Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Homemade Vinaigrette Recipe and Tips

My mom circulated an article on the health benefits of raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar to me and some friends last week and it got everyone thinking and talking about ways to incorporate this "superfood" into our diets. I am not a fan of drinking vinegar so my natural go-to was an apple cider vinaigrette.

Salad dressings are super easy to make at home and generally much cheaper and healthier than store-bought dressings. You probably have a lot of the ingredients on hand at any given time, so why buy the bottled stuff when you can customize your own to your specific tastes? I whipped up a pint of dressing last week and gave a half cup to a friend who requested the recipe today, so here it is!

For all dressings like this, I recommend using an immersion (aka hand-held) blender if you want to emulsify (creamify) the ingredients. If you have a jar with a lid (like my favorite pint-sized canning jars), you'll likely be able to fit that blender right down into the jar and then seal it up, minimizing dirty containers and dishes (timesaver!). If you don't have one of those doo-hickys, you can use an upright blender. You'll just have more cleaning to do, I suppose. If you don't need or want to emulsify your dressing, you can simply put all of the ingredients in a container with a spill-proof top and shake well to combine. If you do this, you'll want to mince the garlic instead of adding them whole (again, adding to the dirty dishes)!

Ingredients:
3 cloves garlic
1 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c apple cider vinegar
2 tb dijon mustard
1 tsp honey or maple syrup (optional)
dash of sea salt
freshly ground pepper to taste

Makes roughly a pint of dressing. :-)

Other ideas for dressings:
Use a pitted date instead of honey or maple syrup to sweeten
Add some fresh herbs like parsley, basil, or chives
Dried herbs work, too
You can swap out the apple cider vinegar for any kind of vinegar
Instead of vinegar, try lemon or lime juice
Instead of garlic, try a shallot
Add a dash of hot sauce for some zip
Some Braggs Liquid Aminos or soy sauce can add some umami flavor

What are your favorite homemade dressing tips?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Minestrone Soup and Soup Tips

I LOVE SOUP. No, not the salty excuse for flavor you get at (insert your chain restaurant of choice here). I mean real, homemade veggie soup full of love and nutrition. It's so easy to make (especially if you have a great sou chef) and is a great way to clean out the fridge. We make a pot (sometimes two) almost every Sunday and put it in pint-sized wide mouth ball jars for convenient lunches and dinners for the busy week ahead.

Yesterday, James and I made one of our favorites - a basic minestrone. It's such a simple soup to whip up. I never measure anything and improvise with what we have on hand. Here's a list of the ingredients and some general soup-making advice...

Ingredients (listed in order how I added them to the pot):
2 tb + extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 flavorful carrot, chopped
2 stalks (organic) celery, chopped*
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tb herbs de provence
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
1 can no-salt-added diced tomatoes + can of water 
1 qt low sodium vegetable broth
1 can white or red kidney beans
1 zucchini
2 cups chopped kale 
Fresh parsley and/or basil, finely chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Rather than walk you through THIS recipe step by step, I'm going to give you my tips on how to make a delicious soup every time in the context of this soup.

It all starts with your mirepoix, a simple saute of onions, carrots, and celery (in a ratio of roughly  2 parts onion to 1 part carrot and 1 part celery). This is the base of most soups, though it is often varied by adding peppers and/or garlic.

Goldilocks chop your onion (or shallots or leeks) -- not too big, not too small, just right! The onion will soften a lot, but try not to use big hunks of onion unless you like biting into big hunks of onion. Add it to a large heavy-bottomed pot after your olive oil is hot (it should NEVER be smoking). You'll know it's the right temperature when you add a piece of onion to the oil and it sizzles but doesn't go crazy and brown quickly!

Keep in mind that for a pretty soup, you want them to be uniformly chopped, but that it doesn't really matter when it comes to taste! For texture, you have to chop and add ingredients to the pot based on cooking time. Carrots go in right after the onion because in this soup, they're the hardest. I usually saute the carrots for a bit before adding the celery to finish the mirepoix. Add sea salt to taste and add dried herbs to the mirepoix now because the sauteing in olive oil unlock their flavor, infusing the soup with it. Fresh herbs always get added at the end.

