Food For Thought: Smorgasbord

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Today’s entry in the week-long Food For Thought series is a veritable smorgasbord of assorted food-related topics:

  • Finding locally-produced foods can sometimes be a bit difficult, especially if you don’t live in an agriculturally-diverse area.   Two websites that can make locating local farmers & growers much easier are Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.   Both are online directories of sustainable food suppliers, searchable by location, where you can just enter your Zip Code and get a list for your area.
  • Did you know that the crust is the best part of bread?   It not only contains 8 times more antixodants, but is also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent colon cancer.   So, don’t trim the crusts off of your kids’ sandwiches!
  • The typical American breakfast of cereal, lowfat milk, & orange juice — often recommended by dietitians & doctors alike — is a nightmare!   According to some, the processing involved with the manufacture of much of our food riddles it with oxidants known to cause degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction, and cataracts.

    For example, naturally-occurring cholesterol in fresh dairy products is used by your body to build & strengthen cell membranes, muscles, brain & nerve tissue.   But the drying process in making powdered milk — which is commonly used as a thickener in skim & lowfat milk — oxidizes the cholesterol which, once oxidized, can longer be used but instead collects along the walls of arteries.

  • If you cook, you’ll want to bookmark the Cook’s Thesaurus right now!   It’s a kitchen encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients & tools with pictures, descriptions, synonyms, and pronunciations of each.   But what’ll bring you back — and just may save a holiday meal — are the suggested substitutions.

    (Who knew you could substitute 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, ¼ cup of applesauce, or half a mashed ripe banana plus ¼ tsp. baking powder for each egg in a recipe?)

  • Honey can be a surprisingly effective, easy, & inexpensive solution for some allergy sufferers.   Ingesting small amounts of the airborne pollens that are also contained in the honey helps your body to build up a natural resistance to the allergens.   So adding a couple of teaspoons of local, pure, wildflower honey into your daily diet can decrease (and possibly even prevent) seasonal allergies.

    However, this is typically not what’s found in the cute little bear-shaped jars in the supermarket because mass-produced honey is stripped of its medicinal value via processing & heat sterilization.   And commercial bees are often fed corn syrup rather than their own honey, which diminishes the health of the hive as in addition to decreasing the nutritive benefits of the honey.   So look for locally-harvested (try within a 50 mile radius of your house), unpasteurized, unfiltered, 100% pure wildflower honey — the kind that you commonly find at farmers’ markets or produce stands.

  • For complete nutritional data on honey and a whole host of other health-promoting foods, visit the World’s Healthiest Foods.   This website, run by The George Mateljan Foundation (a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests) aims to discover, develop, and share scientifically-proven information about the benefits of healthy eating.
  • Foster Farms, a California poultry company, created the Say No To Plumping campaign.   Plumping is the practice of needlessly injecting chickens with saltwater, stock, seaweed extract, or other fluids to radically increase sodium content, weight, and price—which the USDA estimates costs Americans up to $2 billion annually!
  • High fructose corn syrup has become so abundant & incredibly cheap that manufacturers sneak it into practically everything.   HFCS is used liberally even in foods that have no need for any sweetener in them.

    But if it isn’t bad enough that so much of our foods are secretly loaded with the stuff, we now we find out that HFCS is contaminated with mercury.   Two studies recently found significant traces of the toxic metal in 30-50% of sampled foods containing HFCS.   So if you weren’t sufficiently convinced of the evils of HFCS before, it’s high time to reconsider!

Do you have some interesting morsel of food-related goodness to share?   Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway at the end of this Food For Thought week!

What a Crock!

As Rob mentioned a few days ago, the cooler weather we’ve had over the past few weeks has kicked us into “domestic mode” and we’ve been doing more cooking & baking. I’m even getting into the swing of things and, thanks to a recommendation from Ryan, we replaced our battered old crock pot just in time for some Fall cooking.

Dede cooksThe Hamilton Beach Stay or Go 6 Quart Slow Cooker we bought at (dare I say it?) Wal-Mart is awesome! This crock pot was definitely made with traveling in mind with a glass lid that has canister-style clips to keep it secured, large grippy handles that keep your hands away from the hot stuff, and it even comes with a serving spoon that clips onto the lid handle. And of course, the crock removes for easy cleanup.

But what makes cleanup even more of a breeze are the ingenious Reynolds Slow Cooker Liners that Ryan also tipped us off about. These are very similar to the heat-resistant baking bags you use for turkey on Thanksgiving. You just line your crock, add ingredients, & cook as you normally would, but after you’re done, you simply toss the liner! No muss, no fuss. No cleaning. Genius! (Did Steve Jobs have something to do with this too?)

And as if it couldn’t get any easier, here’s one of our favorite, oh-so-simple crock pot recipes:

Dede’s Taco Soup

   1 lb. ground beef
   2 15 oz. cans beef broth
   1 15 oz. can Mexican-style (a.k.a. Rotel) stewed tomatoes
   1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
   1 15 oz. can whole kernel corn with sweet peppers, drained
   1 pkg. taco seasoning mix

Brown & drain the ground beef, toss everything into the crock pot, & you’re set. You can dress this up with all sorts of extras like diced onion, shredded cheese, or sour cream, but we usually just serve with some corn tortilla chips.