made an irresistible dark chocolate dairy-free pudding.   
I'll write soon of the problems with dairy, but for now, try this creamy delight that you would never even suspect is made with soy.  I personally don't like the taste of soy, but have found it possible to completely cover up the flavor while enjoying the health benefits of the protein/ dairy substitute.  If possible, go with non genetically modified tofu.

  Orzo Super Salad:
1 cup orzo pasta
  10 asparagus spears, cut into 1-inch 

1 head broccolini
handful of cilantro or mint, chopped

1 small clove of garlic, mashed with a big pinch of salt and chopped

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

a small handful of sprouts
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 small cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium avocado, sliced into small pieces

Cook orzo according to package instructions. About 2 minutes before it's finished cooking, stir the asparagus and broccoli into the orzo pot. Cook for the final 2 minutes, drain and run under a bit of cold water to stop the cooking.

In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt into the dressing. Set aside.

Toss the orzo, asparagus, broccoli, and cilantro with the dressing. Add more dressing if needed, and toss well. Now add the sprouts, almonds, cucumber, and avocado. Very gently toss a couple of times to distribute those ingredients throughout the salad and serve.

Serves 4.

Dark Chocolate Pudding:

1/2 block silken tofu + water in carton

1 c. walnuts

1 bar dark chocolate 

1/4 c. agave nectar (or honey)

pinch sea salt

mint (optional)

Blend everything together in blender or food processor until creamy.  Add berries if desired.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Misdirected Loyalty

Okay, enough bashing the FDA (for now).  Let's move on to the USDA. =)  The USDA is primarily responsible for keeping food sources safe, without diseases than can make people sick. They inspect fruits and plants brought in from foreign countries and preventing these from polluting the crops growing in the US. Except for a little sow manila and e-coli once in a while, they seem to be doing no worse a job than their counter parts abroad. As I recall, the former mentioned diseases spread across the globe. 

That said, why don't they just stick to their jobs of policing crops and not feel the need to tell us what and how much to eat?  If they are representing agriculture, naturally their primary interest is just that.  It seems to me that there should be impartial organization interested in our health to set the revered food standards by which we should live by.Harvard leading nutrition researcher Dr. Walter Willett concisely illustrates this detrimental conflict of interest: 

What's good for some agricultural interests isn't necessarily good for the people who eat their products. Serving two masters is tricky business, especially when one of them includes persuasive and well-connected representatives of the formidable meat, dairy, and sugar industries. The end result of their tug-of-war is a set of positive, feel-good, all- inclusive recommendations that completely distort what could be the single most important tool for improving your health and the health of the nation.

It's a scary reality indeed. But not to fear because there are researchers out there looking out for our needs and developing new safe, health promoting standards to follow.  One of the greatest new food pyramid I have discovered was conceived by Monica Myklebust, M.D., and Jenna Wunder, M.P.H., R.D from the University of Michigan School of Integrative Medicine (see above illustration).  The beauty of it is that, if followed, it acts as both preventative and healing medicine therefore lessening our dependance on pharmaceuticals. What a simple, logical, money-saving, health promoting way to live! "Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food." -Hippocrates

Misdirected Loyalty

The primary interest of the FDA is to protect food manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.  How better to do that than to keep food guidelines minimal, therefore allowing the public to eat foods detrimental to their health, which keeps them sick, which consequently results in their dependent on drugs?  Ingenious. No wonder it's they are billion dollar industries.  Take a look at all the things the FDA has failed to protect us from (CSPI Newsroom):

