Pesto

Pesto is a luscious, herby and garlicky sauce traditional to Northern Italy. It’s usual constituents are basil, garlic, olive oil, pine nuts, and grated cheese. Since I don’t eat dairy, I skip the cheese and I still tastes great. You could throw in some nutritional yeast to lend a bit of cheesy flavor if you like.

One reason I wanted to make pesto is because I wanted to use my new (used) food processor. It worked great!

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Nutrition Action Newsletter October 2011

Not long ago, I started a subscription to the Nutrition Action Healthletter, a newsletter published by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. The CSPI is a non-profit consumer health group that advocates for healthier foods for people. I love this idea. It’s a happy drop of healthfulness speaking confidently in an ocean of confusing, profit-driven mass marketed messages.

The Healthletter features interviews, nutrition science stories, recipes, and more. I love that it exists to tell me honestly, without the influence of big-money food, what works well for people to eat. This turns out to be a plant-strong diet, with little cheese, meat, or eggs. Not vegetarian, but much closer to vegetarian or vegan than the vast majority of us.

Some nuggets from the recent issue:

  • Food Day is October 24. A great day for communities to promote healthful eating.
  • A high rate of sugar consumption is probably the number one dietary problem in America today, with cola being the #1 offender. Soda is reportedly the #1 money maker for grocery stores in America – wow!
  • 9 billion animals are raised annually for Americans’ meal plates (8 billion of those are chickens).
  • It takes 7 pounds of grain and 840 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef. Oh, and a big lot of greenhouse gases.
  • American males, on average, eat 70% more protein than we need. For women, it’s only around 25% more.
  • Worldwide, the average amount of dietary protein that comes from animals is 30%. In the US, that figure is 67%.
  • Interviews/writings from Alice Waters, Prince Charles, and Marion Nestle served as great reminders of the importance of local food and, frankly, distrust of “big agriculture.”
  • Chewing more is scientifically proven to help you manage your calorie intake.
  • Great and simple recipes for baby bok choy, escarole, chickpeas, and tofu.

 

Here’s a link to the Nutrition Action Healthletter’s site to learn more.

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Roasted Butternut Squash

I checked out one of our local farmer’s markets today and bought some butternut squash. Halved it, brushed it up with some olive oil and roasted it face down at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. It could go longer, I suppose, but I was hungry and it was ready.

You know it’s done when a skewer slides in with almost no effort. It tasted very similar to a sweet potato.

 

raw butternut squash halves

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Genetic engineering

Toxic proteins engineered to perforate the cell walls of insects are in your food. That doesn’t sound so great to me. It doesn’t make me feel very safe eating generically modified food. Could these foods cause unexplained problems in our bodies? One of the theories behind the increase in prevalence of food allergies is that increasing use of genetically modified food could be causing it.

Hopefully these wonderful fresh figs, purchased at my local food co-op, weren’t genetically modified.

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New Gluten Free Flour Blend

Williams Sonoma is now selling a gluten-free flour replacement. You can simply substitute Cup4Cup for any wheat flour in a recipe on a – guess what – cup for cup basis.

The product features an array of starches such as rice, tapioca, and potato. It also features our good friend xanthan gum. Disappointingly, it also contains milk powder, which it’s safe to presume contains the allergenic protein casein, making it problematic for milk sensitive people, such as myself. Nevertheless, for many people, this product appears to offer a simple gluten-free alternative baking product.

photo of cup 4 cup flour product

In other news, I borrowed from the library, then subsequently ordered on Amazon, a copy of Cookies For Everyone. This book is produced by Enjoy Life Foods, a maker of allergy-aware food products. The book has some terrific looking cookies and sweets that I can’t wait to try!

image of the front cover of the book "cookies for everyone"

Garbanzo “Crab” Cakes

I cooked up some vegan crab cakes from a recipe I snagged from the newspaper. Pretty good, but they aren’t holding their shape too well. Any ideas? I imagine that de-veganizing them with egg would help. Gluten-izing them with flour would probably work, too. Hmmm.

Just blend up the chickpeas with some oil, chopped onion, seasoning, and herbs, form into patties and brown them. Then bake for a few minutes.

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I also tried some corn bread without the xanthan gum, which has given my wife and I some mild, um, gastro-intestinal distress. At least, I suspect it’s the xanthan gum. And other internet sources suggest that is a common side effect (WebMD’s xanthan gum page).

Brief aside – can you believe there is a XanthanGum.org? Even then acknowledge the aforementioned gastro discomfort as a possible side effect.

Anyway, the corn bread sans xanthan gum was only slightly different. I thought it would be crumblier, but it held together just fine. The crust, however, was much harder — and smoother — on this version. The hard crust was not really an issue with the shiny aluminum clam-shape baking tin. The dark brown colored muffin tin produced the harder crust. I’ve heard that the color of your cooking surface does make a difference. Anyway, I enjoyed the bread more when it had the xanthan gum, even though the differences were subtle.

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