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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

10:16 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

Happy Sunday, my little boysenberries. Here is all you guys need to know about food safety this (or any other) week:

Don’t eat commercially produced sprouts. Period. No matter where they come from; no matter how the growers say they are grown.

Just say no. Grow your own at home. Don’t use Thompson and Morgan seeds (supposedly their seeds are one of the major sources of the E. coli scourge in Europe). That…is…all.

And in slightly more useful news:

We have, as expected, completely run out of prepared growing space at Chez Siberia. No place to tuck a seedling or sprout. Zippo. So, I went to our local home and garden center (one of the horrible huge national chains – sorry; this is all we’ve got at the moment now) to ask if they had ‘grow bags’.

You’d have thought I’d asked if they carried dope. “Never heard of ‘em”.
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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

6:17 am in Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

You know, there are Sunday mornings when your ol’ Aunt Toby just holds her head in her hands and finds it difficult to put fingers to keyboard to bring you food news. Sometimes what is out there is so incredibly depressing that I find it almost impossible to get my arms around something useful for you guys because there…is…so…much…horrific…crap. Sometimes, I just want to hide under the covers and hope it all goes away.

But it won’t. And so, Aunt Toby has to tie on the apron, woman up, and try to provide you all something that will educate, scare, and inspire this morning.

US School Lunch Programs Contribute to Obesity
: (Jamie Oliver, please pick up the nearest white school lunch phone) “..a trio of researchers from Penn State University looked at data on 574 girls and 566 boys across the country who enrolled in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study as kindergarteners in 1998. Their weights and heights – the information needed to compute body mass index – was assessed in kindergarten and in first, third, fifth and eighth grades. Nearly half of the kids were in the school lunch program at some point during the study, and 35% of them were on it the entire time.

The researchers found that the average BMI for low-income girls was the same for those who had gotten the school lunches and those who didn’t. However, the girls on the school lunch program gained weight faster, and the difference was statistically significant” .School Lunch 1

New School Lunch nutritional guidelines may help: Lower fat, more whole grains, real fruits instead of juices, more veggies, less crap. School Lunch 2
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Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use and Some Food Chemistry

6:53 am in Energy, Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

OK, everyone, take out your lab aprons and silicone gloves – today, it’s food chemistry city Arizona! (ok, you two in the back – either cut that out or you’re going down to the principal. Got it?).

It’s Not All Red Tomatoes Out There: “Besides their appealing orange color and sweet flavor, there’s another reason to give tangerine tomatoes a try this year. A one-month study led by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists in California has provided new evidence to suggest that, ounce for ounce, these heirloom tomatoes might be a better source of a powerful antioxidant called lycopene than are familiar red tomatoes.”

Apparently, the sort of lycopene in red tomatoes is different than the sort of lycopene in orange tomatoes. Most of the lycopene in red tomatoes is ‘trans’, whereas the lycopene in orange tomatoes is….(yes, Fred, you can stop waving your hand now) ‘cis’ – actually it’s ‘tetra-cis’. Many times the physical properties of the ‘cis’ and ‘trans’ (for more on this, go Cis and Trans ) versions of the same molecules have very different physical properties and in the case of lycopene, the tetra-cis version in orange tomatoes is much more efficiently and completely absorbed by human bodies than the regular ol’ red tomato ‘trans’ version. SO, for people looking at starting tomato seeds or buying tomato plants this year, think out of the red and into the orange, especially the orange heirloom varieties. Orange is Better than Red

Herbal Teas: It’s not just the fragrance. Finally, human trials have been done on herbal teas, in this case some of the most popular in the country (and yes, the trials were supported by Celestial Seasonings), peppermint, chamomile, and hibiscus. Bottom line: herbal teas do show active benefits. “..chamomile tea has moderate antimicrobial activity and significant anti-platelet-clumping activity… strong antioxidant and anti-tumor actions, and some anti-allergenic potential…drinking hibiscus tea lowered blood pressure in a group of pre-hypertensive and mildly hypertensive adults.” Herbal Teas: Proof

Skippy: it’s Salmonella: Ruth Calvo is covering this food safety cuts – but remember – peanut butter is used in a lot of other items than just commercial jars of peanut butter. Think peanut better cups, peanut butter chocolate eggs (all that Easter candy around), peanut butter cookies (Nutter Butters, anyone). Seriously – think about all the peanut butter items we eat and feed to our kids and grandchildren because ‘peanut butter is a good for you food’. Right? Not when it’s contaminated it is not. Skippy Recall
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Food Sunday: The Dessertification of Breakfast or, How to Make Oatmeal That Won’t Kill You

