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Monsanto’s Roundup Breeds Superweeds

May 4, 2010
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Hi guys,

I know the semester is done with, but if people look back here I wanted to post about this article on NYTimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/04/business/energy-environment/04weed.html?hp

Monsanto, the produce of the pesticide Roundup, is (in)famous for its genetically modified crops that resist Roundup and therefore allow fields to be sprayed indiscriminately with the pesticide. Well, much like how bacteria evolve resistance to our antibiotics, new superweeds are rising up and resisting Roundup. Now they predict that food prices will go up and yields drop.

As one source from the article says, “It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen.”

It’s a shame that we find ourselves here but then again we shouldn’t be too surprised.

Have a great summer

-Eric

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Fiber Facts: Why Should I Care?

April 26, 2010
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The other day I saw an add on TV for a fiber supplement that can be mixed in with a glass of water. I was intrigued enough to try such a product as “invisible, tasteless fiber”. When mixing in the powder with water, the mixture turned slightly cloudy. It also tasted like chalk. So why would people choose to rely on these unappetizing fiber supplements as their main source of fiber? The truth is that with a diet based mainly on over-processed foods, it is difficult for most Americans to eat the necessary 25-30g of fiber through it’s natural sources.

Eating fiber has many health benefits that are often overlooked. A diet that is rich in fiber can boost overall health by lowering a person’s BMI (body mass index) keeping their weight in check. This is because it helps to increase satiability by reducing the rate at which foods pass through the digestive tract.

Studies have shown that fiber-rich diets can also minimize risk for certain diseases. In a study containing data from ten European countries, it was found that people who made smart decisions about fiber intake has a 40% less chance of getting colon cancer. Fiber can also help to regulate the amount blood glucose and insulin at healthy levels, thus lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Diets that are high in fiber can also help to protect against heart disease, one of the main killers in America today. This is because fiber can help protect against the progression of atherosclerosis, plaque buildup on arterial walls. Fiber can also help to regulate the amount of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol without decreasing the amount of HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

So how can we get more fiber in our diet without sacrificing taste? Here are 5 delicious food types that will help increase fiber intake:

1. Bran. Bran is the outer coating of seeds and can be found in whole grain products. This is perhaps one of the most abundant sources of fiber if eaten raw (it can have up to 22g of fiber in just 1oz of corn bran!). A common and flavorful way to prepare bran is in muffin form. Prepare your muffin batter as per usual and add in 1 1/2 cups of all bran cereal. Spice it up with cinnamon or nutmeg and for a sweeter kick add in some cherries, raisins, and apple bits!

2. Legumes. Beans really are the magical fruit as they are rich in not only fiber, but also in protein, lysine, vitamins, and minerals! Beans are also quite versatile in preparation for eating. They can be eaten raw, cooked as a side dish, integrated within your favorite soup, smashed to make hummus (my favorite!), with salads, and they can also be made into vegetarian- and vegan-friendly main dishes such as burger patty substitutes.

3. Green. Any naturally green vegetable, or really any vegetable for that matter, is guaranteed to have substantial amounts of fiber. Yes, you can eat the traditional salad with oil and vinegar dressing for minimal fat intake, but why not combine your vegetables with something tastier like peanut butter or hummus? This will let you get your fiber and your protein all in one healthy snack!

4. Fruity Delights. Fruit is a natural and tasty source of fiber. Use fruit to add a touch of sweet or citrus to your salad, create a trail mix with dried fruits and nuts, or just enjoy the rich tastes of natural fruits on their own! But beware, in order to get the fiber from fruits, you must eat the fruit, not just drink it’s juice.

5. Make it Nutty! Nuts of all shapes and sizes contain considerable amounts of fiber for your diet. Sprinkle your choice of sliced almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, walnuts, sunflower seeds, or any other type of nut on your favorite foods such as yogurt, granola, salads, and even desserts like cakes for an instant shot of dietary fiber!

Sustainable Foie Gras

April 26, 2010
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In my research for my paper about local food, I found two TED talks by a chef named Dan Barber. He is a chef from Manhattan who is at the forefront of the effort to introduce sustainable produce and meat into professional kitchens. In my paper I discuss his efforts to find truly sustainable fish in an era of over fishing and subpar fish farming practices. But today I wanted to tell you about his other search, for sustainable foie gras.

Foie gras is goose liver that for centuries has been harvested by force-feeding geese to enlarge their livers very quickly. Much like veal, foie gras has been controversial because of the conditions the animals go through. Also, the geese are typically force-fed corn or other grains, just like cattle in CAFOs here in America–the most calories in the least amount of time.

Barber found his way to a small farm in Spain run by a man named Eduardo Sousa. Sousa manages to profitable harvest foie gras by slaughtering geese at the end of fall, after they have naturally engorged themselves for the coming winter. And Sousa encourages a diverse diet of plants and grains by tending to many different species. However, he does not directly dictate their diets because he simply lets his geese run free. (Whether their wings are clipped or not was not mentioned, but I’d love to know).

