Friday, July 25, 2008

More Bad News About HFCS

Not that I am complainning -- only this time it's plain old innocent-seeming fructose too.

A few years ago people started getting freaked out about high fructose corn syrup, blaming it for the obesity epidemic. The hfcs industry fought back hard, and the issue became sort of muddled and nobody really wanted to lay it on against this poor harmless totally industrialized food product.

But the evidence keeps trickling in -- and now it's about fructose, even the naturally occurring kind that comes in fruit.

Yesterday Tara Parker-Pope reported on her blog about a study in Texas that showed that
"the body converts fructose to body fat with 'surprising speed,''" ... The study, which appears in The Journal of Nutrition, shows how glucose and fructose, which are forms of sugar, are metabolized differently.

When glucose is consumed, the liver basically figures out if the body should store it as fat or burn it as energy. It seems that fructose skips the liver and goes straight to your thighs.

Sort of takes the wholesome shine off all those Tropicana OJF cartons.

Monday, July 21, 2008

That Other Life

Ever think about it? That other life you could be leading right now... if not for this, this, this familar life you've constructed?

A high school friend just contacted me via Facebook -- she's left the east coast and started a sustainable organic homestead in Colorado. I'm not entirely sure what a homestead means these days, but it's definitely a cousin of my we-could-have-horses-and-chickens-and-lots-of-closet-space alternate life fantasies.

Anyway, here's one for the back burner: organic farming in Kenya, anyone?

Please allow me to introduce myself. I am a UC Davis graduate of class 2003. I am currently working with CA non-profit that is starting Daraja Academy Kenya , a free boarding school for the disadvantaged children near Nairobi Kenya.

The Academy is hoping to set up set up an organic farm on its 150-acre property. The farm will provide fresh produce and an education source for the school and the local community.

The Academy is currently looking for an intern with an education or experience in organic agriculture who will advise them in organic practices and methods.

Internship credits are available for those interested in academic credit. Accommodations and meals are provided.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cold Salad Days

I'm a drive-by eater this time of year. I don't want to cook or chop or turn on the stove every time I'm hungry for lunch. I want to hit the fridge and come away from it in one easy motion on my way to the table to eat. Sounds impossible, I know. But keeping a cold salad in the fridge facilitates my sniper attacks on the fridge. It also helps me eat more grains, veggies and legumes.

This is my method:

1. Cook up a bunch of chickpeas or wheat berries or green lentils or quinoa or bulghur or millet or what-have-you. If you make too much, freeze the extra.

2. Chop up a mess of veggies. (I know I said I don't want to cook or chop a lot, but this is one time investment. I am cooking/chopping once and will eat many times.) (I like: celery, scallions, cucumbers, red and yellow peppers, and radishes, but anything will do.)

3. Don't forget lots of parsley and mint.

4. Add a little goat cheese or feta or ricotta salata. You could do olives, too, or sun-dried tomatoes or dried cranberries...

5. Toss with olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice.

This salad with a can of sardines and a half an avocado, some sea salt and pepper, makes a big fat dreamy summer lunch. I also have it for breakfast, as a side at dinner, or by itself for a small lunch or snack. Just having it available in the fridge, cold and ready to go, is the best part.

Monday, July 7, 2008

More Medication on the Way for Kids

We may have officially hit the low point in our culture's harrowing plunge toward full-blown stupidity around food and nutrition.

In today's Times, Tara Parker-Pope reports that the American Academy of Pediatrics is recommending statin drugs for kids as young as 8-years old who have high cholesterol.

According to the article, children's cholesterol levels have remained stable in the last few years, and their tri-glyceride levels have even dropped. So... what gives?

Meanwhile, according to this other article, also by Tara Parker-Pope, statins don't even really work: "But many statin users don’t have established heart disease; they simply have high cholesterol. For healthy men, for women with or without heart disease and for people over 70, there is little evidence, if any, that taking a statin will make a meaningful difference in how long they live."

In today's article, Pope says that the AAP is also now recommending that one-year-olds with a possibility of developing a weight problem drink low-fat milk. I- I- I... I'm speechless. Well, almost.

More than half the calories in breast milk come from fat, and much of that is saturated fat. Obviously, one-year olds need fat. For one thing, fat is necessary to help the body absorb the fat-soluble vitamins like A & D (which have been artificially added to the low-fat milk, since they got taken out when the fat was removed). Here's an article by Nina Planck in defense of whole milk.

Haven't we figured out yet that parsing down our foods doesn't work?

The only slightly reassuring aspect to the article is the amount of infuriated sounding-off that's happening on Parker-Pope's blog. We are not alone, people. This alone will help me make it to dinner.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Magic Grill Pockets!

I can't take credit for these nifty little packets -- except to trumpet my scary ability to remember often useless tidbits of advice from magazines. (Want to know how to trim your bangs with nail scissors, or tone your tummy in 5 minutes a day, according to Seventeen magazine, circa 1982? Just ask.)

I think it was Cookie magazine that suggested making individual dinners for kids -- you can put cut up veggies and fish or chicken or shrimp, with a dash of olive oil or butter and a pinch of salt. Seal up the foil and set on grill for 20 minutes.

We were already grilling whole mackerel, with olives and lemon, a recipe from So I asked my kids to help make individual (and a few group-version) veggie packets.

We used every last veggie we had on hand: diced potatoes, butternut squash, frozen edamame, broccoli and garlic. A sprig of rosemary from the garden, just for the hell of it, because I like sending my kids out in the yard with the scissors.

I gave them each a square of foil and told them to go wild. Pick out your own veggies, kids, from this bounteous platter of choices!

This was daughter's selection. Wow, is she living large, or what?

Then, because I've worked in Japanese restaurants and am remarkably facile with a square of foil, we made the packets into birds. Of course, like thousands of children across the U.S. taking home their teriyaki leftovers, they LOVED this.

This is the fish, strung up with lemon slices as outlined on epicurious. I threw in the halved yukon gold potatoes because I figured I'd roast everything I could, as long as the grill was going to be fired up.

Here it is, in its moment of grilling glory.

It was all good. The fish: amazing. The veggie packs: a little on the steamed side, having been... steamed. I'm not crazy about steamed veggies, but they were tasty. My kids weren't so thrilled. They had some potatoes and broccoli, but wouldn't touch the edamame.

The best part was the roasted potatoes, thrown straight on the grill, no oil or anything. They were awesome, and we had hash browns the next morning.

Next time I'll use more garlic, and leave them on the grill for a shorter time. (No need for no 20 minutes, when all I'm cooking is veggies.) The kids really loved the packing part, so it's worth another shot.