dirty dozen

Hot Off the Skillet Food Links

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Whoa. I meant to do a post on interesting food links monthly, but a quick scroll reveals I haven't done a Hot Off the Skillet since early January. There's always exciting news in the food and nutrition world, beginning with this link I saw today! Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have found a daily cup of tea may reduce heart attack and cardiovascular risk? Beginning in 2000, they followed 6000 study participants, who were free of heart disease at that time. Eleven years later, it was the tea drinkers who showed 1/3 fewer incidences of "heart attack, stroke, chest pain, or...other types of heart disease." Yay, Earl Grey!

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In other happy news, you'll remember I wrote about my favorite food/nutrition book of 2015, Mark Shatzker's The Dorito Effect. Because I also follow him on Twitter, I heard about his recent Epicurious article, holding out the promise of better-tasting real food in the future. As he discussed in the book, for years folks bred supermarket food for looks and speed and durability, letting actual flavor go by the wayside. Hence the baseball-hard tomatoes that taste like drywall and grocery-store chicken with all the flavor of tofu, only with a texture even more revolting. But, joy of joys, flavor is making a comeback, and not just the flavors found in a chemistry lab. Agricultural think tanks are working on breeding flavor back in--the old-fashioned way, by crossing plant varieties and hoping for good results.

Like heirloom tomatoes, but wish they were sturdier? Now's your chance to get tomato seeds for Garden Gem and Garden Treasure, two new varieties which are already winning taste contests! For a small donation to the University of Florida's Klee Laboratories you'll receive 15 seeds of each kind, just in time to get them started indoors.

And lastly, as we find ourselves in a strident political season, I always like to show bipartisanship. Having referenced the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen produce lists in the past, I now present the other side, in which our supermarket produce is found to be very, very clean, according to USDA pesticide sampling, as reported in Forbes. The author makes a couple good points, including the fact that pesticide residue can be found in both conventional and organic produce (some organic countermeasures are allowed but act similarly to regular pesticides). I would love to believe our fruits and vegetables more than meet the EPA's tolerances. What is a tolerance? "The tolerance is generally 100 times less than a dose that could cause any ill effect. The allowed residues are also lower than the levels of natural pesticidal compounds that many crops make to defend themselves." (As Mark Schatzker also discussed in his awesome book, plants do produce natural toxins so they don't get eaten or eaten at the wrong time by every Bird, Cow, or Billy Goat Gruff.)

Tolerable produce still doesn't address the issue of agricultural workers who are exposed to higher levels of pesticides, however, in producing the crop. Nor does it dispel that niggling memory I have of the potato farmer in Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, who farmed conventional potatoes for all of us, but only fed his family from the small organic plot behind the house... But, hey, it's still good news for when we can't resist that out-of-season basket of berries. Berries below tolerance!

May it hold us until Opening Market Day.

 

 

Which Just Goes to Show People Can Freak Out Over Anything

I knew it! I knew it!

The Wall Street Journal ran an article today about the latest diagnosable disorder: orthorexia nervosa. "Orthorexia" is not, as you might imagine, some sort of spelling disease, but rather an unhealthily obsessive attitude toward healthy eating. Imagine those folks who bore and proselytize you with their stringent diets, diets undertaken not from genuine food allergies but from a desire to be "healthier." Next thing you know, that urge to control what gets ingested takes over the person's life, driving not just their friends and families crazy, but themselves as well.

Among the proposed criteria: an obsession with the quality and composition of meals to the extent that people may spend excessive amounts of time, say three or more hours a day, reading about and preparing specific types of food; and having feelings of guilt after eating unhealthy food. The preoccupation with such eating would have to either lead to nutritional imbalances or interfere with daily functional living to be considered orthorexia.

That is, if your healthy-food obsession leads only to driving people nuts, but you're still getting proper nutrition and able to function in other areas of your life, you don't have orthorexia--you're just tiresome. But if your chosen diet is ironically impairing your mental and physical health, it's time to see a counselor.

Whew. Got that out there. Because good food should be a source of joy, not anxiety!

Consider these dehydrated apple chips Samantha at Collins Family Orchards created:

The awesome thing--not just how they look and taste, but the fact that they were made with just apples, lemon juice, water, and lots of time in the dehydrator. Sam did say it takes a ton of space and time and doesn't make much, but she might have said that because my mouth was watering and she could tell I was about to ask if I could have the rest of the jar and any more she might be hiding in the back.

