Archive for January, 2012

Natural Food Additives That You Don’t Want To Eat

January 30, 2012

Just when you think you’ve heard it all, something like this surfaces to make you rethink your food choices again. While there are tons of chemical additives that we can actively avoid, there also seem to be many “natural” additives that are down right disgusting!
Here are some of the highlights, as exposed by “Eat This, Not That.

Beaver Anal Gland Juice, listed on labels as simply “natural flavorings” is often called castoreum. It is a bitter, reddish brown substance that is combined with the beaver’s urine to mark its territory. It’s also used extensively in soft drinks and foods, typically as vanilla or raspberry flavors.

Who would have guessed that drinking raspberry soda could be something akin to a stunt on “Fear Factor?”

Human Hair and feathers are used to create a non- essential amino acid called L-cysteine, which improves the texture of commercially made baked goods. I seem to be able to get a nice consistency to my homemade breads, without adding hair, but apparently, it not everyone can.

Farmed Shrimp from foreign countries are often soaked in chemicals to clean the filthy pens they are raised in. The shrimp is often packed with traces of rat hair, and insects found in the pens, and laced with antibiotics to kill the diseases associated with these conditions.  Since only 2% of this seafood is inspected when it reaches this country, much of this could make it’s way to your plate.  Currently re-thinking dinner…

Ever wonder how your red candies and juices get that way? Carmine, Cochineal, Crimson Lake and red dye #4 is made from crushed Dactylopius cocchus, or African Beetle abdomens. Nice!

Grossed out yet? Yep, we are too!  It is almost impossible to know what is getting into our foods these days, Organic foods are more highly regulated, so buying them can prevent some of this from sneaking in.  Avoiding processed foods and things in packages is also helpful in avoiding additives. Otherwise, some things may be better off unsaid.  Sorry.

photo:Glasshouse Images

Unrecipe of the Week

January 28, 2012

Ahh, the glamorous life of a fashionista! I just returned from a week away from home, doing presentations in Scandinavia.  Sounds wonderful, until you realize that every night after work, we got on a train or a plane, skipped dinner and went to bed late, only to wake up and do it all over again. Lunch was served at 11:15, and tended to be a stand up affair.

After finishing my final presentation in Copenhagen, I opted for a short walk and a quiet seated lunch before heading to the airport. I am a little embarrassed to admit that where I ended up was Hard Rock Café!  The real surprise was the delicious salad I had there. It was a light and healthy blend of lettuce, fresh fruit and grilled chicken that they referred to as the “anti Cobb”.  Here is our take on this yummy salad:

Indigo Jones’ Anti Cobb Salad:

shredded lettuce

sliced Granny Smith apples

diced mango

sliced avocado

sliced strawberries

orange sections

dried cranberries

diced roasted chicken breast (optional)

Layer the fruit in rows over the shredded lettuce. Toss with balsamic vinaigrette and enjoy!!!

Balsamic Vinaigrette:
Whisk together 2 parts olive oil and 1 part balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste.

photo: Glasshouse Images





Schnitzel Burgers? Seriously?

January 21, 2012

Just yesterday, I was having a conversation about the evolution of school lunches.

Back in the day, a fat lunch lady with a hairnet ladled out some mystery concoction, and that was that. If you didn’t want it, you didn’t eat. (and you can bet your life, I didn’t!).

Today, B’s school (ok, a New York City private school) offers up a wide range of fresh, healthy options to suit even the pickiest eater’s palette.

Everyday, there is a meat or fish offering, a vegetarian entrée, a salad and a sandwich choice of the day and various side dishes. There is also a salad bar, and a sandwich section where a variety of sandwiches are made including Paninis to order.

In the morning, there is always fresh fruit, yogurt, cereals, breads and hot oatmeal available, with special items such as bagels, croissants or homemade muffins, biscuits or French toast.

Most of the food is organic, and locally sourced where possible. They do not offer soda, or desserts and serve as little of the gloppy white stuff as possible. Sounds great, right?
So of course I was shocked when I asked B what she had for lunch yesterday. Usually, the answer is “ I don’t remember” or “an Italian Panini.”  I didn’t expect her to say “schnitzel burgers”. Schnitzel what?

So, in my quest for greater knowledge and understanding, I Googled them.

It seems they are quite trendy and supposedly delicious.

The burger is made from an inexpensive cut of pork, ground up, and breaded and fried like the traditional Wiener schnitzel. It is served on a bun, with mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato. A fried egg was optional.

Excuse me for bucking the trend but, YUCK!