I don't add the garlic until there's some moisture in the saute from the veggies because if it goes directly in hot oil, it will burn and turn bitter pretty quickly. So in this soup, I added the garlic then the peppers and let them saute a bit before adding the tomatoes. Stir this mixture and monitor your heat. You don't want the veggies to start browning, but you do want them to soften and sweat their juices a bit before you add the tomatoes and broth. Give them a few minutes to get to know each other before adding the tomatoes, water, and broth. Turn the heat up and bring the soup to a boil, stirring often. Lower the heat to simmer once it comes to a boil. When the carrots are almost soft enough for your liking (go ahead and eat one!), add the beans, zucchini, and kale. Continue to simmer until the zucchini is perfectly soft and the kale is bright green. Then, add some freshly chopped parsley and/or basil to finish. You can also stir in some good extra virgin olive oil or some grated Parmesan, Romano, or Pecorino (or all of the above!)...

The best thing about soup like this is that it can feed you all week. One day, eat it on it's own. The next, add some orzo pasta, quinoa, or brown rice to change it up a bit. I love using wide mouth pint-sized canning jars (they're even freezer safe) to store it because it's the perfect serving size and if you fill the jars while the soup is still hot, the seal will pop air tight, lengthening the shelf life a bit. A jar of veggie soup stored like this can last up to a week in the fridge and months in the freezer!

* A note about celery: According to the Environmental Working Group, it's routinely one of the dirtiest produce items in the grocery store with the highest amount of residual pesticides. Go for organic if you can. Trader Joe's carries organic celery hearts at a reasonable price. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Eating for Energy Workshops!

I'm so excited that after a year of studies at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and months of what I'll call "transitional preparation," I finally have the time to share what I've learned and what I'm most passionate about live and in person with the Greater Boston community!  I've got several upcoming workshops booked and while some are private events, others are open to the public, like the Eating for Energy workshop at Davis Square Chiropractic on Tuesday, March 4th at 7:00 pm. Full details are below, but if you'd like to host a workshop or cooking class at your home or office, email me at fromseedtostomach@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you. :-)

Do You…
… Miss the energy of long summer days?
… Struggle to make it through short winter days?
… Indulge in caffeine and sugar for energy?
… Wonder what would life be like with more vitality?

… Want to eat foods that will increase energy?

Join me for a free Integrative Nutrition Workshop!

Eating for Energy
Tuesday, March 4 at 7:00 pm
Davis Square Chiropractic
49 Holland Street, Somerville, MA 02144

No need to sign up in advance, but if you do plan to attend, please leave a comment below so I can save you a seat. I hope to see you there! 

PS: If you're in the market for a great Chiropractor, the doctors at Davis Square Chiropractic are amazing. 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

New Granola Recipe in DIY Homemade Gift Batch Size

I made a few double batches of granola this year to give as holiday gifts and have had a few requests for the recipe, which has been adapted from Clean Food by Terry Walters. This recipe yielded enough to make roughly 12 pint sized ball jars full, so you can half it if you only want 12 cups of granola instead of 24. But, I'm leaving it as-is because it's a great DIY project for homemade gifts. It's super easy and healthy, too, so you can feel good gifting it!


Ingredients:
8 c rolled oats
4 1/3 c puffed brown rice cereal (or any puffed grain cereal)
3 c unsweetened coconut flakes
4 c chopped/sliced nuts seeds (your choice! I used a mix of walnuts, pecans, almonds, sunflower, and chia)
1/2 c dried fruit (your choice again! I used mostly blueberries)
4 tb cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp ginger
1/3 tsp nutmeg
1 c melted/liquid coconut oil
1 c maple syrup (take it out of the fridge when you start your prep to bring it down to room temp)
3 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 250*F. In your largest mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. In a smaller mixing bowl, mix all your wet ingredients well. Pour wet ingredients over dry and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour mixture into baking sheets or glass pans (you'll need 4 9x12 pyrex, but feel free to mix/match what you have). Spread evenly and bake for 1 hour or until golden brown and delightfully crunchy. Turn off the oven, but leave the granola in the oven until the oven has cooled and the granola is set (you don't want to jar it while it's hot!). Remove from oven and break into pieces with a wooden spoon while divvying it up for yourself and lucky recipients!


