Weekend Reading: The Omnivore's Dilemma

OmnivoresDilemma.jpgIs it just me, or is everyone talking about The Omnivore's Dilemma?

Michael Pollan, author of the bestselling book The Botany of Desire, uses the book to look at four different answers to the question "What should we have for dinner?" He traces the origins of four meals - McDonalds; Whole Foods; a small, self-sustaining Virginia farm; and a "hunter-gatherer" expedition - from field to dinner plate. In the process, he looks at the causes of what he calls our "national eating disorder," and offers up some solutions.

Read the intro and first chapter of The Omnivore's Dilemma. Buy the book.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 5, 2006

Tazo Chai, Take Me Away!

tazo chai.jpgIt's October. The days are getting shorter, there's a chill in the air, and our wool sweaters are starting to see the light of day again. It's time for Tazo Chai. I'll take mine in the Decaf variety. Tazo describes it as

"a sensual blend of exotic spices and rich black teas relieved of their caffeine. Naturally decaffeinated under the watchful eye of a Tazo tea shaman, the leaves first surrender their native caffeine, then joyously mingle with African rooibos, cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom to create a hearty potion which can dance on the tongue all night long. Sweeten and serve with milk (or yak butter, when available)."

Not sure about the yak butter bit. I like mine with honey and whole milk. It reminds me of the sweet and spicy chai I drank while building houses with Habitat for Humanity in Nepal.

Available at Tazo.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 4, 2006

Nothing Says Fall Like...Pumpkin Pancakes!

mix-pancak-pumpkin.jpgAdmit it. You closed your eyes in late August, early September. You wake up, and suddenly it's October. The days are getting shorter, nights are getting longer, you need to put on a sweater - or even a jacket - to leave the house. Everything feels so...October-like. Yep. It's fall.

Well, you can't fight it. Might as well get into it. And in our humble opinion, the best way to do that is to...make pancakes! Pumpkin pancakes, that is. Got an email from our friends over at Dancing Deer to let us know that they're embracing the season with a whole bunch of fall flavors. Though they're known for their cookies, what strikes our fancy right now is their Pumpkin Spice Pancake and Waffle Mix. Made of all natural ingredients, like unbleached wheat flour, pumpkin flour, natural pumpkin, powdered buttermilk, cane sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, and spices, all you need to do is add milk, eggs and sugar.

We're picturing ours with toasted pecans and hot maple syrup. Maybe with a sliced Ida Red apple on the side. Mmmm.... October feels better already.

Available at Dancing Deer.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

October 2, 2006

FDA Lifts Ban on Fresh Spinach

spinach2.jpgThe FDA has lifted its ban on fresh spinach products, limiting the ban to already recalled products containing spinach from the central California company Natural Selection Foods. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"All of the spinach implicated in the current outbreak has been traced back to Natural Selection Foods" of San Juan Bautista, said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer at the federal agency's Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. "Right now, the only spinach we're saying shouldn't be consumed is the spinach that was subject to the recall."

Read the official notice (and other press releases on the spinach E. coli outbreak on the FDA website.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 29, 2006

Weekend Reading: Chew on This - Fast Food Nation for the Grade School Set

chew-on-this.jpgWhile parents are campaigning against junk food, Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser offers kids a digestible (though hardly palatable) look at the fast food industry in his new book Chew on This: Everything You Don't Want to Know about Fast Food.

Written with co-author Charles Wilson, the book adapts the lessons of Fast Food Nation for a kid-friendly look at the history of the fast food industry. The book looks at the nutritional content of a fast food meal, follows the 37-day life of a pre-McNugget chicken, and reveals how the fast food industry has studied child behavior and tailored its advertising and packaging (hello, Happy Meal toys) to attract a child audience. It also includes great information about the links between obesity, french fries and that Super Size Coke.

Buy it for your kids; read it as a family.

Availble at Chew on This.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 28, 2006

Parents Against Junk Food

We've read the news. 17% of children are overweight. Childhood obesity is growing at alarming rates. The Center for Disease Control predicts that one third of all children born in 2000 will contract diabetes. The question is, what can we do about it?

Received email from Christopher Kimball, the editor of Cook's Illustrated magazine, which included an answer: join Parents Against Junk Food. The nonprofit distributes a free monthly newsletter with recipe makeovers for such favorites as Mac and Cheese, quick (and healthier) weeknight meals like Skillet Lasagne, and recipes like "Wacky Cake" which you can cook with your kids.

Join Parents Against Junk Food.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 18, 2006

Which Spinach is Safe?

Bagged spinach has become a staple of many Americans' diets - it's healthy, it's convenient, and heck, if it's good enough for Popeye, it's good enough for you, right? But with news of a recall on bagged spinach due to recent outbreaks of E. coli in more than 19 states, Really Natural reader Kelly from Cambridge, MA wrote in to ask whether any spinach is safe to eat.

"I buy organic spinach to feed (my 17-month-old daughter).... I've been debating about whether or not to throw it away."

The FDA has spoken: Throw it away, Kelly. Throw it away.

In a news release issued Sunday, the message couldn't have been any clearer:

"FDA advises consumers to not eat fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products until further notice. If individuals believe they may have experienced symptoms of illness after consuming fresh spinach or fresh spinach-containing products, FDA recommends that they seek medical advice."