But the purity of Sam's apple chips does bring me to some bad news (orthorexia nervosa sufferers, please skip this next bit). The Environmental Working Group has put out its first "Dirty Dozen" list for Food Additives. While there are 10,000 legal food additives, of which only a fraction have been tested for safety, the following dozen are "known or possible carcinogens and some can have reproductive and developmental effects":

  1. Nitrates and nitrites (preservatives in cured meats)
  2. Potassium bromate (a flour "improver")
  3. Propyl paraben (endocrine disruptor)
  4. Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  5. Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
  6. Propyl gallate
  7. Theobromine
  8. Secret flavor ingredients
  9. Artificial colors
  10. Diacetyl
  11. Phosphates
  12. Aluminum additives
Looking at this list, I do buy deli ham regularly (uh oh) and hot dogs occasionally (not worried about this), but my bacon and sausage come from the Market, and our folks don't use those preservatives--hence everything being refrigerated or frozen.
Basically, avoiding highly processed foods will protect you from this Dirty Dozen, so largely do-able, unlike avoiding air pollution, for instance.
Two Saturday Markets left! And with Thanksgiving looming, it's time to plan ahead. Get your cranberries and make your sauce now (it'll keep).
Lovely berries [pic from our own Bloom Creek Cranberry Farm]
Load up on apples and squash. Pies can be frozen, as can those sugar-topped casseroles and the soups.
Make rolls or buy them from one of our capable bakers.
Sausage for stuffing!
If you've been invited somewhere, grab that bottle of wine or cider as a hostess gift. Or some toffee. Or a pie. Believe me--a little money, wisely spent at the Market, and you'll secure invitations for years to come. Eat happy and healthy and relaxed, my friends.

Speaking of Rhubarb...

As I mentioned in my previous post, rhubarb takes on a whole new meaning in Washington State, where its season doesn't line up with strawberries. If you've been tempted by those lovely ruby stalks and have already given the Rhubarb Sauce recipe a go, I've got another one for you: Aunt Hazel's Rhubarb Cake. This one comes from Mildred Armstrong Kalish's memoir Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm During the Great Depression. Despite having read the book, I have no idea what she means by "red sugar," unless she means the stuff we sprinkle on sugar cookies at Christmas. I substituted standard white sugar with no ill effects.


Aunt Hazel's Rhubarb Cake
1 ½ cups red sugar (or white)
½ cup shortening (I haven't tried substituting butter or oil. Used Spectrum Organic's non-hydrogenated shortening)
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 cups plus 2 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
3 cups rhubarb, chopped and mixed with ¼- cup red sugar (about three large stalks)

Topping: Mix together cup sugar, cup nuts (I used chopped pecans and would probably up it to 1/2 cup), 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Combine dry ingredients and sift. Separately, combine buttermilk with beaten egg. Mix together dry and wet ingredients. Now add the chopped and sugared rhubarb. Pour into a lightly greased and floured pan, and then gently add topping.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes. 


This coffee cake was a big hit at a brunch I had recently. Seems like people are always looking for a way to use up rhubarb!


While we're on the subject of produce, the Environmental Working Group has put out its annual list of the most- and least-pesticide-laden produce. Another reason to buy at our farmers market. I also tend to be leery of "organic" produce coming from overseas, where standards and oversight might not be as strict as in the United States. Without further ado:


Dirty Dozen 2011

  1. Apples
  2. Celery
  3. Strawberries
  4. Peaches
  5. Spinach
  6. Nectarines (imported)
  7. Grapes (imported)
  8. Sweet bell peppers
  9. Potatoes
  10. Blueberries (domestic)
  11. Lettuce
  12. Kale/collard greens

And the winners:

Clean Fifteen 2011

  1. Onions
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Avocado
  5. Asparagus
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Mangoes
  8. Eggplants
  9. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  10. Kiwi
  11. Cabbage
  12. Watermelon
  13. Sweet potatoes
  14. Grapefruit
  15. Mushrooms

See you all at the Market. Thursday 3-7, parking lot of the First Presbyterian Church of Bellevue, and Saturday 10-3, parking lot of the First Congregational Church.