9:55 am in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

There doesn’t seem to be a single item that is generally accepted as a breakfast food that has not been tricked up in some way to resemble dessert. Commercial muffins today have as much sugar as cupcakes; pancakes are offered today with everything from chocolate chips to those fake dried blueberries in them made from high fructose corn syrup. The humble egg seems so far to be immune but only because they haven’t figured out how to sell the idea that they can make a fruit- or jam-enhanced omelet. Recently it came to my attention (because your dear Auntie hovers over food news like some sort of vulture) that Micky D’s, in its ever expanding efforts to appear to be providing food that has some nutritional benefit, is offering oatmeal on its menu. Well, obviously others find the combination of McDonald’s and oatmeal to be bordering on the “kosher bacon” example, and nutritionists and writers went at it with hammer and tongs (or fork and spoon as you prefer):

Here is the nutritional analysis of what is being offered at the restaurants. Please take note of the amount of sugar in a serving here: 31 grams of sugar (and 5 grams of protein). This is as much as a Snickers or Hershey’s chocolate bar. See nutritional info, Mickey D’s oatmeal.

The New York Times lit in with their opinion, noting basically how worthless this item is, at $2.38 a serving and pointing readers to the next site where the writer made up his OWN versions of packeted oatmeals, complete with dried genuine blueberries, etc. for what ended up being less than 30 cents per packet. Read more at NYTimes MD oatmeal.

Here, check out this: Cost Analysis – Make Your Own Packet Oatmeal

Now, Aunt Toby loves oatmeal. I can rationalize eating oatmeal in any form, at any time, whether it’s oatmeal cookies (with or without dried fruit, nuts, and/or chocolate chips), meatloaf, oat bread, or plain ol’ oatmeal. All by itself, oatmeal is in the ‘damn good’ range of nutritional items. All by itself, just made up with plain old water, it has 1 gram of sugar, 8 grams of fiber and 11 grams of protein. That’s without the addition of anything with protein in it. Once you throw on a little milk, yoghurt, soy milk, nuts, etc. the protein content just soars. And ONE GRAM OF SUGAR. ONE GRAM. UNO. ONE MORE THAN ZERO! Not 31, not 15, not 10. 1. Even if you threw on a teaspoon of sugar, that would only add 4.5 grams of sugar to the bowl of oatmeal. Hello? That’s a total now of between 5 and 6 grams of sugar. Not 31. Here’s the nutrition info on regular oatmeal.

I think everyone who reads me on a regular basis gets the impression that I am NOT a fan of America’s food processors. Nothing could be closer to the truth; it certainly seems to me that there are people in those businesses who are hell bent on poisoning and killing off everyone they can lay their hands on. And I especially resent the ‘pop-tartization’ of breakfast food which should literally be the plainest and more nutritious stuff we give our families on a daily basis. “Oh,” they say, “American families demand convenience.”

OK, bud. I’ll give you convenience.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use and a Recipe

12:22 pm in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

From the WTF Food News Report:

“The China Daily newspaper reported that the Ministry of Agriculture issued a notice earlier this week on its website announcing it will carry out 6,450 random spot checks on fresh milk this year – underscoring official concerns that dairy producers may still be trying to use illegal and dangerous methods to boost the protein content of their milk.

The random tests will look for trace amounts of melamine, the chemical that was found to be widely used in Chinese dairy products in 2008 and blamed for killing six children and sickening more than 300,000.

Thirty percent of the checks will also look for leather-hydrolyzed protein, a toxic substance extracted from leather scraps that manufacturers have used to artificially boost the protein content of milk, the paper said.”

This use of hydrolyzed leather proteins to dope milk is not new; a dairy company was shut down in 2009 for doing the same thing. The chemicals which are used in the process, potassium dichromate and sodium dichromate, cause osteoporosis in adults and are deadly to children. Although the government ordered the complete destruction of milk and dairy products in 2008, it was up to producers to do it themselves and it seems that these doped products have been hoarded and are being re-released into the markets. Read more at Tainted Milk.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Food News and a Recipe

1:35 pm in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

photo: State Library of New South Wales via Flickr

What is common to baseball park mustard, pickels, commercial French vanilla ice cream, and curry?


This member of the ginger family has a substance in the tubers, curcumin, which is used all over the commercial food industry to make things yellow. Annatto is another spice that is used to make things yellow but we’re not discussing this today because a news story put my attention square on turmeric.

Scientists, using curcumin, have developed a drug which helps protect and regenerate brain cells after people have had strokes. Read more: Turmeric based Drug Shows Promise.