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

My New "Dream" Job

Pinch Me! I'm a Food Editor!! :-) The last few months have been a bit of a blur, but I presented my strategy yesterday to senior management at my publishing company and I'll be commissioning content in some really exciting topics in 2014. I'll be the Acquisitions Editor for the following topics and couldn't be more excited:
  • Food Sustainability
  • Functional Food, Health, and Nutrition
  • Food Microbiology (beer, wine, cheese, bread, yogurt, and fermented foods)
  • Dairy (more cheese and yogurt) 
For the first time in my life, my job is fully aligned with my personal interests and passions outside of work. I feel like I can stop living a double life and embrace what I do with enthusiasm and confidence. I can't wait to publish outstanding content on everything from food waste to kefir to superfoods to organic cheese. Maybe I'll even find a scientist to write a book about kombucha! Or one about sourdough starters. Or one about grain-free baked goods! Or all of the above, because I've got to find a lot of new books to commission this year! 

So, how in the world did this happen? 

Like a lot of you, my career hasn't really followed a logical "path." I think we all have that ideal vision of a ladder or a progression of jobs that seem to build on one another, but it doesn't take long to figure out that's rarely the reality of careers these days. I've been fortunate to work for some great organizations and some caring and thoughtful managers, but I've also had my fair share of challenges... the kinds that have made me want to go all the way back to the beginning and start from scratch, except without the naivety. 

While nothing's ever perfect, things are starting to make sense. The last 13 years have taken me through a maze of knife sales to education management to test prep marketing to computer science book marketing to data management book editing. For the last few years, I just focused on working hard and moving up and to tell you the truth, I've felt stuck. Worse than stuck. Like I was sprinting my heart out on an unforgiving treadmill. I wouldn't let myself get off because I wasn't "there" yet. But I had no idea where "there" was.

Not knowing how else to drive the changes I wanted in my career and eager to learn again, I went back to school. It was a big decision, a huge investment of time and of money and I'm confident that the investment will, in time, return. It already has in a lot of ways. I've made wonderful friends and have built a network of really smart people who I admire and respect. I had fun along the way (especially in Brazil and in my Marketing Social Change class) and my eyes were opened to entirely new ways of thinking. I approach problems differently now and while I'll never consider myself an expert in statistics, economics, or corporate finance, at least I know about these things, why they're important, and where to go when I need to know more. And I can certainly hold my own in a conversation about any of them (I hope!). I get what the triple bottom line is and love that companies around the world are embracing corporate social responsibility as a matter of course. I gained some really valuable perspectives on life and work and when I gave my last presentation at Boston University's School of Management last night (on solving Cuba's economic problems, no small feat), it felt surreal. 

While I was finishing my MBA, I also enrolled and attended the Institute of Integrative Nutrition and became a Certified Holistic Health Coach. Earlier this month, I started working with my first official client. And, now that I'm done with school (well I have a one-week class in Silicon Valley in January left), I'm excited to apply what I've learned at both BU and at IIN more broadly. My new job will certainly benefit from what I've learned and I hope I can broaden my impact on the health and nutrition of more of you as well! 