With all of the fuss about healthy ingredients, what you do with them makes all the difference. While it’s wonderful if the pork was free range and grass fed, the egg organic and the bun sprouted wheat, at some point, it all went to hell in a hand-basket when they ground it, breaded it and fried it in a vat of oil.
We need to stop and re-assess what healthy food really means. The preparation is as important as the purity of the ingredients.  You can still get fat on organic cream and cheeses, or donuts prepared with honey and heart healthy olive oil. Calories and fat grams know no boundaries, and locally sourced, free range and organic foods do not have less of them.

It’s ok to enjoy the occasional schnitzel burger, if that’s what floats your boat. But don’t try to pass it off as a healthy choice please.

photo: Serious Eats

Fat Chance

January 19, 2012

Celebrity chef Paula Deen has recently announced that she has type II diabetes, a condition that is related to obesity and a lack of physical activity in 95% of the cases diagnosed.

Ms. Deen is known and loved for her style of home cooking and comfort foods that are high in calories and fat.  Butter, cream and sugar are key ingredients in her signature dishes.

With recipes like Fried Mac ‘n Cheese, Fisher Nutter Bacon Cheese Ball and Deep Fried Cheesecake, it seems that it was just a matter of time before her eating habits affected her health.

What is most surprising, is that Ms. Deen was diagnosed over 2 years ago, and kept doling out creations like her Lady’s Brunch Burger; an egg, bacon and a hamburger patty sitting between 2 glazed donuts, without batting an eyelash over what the consequences of eating like that might be.

This week, she came out of the proverbial pantry about her condition, when she announced a deal to endorse a diabetes drug.

She has claimed that diabetes will not influence the way she cooks in the future. Seriously?

Here is a woman who should be using her notoriety to show people how to eat more healthfully, rather than endorsing a drug to treat a disease she is perpetuating among her fans.

We are not saying that Ms. Deen caused her own condition, or that she is single handedly causing a diabetic epidemic. We are stating that diet and exercise play a major role in the cause and treatment of many cases of type II diabetes and Ms. Deen has an opportunity to embrace a healthier lifestyle and show others how to do the same. How about a cooking show where she does healthy makeovers of her own fat bombs?

Wouldn’t it be great if instead of hearing her say, “ Add a stick—a buttah,” she told us to “ Add a dollop of fat free yogurt” instead?

photo: The Guardian

Unrecipe of the Week: Happy Birthday B!

January 14, 2012

Today is B’s birthday and of course, there will be cake. When she was little, there were elaborate Winnie the Pooh creations with 3D features and piped fur. Later, we made panda bear cupcakes and chocolate fondue with sticks of cake, fruit and marshmallows arranged  like flowers in terra cotta pots.

So what does the kid whose mom actually loves to make these things ask for? An ice cream cake. Yup, Baskin Robbins or Carvel would be fine. No fancy flavors, just chocolate and vanilla. My heart sank. So, ever creative and industrious, I embarked on a homemade ice cream cake. You need time to let each layer  freeze before adding on, but it is incredibly easy to do. I am already thinking of gourmet combinations to make in the future.

B’s Ice cream Cake:

Toss a bunch of Oreos in to the food processor and pulse until they make cookie crumbs. The filling acts as butter would in a cracker crust and binds it all together. Press it into the bottom and about 1″ up the sides of a spring form pan. Freeze.

Soften the ice cream flavor of your choice, and put it into the mixer and beat for a few seconds until it is the consistency of thick batter. Spread it on top of the cookie crumbs and freeze until solid.

Add a layer of hot fudge sauce and freeze.

Repeat with another flavor of ice cream and freeze the whole cake until solid.

Carefully remove the cake from the pan. Press ground cookie crumbs onto the sides to cover, and sprinkle some on the top if you desire.

Decorate, or just cut and enjoy!

Happy 12th Birthday B! 

photo: Glasshouse Images

Long Live

January 4, 2012

New Yorkers are living longer than ever, and on average, their life expectancy is 2 years longer than the rest of the country. According to the Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, New Yorker’s have reached an all time high with a life expectancy rate of 80.6 years!

What contributes to our increased longevity?

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has made our health a priority, by declaring bars, restaurants and even public parks smoke free, and offers free nicotine patches to residents who want to kick the habit.

He has initiated heart disease and cancer prevention programs, as well as expanded the HIV testing and AIDS treatment programs, resulting in a mortality rate decrease of 11.3% since 2009.

He has made it mandatory for restaurants to make calorie information available to patrons, and was the first in the country to initiate a trans-fat ban.

While all of these things are helpful, our activity levels might be the major factor.

Most New York City dwellers don’t have cars, and opt for public transportation, and in many cases walk to their destinations.  Not only is this increased activity a plus, but our pace is often quicker than those living elsewhere.
Many other states have followed suit and instituted their own smoking and calorie rules, but very few cities have residents that walk as much as we do.

Why not take a cue from New York and consider walking to destinations within a mile of home? It will definitely help you get in shape, and could prolong your life in the process!

photo: Glasshouse Images

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