Of particular note is that foie gras is typically a bright yellow, due to the typical diet the geese are force fed, perhaps lots of bright yellow corn. Sousa actually suffered because his foie gras was the gray of a healthy liver! But he chanced upon introducing a bright yellow flower into his farm that the geese gobbled up and it turned their livers a bright, almost radioactive yellow.

By encouraging the natural tendencies of his animals, Sousa has produced sustainable, delicious foie gras without any undue cruelty. His geese live out their lives eating and doing what they want, and in return Sousa sells, according to Barber, the finest foie gras in the world.

I leave you with two thoughts. First, Sousa mentions how wild geese will come and join his domesticated ones to mate instead of flying further south, because the food is so good. Second, Dan Barber now no longer serves foie gras, because he cannot justify to himself using force-fed goose liver and Sousa either cannot meet demand or will not ship across the Atlantic.

Check out the video here. http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/eng/dan_barber_s_surprising_foie_gras_parable.html

10 Ways to Eat a Banana

April 26, 2010
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Bananas are most definitely my favorite fruit. Not only are they delicious, but they also contain vitamins B, C, and potassium! I know that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for bananas, so in an attempt to make bananas a staple ingredient in more people’s life, I will offer ten ways to eat a banana.

1. For breakfast. Mash up one exceedingly ripe banana and mix it with natural or vanilla flavored yogurt for a nutritious banana-filled breakfast! For a crunchier delight, add in some granola to your freshly-made banana yogurt.

2. Baked with cheese. Slice through the curved side of a banana (still in it’s peel) and fill the inside with feta or mozzarella cheese. Add a little bit of butter, wrap the banana in foil, and bake until all the cheese has melted. Walnuts or pine nuts may be placed on top before serving.

3. Variations on a s’more. As with the baked banana with cheese, you must first slice through the banana in it’s peel.  Then stuff full with as much marshmallows and chocolate as your heart desires. Wrap in foil, place on the campfire (or in the oven if you are stuck inside), and cook until melted. Use extreme caution when opening up your cooked banana, sprinkle with crushed graham crackers, and enjoy!

4. Grill it. Cut the banana into four slices, drizzle with honey, and sprinkle on some cinnamon sugar. Let the bananas sit for five minutes and then grill each side for 2 minutes or until grill marks appear. Serve with frozen yogurt for a tasty dessert.

5. Spice it up. Create a unique banana curry by combining 2 small ripe bananas, 1/4 cup chopped sweet onions, 1 quartered shallot, and 1 halved clove of garlic in a nonstick skillet with oil. Add 3/4 cup chicken broth and simmer for 5 minutes. Blend this mixture with 1 Tb vinegar and 1 1/2 Tb honey using a blender and process until smooth. Serve with grilled chicken and cooked vegetables for a healthy dinner!

6. Freeze it. Carefully remove the peel from the banana using the proper technique (as described in number 10) and insert a stick into one end of the banana. Dip the banana into melted chocolate and top with choice of sprinkles, nuts, or anything else you can think of. Freeze and enjoy on a hot summer’s day.

7. Caribbean twist. Mash up a sweet banana with egg and flour to create a ball which is then stuffed with raisins, olives, capers, ground meat and spices. This ball is then fried and served as a not-so-healthy-but-ever-so-tasty snack!

8. Drink it up. Create a fun smoothie by combining bananas, strawberries, choice of fruit juices (orange and pineapple work well), ice, and frozen yogurt.  The perfect way to cool down during those warm days of June.

9. Fry it. Fry small circular pieces of bananas in oil until golden, remove, smash with a spoon so that the still tender insides just come out of the fried shell, and refry. This will create many a banana chip for all to enjoy!

10. Raw. This is the most classic way to eat and enjoy the full, natural flavor of a banana. However, you must be cautious when peeling the banana. Most people struggle with this task, but I will walk you through this. Step 1: Holding the banana in your left hand, turn it so that the stem is pointing towards the ground and the nub is pointing up. Step 2: Using your thumb and forefinger of your right hand, pinch the nub until it divides. Step 3: Peel down the sections of banana. Step 4: Eat and enjoy!

So go I ask that you go forth into the world and eat a banana using one of my ten suggestions or one of your own unique creations!

Salted Caramel Chocolate

April 26, 2010

With all the stress of finals hitting every student at Case right now, I needed to detox.  The way I detoxed?  My Friend bought me a salted caramel chocolate “Grandpa’s Cheese Farm” right off of highway 71.  Every time I go home I see this place and have wanted to stop to see what they had to offer.

My friend came back with toasted coconut marshmallows, bannana chips, homemade canned pickles. I only had the caramel chocolate, but it was delicious.  On this rainy sunday, she ended up cheering me up by handing me a homemade chocolate from a random cheese farm off of 71.