We're all on journeys. Often more than one at a time. And I hope as we close out one year and look forward to the next, we're all able to reflect on the rewards inherent in the journey and know that with a balance of persistence, patience, and passion, we can all achieve something that makes us feel truly content. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Roasted Spaghetti Squash with Pistachio Parsley Pesto


Thanks to Annie for the awesome black sea salt!
I've had two annual Thanksgiving Potlucks so far this week and have another this coming Saturday. Over the weekend, I made my Vegan Butternut Squash Soup recipe and the Balsamic Parsnips and Maple Dijon Carrots inspired by Clean Food by Terry Walters for our Chi Omega Alumni Potluck and I'll probably make the soup again for Saturday. But today, I wanted to try something different, so I roasted a Spaghetti Squash and topped it with a delicious pesto made from parsley, pistachios, and garlic. I got a few requests for the recipe from coworkers, so here goes:

Ingredients:
1 spaghetti squash of about average size, rinsed
1 large bunch of parsley (roughly 1 1/2 c leaves)
6 TB extra virgin olive oil (2 for the squash + 4 for the pesto)
3 TB shelled pistachios
2 TB lemon juice
1 clove garlic
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400* F

Time-saver: Line a pan (9x13 pyrex should work well for this recipe, but you can use whatever you have that will fit both halves of the squash) with a sheet of parchment paper if you want to save time on dishes later!

Slice the squash in half lengthwise (a sharp butcher knife works well), and scoop out the seeds (Any metal spoon should work for this. You can keep the seeds if you want to roast them like pumpkin seeds, or simply discard/compost them).

With the squash skin-side down, drizzle the meat of the squash with some Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Season with some good sea salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Massage the oil, salt, and pepper in to the squash. Place the squash flesh down/skin up in a baking dish and roast at 400* for 45 minutes. 

Flesh down and into a 400* oven. 
You'll know it's done when you can stick a fork through the skin and it goes through the meat of the squash without resistance. The squash should also start to turn a golden brown. 

45 minutes later... perfection! 
I flipped the one on the left over first... the one on the right a few minutes later and it was still steaming. 
While the squash is cooking, I had plenty of time to get some work done, take a quick shower, AND make the pesto... but the sink is still full of dishes (shhhh... don't tell James.)

Parsley is super high in Vitamin C and was still
available at the Union Square Farmers Market on Sat!

The pesto was super easy. I threw 1 clove of garlic into the food processor and let it rip until she was all minced up. Then I scraped down the sides, added the pistachios, and pulsed on high until they were minced, too. Then I added the parsley and ran the processor on high while I drizzled in the EVOO, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. That's it.



Once the squash was cool enough to handle, I used a fork to scrape the squash down off the skin and combined the meat of both squash into the better looking skin. I also mixed it up a bit so the seasoning would be more evenly distributed (it's the little things).




Then I spooned the pesto atop the squash. I meant to throw some dried cranberries and whole shelled pistachios on top to make it even prettier, but this little guy distracted me!


This has me thinking of all the things I could cover in parsley pesto. Dried berries and some creative juices could turn a dish like this into a Christmas tree in no time! :-P


BESIDES basil, what's your favorite kind of pesto?




Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Global Food Supply and Demand (a research brief)

I'm the designated food expert in my Government, Society, and Sustainable development class this semester. Anytime the issue of food arises, I'm supposed to be able to speak knowledgeably about the topic and answer a wide array of questions from my professor and from my MBA classmates. I was pretty psyched to get to write a report on a topic that I care so deeply about, and as I compiled my research and wrote the brief, I thought about all of the ways I could share what I was learning. This is a concise brief on the current state of food supply and demand. While it's not a fun recipe or restaurant review, it's important stuff we should all be aware of and with that, I hope you enjoy learning about it as much as I did! If you do, remember knowledge is power, so spread the word!