Unlike clot buster drugs, tissue plasminogen activator, “the new curcumin-hybrid compound — CNB-001 — does not attack clots but instead repairs stroke damage at the molecular level that feed and support the all-important brain cells, neurons.”

Turmeric has been used in Indian traditional medicine as an anti-inflammatory for centuries, so this is merely a new scientific move to home in on turmeric’s many beneficial qualities.

But we’re here to talk about food – and here’s a frankly quick and easy way to get more turmeric on the table and into the tummy. I literally had to invent something quick the other night and threw this together. . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Chew Your Food, Damn It

12:22 pm in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

I have a friend who I actually have not met. She is from Canada and her name is Krista Scott-Dixon. I got involved with her through her women’s weight lifting site Stumptuous seven years ago and she is someone who knows more about weight lifting, food, eating, and women’s health than anyone I know. She came up with a recipe for a smoothie made with coconut milk that basically kept my mother alive while she was dying of dementia. Brilliant woman. She’s widened her focus in terms of food but recently, she posted something that really hit home with me, which is that if she could say one thing to the people she coaches, it would be “slow down and chew your food.” There’s a lot of other stuff about being mindful about what we eat and the choices we make when we feel like we want to reward ourselves and so on.

But think of all the things that happen when we slow down and chew our food.

First of all (and if you are doing this, you ARE forgiven but stop doing it RIGHT NOW), when we actually take the time to make a meal and sit down and eat every bite in an attentive way, we are probably not sitting in front of the tv or the computer screen. And I know how easy it is to do this when we are at work because squeezing in lunchtime AWAY from the damn desk is often close to impossible (but we need to do it; the Man doesn’t own every single minute of our lives; if “he” did, then they’d install the computers in the bathroom). But when you are attending to something on the screen, you are not attending to what is happening in your mouth. Which means that the food that is being put in there is not getting masticated properly.

Second of all, there are a LOT of forms of food that we’re taking in that frankly could be delivered through a tube directly into our stomachs because they are fairly liquified. And that is actually not a really good thing because chewing has a lot of benefits.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: No More Aunty Nice Guy

8:50 am in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

Okay. The gloves are officially off (except at Chez Siberia, where we wear gloves pretty much everywhere, all the time, especially the Bob Crachett fingerless ones which are really handy for using on the computer when you can see your breath). USDA (as skewed through The Onion’s amazingly twisted filter) has stolen Granny Toby’s message. Not that I mind – they should have been telling us this all along instead of what they’ve been doing to the Food Pyramid.

Here’s the official Granny Toby Food Pyramid below. Notice the difference between the USDA one and mine?  . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Food News You Can Use

12:54 pm in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

From far inside the Deep Freeze at Chez Siberia (ooooo-wee, that’s chilly!), it’s Granny Toby (I have a new grandson and yes, he IS the most handsome child ever born; thank you for asking) with whatever strikes my fancy in terms of food and nutrition news. And a small reminder: Food is how we get the energy from the sun. We are far less efficient than plants so we have to eat other things and beings that are. That’s the way it goes. So, choose wisely.

Zinc: It’s what’s for dinner if you don’t want to get pneumonia when you are elderly. “A high proportion of nursing facility residents were found to have low serum (blood) zinc concentrations during an observational study funded by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the National Institute on Aging. The scientists found that those with normal blood zinc concentrations were about 50 percent less likely to develop pneumonia than those with low concentrations.”  Read more here about the zinc study.

How do you get zinc? Eat wheat germ, low fat beef, hummus, cocoa powder and chocolate, lamb and peanuts! So be sure to getcher zinc.   . . . Read the rest of this entry →

Food Sunday: Just Eat the Onions

7:05 am in Culture, Food by TobyWollin

Onions, as a vegetable, get no respect. They are the Tonto of veggies: always the sidekick, never the center of attention. Except for French onion soup, most people can’t think of a single dish that is “onions and”, but there are thousands of “something with onions.”

It’s very distressing because onions are actually nutritional powerhouses and people should eat more of them – every member of the family (garlic, leeks, onions, chives) has much to recommend it but at this point in the winter, I’m going to offer ideas for onions that are easy to find in your grocery store.

But first, the housekeeping (cue newsreel music):

Onions are great sources of the following:
Vitamin C
Dietary fiber.
Vitamin B6,

An unknown aspect of onions is their high polyphenol content, particularly quercetin and the allyl sulphides and sulphoxides (which is what makes you cry when you cut them). Research on quercetin shows it to be highly anti-inflammatory as well as anti-cancer. So it’s worth the thought to cook them up and eat them; their nutritional benefits actually stay in the pot with the soup or other ingredients that you have cooked. . . . Read the rest of this entry →