  • OBESITY. The agency has done essentially nothing to reduce obesity despite the alarming statistics of obesity on a rapid rise. Even with a food that’s a major contributor to obesity—soda—FDA has declined to place health notices on cans and bottles require added sugars to be listed separately on labels, or to require multi-serving containers to list the number of calories for the whole container.
  • HEART DISEASE. One of the most potent promoters of heart disease is the trans fat in partially hydrogenated oil, but he FDA has done nothing to get restaurants to disclose or eliminate it. In 2004, CSPI petitioned the agency to ban partially hydrogenated oil and, until such a ban, to require disclosure in restaurants, but the FDA has not acted. The result: thousands of unnecessary premature deaths every year.
  • HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE. Perhaps the single most harmful substance in the food supply gets zero attention from the FDA—sodium chloride, or salt. CSPI and the American Medical Association want FDA to revoke the “Generally Regarded as Safe” status of salt and to treat it as a food additive, subject to reasonable upper limits in packaged foods. In 2004, the head of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute estimated that cutting the sodium content of the food supply in half would save 150,000 lives per year.
  • FRADUALENT LABELS. Of 11,000 employees, the FDA tasks a grand total of four people at headquarters to police food labels. Thus, supermarket shelves are graced with "carrot cake" virtually without carrots, fruitless "fruit snacks" made with high fructose corn syrup, "whole wheat" products with a lot of white flour, and so on. The most significant FDA labeling initiative in recent years was an initiative to let manufacturers place misleading “qualified health claims” on food labels. FDA’s own research found that the program confused consumers, but the program, championed by food companies, continues.
  • FOOD SAFETY. Faced with the emergence of dangerous chemicals (such as mercury or acrylamide) in food, the FDA takes years before acting—and even then, its response is typically tepid. Faced with outbreaks of bacterial pathogens in food, FDA is similarly nonresponsive: Salmonella in eggs could be all but eliminated with finalized on-farm regulations to control the hazard, but those have been delayed for years. Shellfish contaminated with deadly Vibrio vulnificus kill 20 or so people every summer, but FDA relies on an industry-funded partnership with state governments to ensure shellfish safety.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Goodbye Texas Toast

In courageous attempt to collect, consolidate, and share my favorite recipes and useful nutritional information, I am setting out out this exciting virtual adventure through the wild world of blogging. 

I am a food junkie. I love eating so much that my sister pointed out there has never been a time she has called me when I haven't been eating.  And she calls a lot.  Not only can she hear me crunching away on the other end of the phone, but thanks to Skype, she can also see me stuffing my face. Lucky her.  And lucky for me and my figure that I am starting to become a GOOD food junkie.

Thanks to Michael Pollan's recent book fame, many of us are familiar with the quote, "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants." So I think to myself: Eat foods- check. Not too much- I've already admitted guilt to that. Mostly plants- ha!  And then I wonder, does what I eat really qualify as "food?"  Can I really count the steraroyl lactylate, azodicarbonamide and xanthan gum in my Texas toast as food?  Those ingredients seem to belong in a science lab, not my stomach.    

My scientist husband's thought process was that our bodies must be strong enough to break down that ambiguous chemistry and discard the byproducts.  The FDA otherwise wouldn't approve it. Edible=safe, right?  Wrong! Just read Byron J. Richard's, Fight for Your Health: Exposing the FDA's Betrayal of America or go watch Food, Inc.  You will never be the same.  He wasn't. Not only that, but if our food was so safe, why is the epidemic of diseases so rampant in the past 30 years? Obesity has risen 300%, diabetes 233% (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), and cancer cases in the U.S. out number the rest of the world. Coincidence that 70% of our food supply has become processed food in the last 30 years?  You connect the dots. 

The answer to what food (a source of nourishment) is, is simple.  The closer to its natural state something is, the closer it is to being food.  Coincidentally, the closer you get to being able to pronounce the ingredient with ease, the more like it is food. The garlic is the only ingredient in my beloved Texas Toast that is in its natural state. That's easy to say. Garlic. Garlic. Garlic. Azodicarbonamide on the other hand, took me a couple of slow sounding-out tries to pronounce. The use of azodicarbonamide as a food additive is banned in Australia, Europe, and Singapore. In fact, Singapore's punishment for using it is 15 years imprisonment an a $450,000 fine!  Why? The thermal decomposition of the chemical results in nitrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and ammonia gases. It is used in the production of foamed plastics such as door gaskets, exercise mats and shoe soles.  And oh by the way, it may cause asthma. I think I'd rather eat a raw garlic clove. Next time I will.