The contaminated spinach has been traced to Natural Selection Foods, a grower of organic and non-organic spinach found in numerous supermarket brands, including Dole, Natural Selection Foods, Pride of San Juan, Earthbound Farm, Bellissima, Rave Spinach, Emeril, Sysco, O Organic, Fresh Point, River Ranch, Superior, Nature’s Basket, Pro-Mark, Compliments, Trader Joe’s, Ready Pac, Jansal Valley, Cheney Brothers, Coastline, D’Arrigo Brothers, Green Harvest, Mann, Mills Family Farm, Premium Fresh, Snoboy, The Farmer’s Market, Tanimura & Antle, President’s Choice, Cross Valley, Riverside Farms.

Reports indicate that the E. coli may be linked to the irrigation system used by the San Juan Bautista farm. Several reports have indicated that only bagged spinach is at risk, and there seems to be some question about whether spinach from other sources could be at risk. One local farmer's market has declared on their website that their spinach is grown in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and therefore not at risk.

That may be the case. You probably won't get sick eating fresh, unpackaged spinach if you know exactly where it came from and how it was grown. But until the FDA amends its recommendations, we'd say play it safe. Whole Foods Market issued a statement saying they've removed all fresh loose or packaged spinach from their stores "until we learn that there is no longer a health concern."

We'd recommend that Really Natural readers do the same.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 12, 2006

Boston Campaign to Encourage Healthy Eating

Is your city getting fatter? If you live in the US, chances are the answer is yes. And if you want people to change their eating habits, you need to get them where they're eating - namely, in restaurants. Says Boston's Mayor Thomas Menino,

We live in a time when many people are eating outside of their homes more often and healthy options are needed when dining out. If we’re serious about addressing the problem of obesity we need to include restaurants as partners in our efforts to create a healthier Boston.

To that end, the Mayor's office recently kicked off Boston BestBites, a campaign to encourage restaurants to add or highlight healthy, lighter menu options. Participating restaurants work with a nutritionist from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital to identify healthier menu items; if recipes don't meet nutritional guidelines, the nutritionist will alternative ingredients or preparation methods to create a healthier dish.

According to the Mayor's office, 12 restaurants, including Really Natural favorite Haley House Bakery Cafe have signed on to the effort; the City is sending information about the campaign to another 600 restaurants throughout the city.

According to the National Restaurant Association, Americans spend 48% of their food dollars outside the home. By providing restaurant diners with information on what they're eating, Boston BestBites hopes to encourage them to make healthier choices, and to encourage restaurants to offer more of those choices. So next time you're dining out, everything you know about eating healthy doesn't have to go out the window.

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

September 11, 2006

Organic Veggies By Mail

We've spent the summer digging in to local organic veggies through our CSA share with a local nonprofit farm. (CSA stands for community supported agriculture - you buy a "share" of the farmer's crop at the beginning of the growing season, and it pays "dividends" in the form of fresh veggies all summer.)

But what if you're stuck someplace where you don't have access to fresh, organic local produce? Well, the folks at Diamond Organics have a solution. Place an order for one of their organic sampler boxes, and founders Jasch & Kathleen Hamilton will ship you whatever's freshest right now, well, right now. The price on Amazon - $69 for 9lbs of fresh produce in their Original Organics or Organic Fruit samplers - includes free overnight shipping from their farm on Highway 1 in Moss Landing, CA to almost anywhere in the U.S.

Rebecca Johnson tried the service via Amazon, and had this to say:

The lettuce and greens reminded me of my days living on a farm where we made fresh salads from greens selected on that very day. There is nothing like it, well, not until I found this company. The lettuce seems to last longer and the baby spinach is delicious. A week later and the lettuce still looks fresh. That never happens when I buy produce at the store.

At Really Natural, we believe the best tasting and eco-friendliest produce comes from local organic farms. But if you want to eat organic and can't find a local source, then "Go Web, young man (or woman). Go Web."

Jess Brooks at Permalink social bookmarking

June 29, 2006

Wallaby Organic Strawberry Yogurt

Given the healthy number of organic yogurt options on the supermarket shelves these days, I didn't think there would be anything special about Wallaby's organic strawberry yogurt. I'm glad I tried it.

Billed as a "creamy Australian style" product, this yogurt is a bit different in a number of ways. First of all, the texture is very creamy, almost "thin" and less gelatinous compared to other yogurts. Secondly, the flavor is more subtle and less sweet. I did a bit of reading about the company on its web site, and learned that the texture and mild flavor are a result of the way it's made. By using a longer culturing process, they avoid some of the tartness associated with most yogurts, allowing them to use less sugar (although I compared it to Stonyfield Farm's organic strawberry yogurt and found that Wallaby had only 1 gram less--21 grams for a six ounce serving).

The company's history is kind of funny. They are actually a U.S.-based company, but are called "Wallaby" because the founders were inspired by yogurt they ate on a trip to Australia. I've never been there, but it does taste more like yogurts I've eaten in Europe. The different style might not apeal to everyone, but personally I'd buy this yogurt over other brands because it doesn't leave you with a sickly sweet aftertaste that makes you feel like you just ate a pixie stik.

ArrowContinue reading: "Wallaby Organic Strawberry Yogurt"

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