BACKGROUND
Demand for all resources is increasing exponentially as the world’s population explodes. If current projections hold true, Earth’s population will grow from 7 billion today to 9 billion by 2040. The middle class will also increase by 3 billion over the next 20 years. By 2030, we will require 50% more food than we currently demand. This is especially problematic given environmental changes that are likely to limit supply. The current trajectory will place 3 billion people into poverty and efforts toward sustainable development are not significant enough to change that course. 1

SUPPLY AND DEMAND
As demand grows and production increases slow, prices for the largest food commodity crops are rising sharply. As more commodity crops are being used for biofuels and animal feed, less is available for human consumption. Adverse weather conditions in typically high-producing areas are negatively impacting overall supply. Rising energy and production costs as well as import/export policy changes are also contributing to increased costs. 2

CORPORATIONS
Huge agribusiness companies control much of the world’s food supply by controlling huge shares of global markets for grains, fertilizers, pesticides and seeds. Their involvement starts at the farm and ends at your fork.  Some of the biggest agribusiness corporations include:

Cargill
Multinational producer of “food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services”3
One of the largest privately held companies in the world4
Founded in 1865 and headquartered in Minnesota4
Employs 140,000 in 65 countries
Operating Income of $1.17 Billion in FY 20123 

Nestle
Largest food company in the world measured by revenues, which exceed $92 billion
Founded in 1866 and headquartered in Vevey, Switzerland
Employs 339,0006

Monsanto 
Multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation and producer of genetically engineered seeds and of the popular herbicide Roundup
Founded in 1901 and headquartered in Creve Coeur, Missouri
Revenues of nearly $12 billion
Employs 20,6007

ConAgra
Packaged foods company whose portfolio of brands include Slim Jim, Hebrew National, Egg Beaters, Orville Redenbacher, Hunt’s, Healthy Choice, and more
Founded in 1919 and headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska
Revenues exceed $13 Billion
Employs 26,1008

Archer Daniels Midland
Global food-processing and commodities-trading corporation
Founded in 1902 and headquartered in Decatur, Illinois
Revenues of $89 Billion
Employs 30,0009

Other Corporations:
Farm equipment manufacturers and food retailers also influence the food supply.  Hedge funds and investment firms help shape global markets. 

All of these companies and their interest groups shape government food policy.  They are often criticized for their negative impact on small farmers and promotion of energy-hungry industrial agricultural operations. For this reason, they are often blamed for helping to create an unsustainable system of production and distribution.10

DOMESTIC POLICY
In the United States, most of our agricultural policy is set forth in the Farm Bill, which is renewed every five years by the US Congress. The Farm Bill dictates the USDA’s priorities and has included funding provisions for everything from food stamps and subsidized school lunch to government subsidies and purchasing of surplus commodity crops. The Farm Bill also funds research, international food aid, crop insurance, and farmer loans. The 2008 Farm Bill is set to expire this month; congress has been unable to pass the 2013 Farm Bill due to ideological differences. 11

GLOBAL POLICY
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations strives to achieve food security for all. Their mandate is to improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, and raise the standard of living in rural populations while contributing to global economic growth. Headquartered in Rome, FAO is active in over 130 countries and employs nearly 4,000.12

The FAO Budget is $2.4 billion, 42% of which comes from assessed contributions paid by member countries, while 58% comes from voluntary contributions.13 According to the FAO, one in eight people are undernourished and 852 million of those 870 million people are in developing countries.14

The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) is another intergovernmental body which partners with FAO and that serves as a forum in the United Nations System for review and follow-up of policies concerning world food security including production and physical and economic access to food. 15

There are many other international NGOs focused on food access, agriculture, and sustainability. Many of them collaborate with the United Nations’ World Food Programme.16

Part of the challenge of meeting the growing global demand for food is lack of international agreement and the impact that large-scale agribusiness operations have on the global, not local, environment. Excessive use of pesticides, for example, has been linked to colony collapse disorder17 while runoff of herbicides has killed life in rivers, river deltas, and gulfs.18

Some countries are working hard to increase agricultural productivity without using genetically engineered seeds, which threaten self-sufficient farming operations. Meanwhile, in the US, corporations like Monsanto routinely file suit against farmers for patent infringement, which the farmers are unable to prevent against due to the nature of seed pollination. 19 Traditionally, farmers saved and cleaned seeds from prior years’ crops to replant them, a self-sustaining model that farmers have relied on since the beginning of agriculture. Today, because of seed patents, farmers are forced to buy new seeds every year and need to buy the pesticides and fertilizers that go with those seeds if they want to maximize their yield.

SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE
Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) defines sustainable agriculture as profit over long term; stewardship of land, air, and water; and quality of life for farmers, ranchers, & communities. SARE spotlights farms achieving higher yields & better overall land use with added benefit of long-term sustainability. 20 Critics of sustainable agriculture cite lower yields, higher land use, and question sustainable agriculture’s ability to feed exploding world population. 21

Methods used in sustainable agriculture include:
       Ecological pest & weed control
       Diversification of crops, livestock, & landscape
       Energy conservation & production
       Direct marketing/sales

The consequences of unsustainable (industrial-scale) agriculture include:
       Top soil erosion
       EWG found erosion to be 2x the rate deemed sustainable by the USDA in parts of Iowa 22
       Groundwater contamination
       groundwater supplies ¼ of US drinking water
       EPA identified carcinogens from fertilizers & pesticides in groundwater 23
       Concentrated farm ownership
       Results in higher prices and less choice (~38% increase in food costs 2002-12) 24
       2007: 4 companies controlled 83.5% of beef, 66% of hogs, 58.5% of chicken, 50% of seed markets 25
       Antibiotic resistance
       Overuse in livestock contributes to antibiotic-resistant infections
       1 such strain of bacteria linked to hog farms results in more US deaths/year than AIDS 26

CONCLUSION
There is no easy answer to the question of how we will meet the growing global demand for food as the population explodes and arable land erodes. On the one side, large agribusiness claims that GMOs and genetically engineered seeds plus pesticides, herbicides and fertilizer are the solution. On the other side, advocates for sustainable agriculture encourage the use of organic methods to reduce pollution. What cannot be disputed is the simple fact that as people move out of poverty, they consume more meat and that it can take up to 13 pounds of grain to produce just one pound of meat.



References:

1: World Food Demand to Outpace Supply in Coming Decades, UN Claims http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/30/world-food-demand-population-growth_n_1241435.html
First Posted: 01/30/2012 8:56 am Updated: 03/31/2012 5:12 am
2: Trostle, Ronald, Global Agricultural Supply and Demand: Factors Contributing to the Recent Increase in Food Commodity Prices. A Report from the Economic Research Service. Outlook No. (WRS-0801) 30 pp, July 2008.
3: Cargill, Inc. 2012 Annual Report: Essential work in a changing world. Minneapolis. 2012.
6: "Annual Results 2012" (PDF). NestlĂ©.
11: Neuman, Scott. Why The Farm Bill's Provisions Will Matter To You. June 13, 2012
17: Wines, Michael (28 March 2013). "Mystery Malady Kills More Bees, Heightening Worry on Farms"New York Times.
18: Helfrich, LA, Weigmann, DL, Hipkins, P, and Stinson, ER (June 1996), Pesticides and aquatic animals: A guide to reducing impacts on aquatic systems. Virginia Cooperative Extension.
19: Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds Posted: 05/17/10 12:44 PM ET
20: “What is Sustainable Agriculture?” from Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, http://www.sare.org/.
22: USDA webasite, http://www.nal.usda.gov/afsic/pubs/agnic/susag.shtml. 
23. Environmental Working Group website, http://www.ewg.org/losingground/report/executive-summary.html.
24: Environmental Protection Agency “Citizen’s Guide to Groundwater Protection,” http://water.epa.gov/infrastructure/drinkingwater/sourcewater/protection/upload/2007_11_29_sourcewater_pubs_citguid.pdf.
25: United States Department of Agriculture, http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/usdafoodcost-home.htm.

Other sources of information not directly used:
Agricultural Sustainability Institute at University of California – Davis, http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/about/def#animal-production-practices.

“Sustainable Agriculture: An Introduction” from the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, http://www.attra.ncat.org.

McNally, Jess. “Can Vegetarianism Save the World?”