This chocolate made me think of Jennifer’s research paper on amish cooking.  I don’t know if the Grandpa’s cheese farm was amish or not, but it sure seems like s spectacle.  This paralleled to what Jennifer was talking about in her essay: people liked buying these homemade treats because of the spectacle.  Eventhough everything seems delicious, the bill board advertising the farm has always intrigued me, and it obviously intrigued my friend who ended up actually stopping at the place and buying something.

These types of places make their market from being a spectacle. They advertise with bill boards.  They get people traveling from place to place to stop and buy their gourmet food.  These places are full of people just traveling from place to place.  They probably get most of their profit from travelers, not locals.

So when I ate this caramel, I remembered the spectacle that went into selling it.  I understood what I have learned in this class that had to do with more than just the taste and flavor of food, but how it is sold and why it is sold.  I will always remember what I learned.

Birthday Celebration

April 26, 2010

I have no idea why food always has to be in a birthday celebration.  Its my birthday today and all I wanted was for my boyfriend to have a plan to take me out to eat.  Why?  Because I love food.  However, going out to eat for a birthday is common with everyone.  Everyone goes out to eat more than they stay in to cook something for birthdays.  Wouldn’t cooking for someone be more thoughtful?

What ended up happening was hat my boyfriend ended up picking some desserts from Dave’s food market.  As much as I love the thought, the desserts were more than bad.  The lemon curd in the lemon tart was rubbery.  The chocolate cake was dry.  And both desserts had a dollop of weirdly textured whip cream with a glazed cherry on top.

Even though the desserts were more sub par than usual, it really was the thought that counted.  My boyfriend can’t cook, and he doesn’t know how.

So I guess the question is, why is food so important in celebrations, especially birthdays?  Sheet cakes from giant eagle are just as welcomed as a homemade cake, although a homemade cake takes much more time and effort.  I guess it doesn’t matter where the food comes from so long as its there to be shared by everyone.

Beyonce’s Liquid Diet?

April 26, 2010
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Last week, three of my friends told me about this crazy diet they were on to lose up to 16 pounds in 10 days. Not one, not two, but three of my friends! I sat down and listened to these enthusiasts and was tempted to try, too. The diet was called “Master Cleanse,” a form of a “detox” diet that is getting popular these days due to Beyonce’s personal recommendation for it on Oprah Winfrey’s show. Apparently Beyonce lost 20 pounds for her role in the movie “Dreamgirls” using this Master Cleanse diet. A detox diet is founded on the belief that people eat too much processed food these days and that they need to regularly clear their system of the accumulated toxins from such food through the diet. These diets often consist of eating limited amount and type of food followed by laxatives or any other system to force the body to get rid of everything.

The Master Cleanse consisted of three stages: Ease-In, the Lemonade Diet, then Ease-Out. The Ease-In period is about 3 days, where one is recommended to eat only fruits and vegetables and eventually just juice or soup. Then during 10 days, one is to live off of just “lemonade.” The recipe for this special lemonade is as follows:

  1. 2 Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice from one half of a lemon
  2. 2 Tablespoons of grade A or grade B maple syrup
  3. 1/10 of a Teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  4. 1 – 2 cups of pure water

One has to drink about 6-10 cups of this lemonade mixture throughout the day. No other food is allowed. Then in the morning, he has to go through a “salt water flush,” where he drinks a mixture of 1 L of water with 1 tablespoon of salt. According to the Master Cleanse website (http://themastercleanse.org), the salt water is not absorbed due to its equivalence in gravity as the blood, so it comes right out of the body. Oh, and don’t forget to take a laxative tea at night.

There are several other detox diets, including the “Fruit Flush,” “Martha’s Vineyard Detox,” “Fast Track One-Day Detox,” and “Doctor Joshi’s Detox Diet.” All these diets involve consuming only healthy and living food, meaning vegetables and fruits, either in their raw forms or blended into juice.

Being able to get rid of the toxins from unhealthy, processed food seems so enticing, especially when the idea is accompanied by the possibility of losing so many pounds in a short amount of time. Perhaps the fascination with such extreme diets show people’s dualism: they eat packaged food, as it is convenient and cheaper, yet they want to get rid of them from their bodies to feel “healthier.” The media endorsing thinness as one of the beauty standards also contributes to the emerging popularity of detox diets.

The sudden emergence of such bizarre “detox” diets seems absurd and far from safe. Although the supporters of these diets claim that by cleansing your body system, you feel lighter and energized, the means appear to be too extreme. In addition, Dr. Nasir Moloo, a gastroenterologist comments, “Your body does a perfectly good job of getting rid of toxins on its own […] There’s no evidence that these types of diets are necessary or helpful” in this msnbc article (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/18595886/). Vital nutrients are also missing in the diet, leading to electrolyte imbalance and eventually cardiac arrest. In addition, there is a possibility of gaining back more weight than one lost during the detox.

I was convinced by my friends, so I tried it out for a day. By the end of the day, I was ready to devour the world, and I quit. The old advice of exercising regularly and eating healthy seems to still stand as the ultimate guide to a beautiful body…