Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Open-Faced Sandwiches With Walnut Balsamic Reduction

2 cups arugula
8 thick slices fresh tomatoes
8 slices fresh artisan bread or similar
8 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
4 large eggs, hard boiled and cut in half
4 tablespoons fresh pesto (garnish)
Salt and black pepper

Toss arugula in walnut balsamic reduction (Whole Foods) or similar. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange on a large serving plate. Add the rest of the ingredients (refer to picture). Drop teaspoonful of pesto on top of the egg. Drizzle walnut balsamic reduction (or similar) over the top of the sandwiches. Season with salt and black pepper. Serve chilled.

Restaurants Are Returning to The Farm

What was once a necessity has become a trendy luxury.

"Farm to table" is a popular catchphrase in today's fine dining. But it's actually the way that many of our grandparents or great-grandparents ate in their day.

Rural folk ate fruits and vegetables in season, because that's what was growing in their back yard. They didn't run to the grocery store every time they had an urge for grapes or asparagus. Even non-farmers often raised a few hens in their back yard to provide eggs and occasional chicken dinners. Those who had cows or pigs used as much of the animal as possible. You couldn't buy cellophane-wrapped packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, or ready-cooked strips of bacon.

Now the culinary world is moving back to the concept of "knowing where your food comes from." Chefs are developing "relationships" with local producers and food artisans. Farmers are no longer anonymous suppliers but are gaining brand recognition in the same way that people think of Nike or Apple: Copper Moose Farms, High Star Farm, Bell Organic Gardens and so on. Menus proudly list items such as Morgan Valley lamb, Pleasant Creek Ranch beef, Colosimo sausage or Beehive cheddar cheese, which all come from right here in Utah.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Artichoke Spinach Cannelloni With Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

12 fresh lasagna sheets (about 3" by 8") 
10 ounces frozen spinach, squeeze all the liquid out 
14 ounces cooked artichoke hearts, chopped 
1 small white onion, chopped 
1 teaspoon nutmeg 
1/2 cup ricotta cheese 
1/2 cup cream cheese, room temperature 
1/2 cup freshly grated parmigiano reggiano cheese 
Handful fresh parsley, chopped 
Sea salt and black pepper to taste 
1 cup fresh parmesan cheese, grated (garnish)

Combine artichoke, spinach, parmigiano reggiano cheese, ricotta cheese, cream cheese, parsley, and nutmeg. Season with sea salt and black pepper to taste.

3 large roasted red pepper
3 garlic, cloves 
1 small white onion, chopped into large chunks 
1/4 cup olive oil 
Sea salt and black pepper

Blend until smooth. Season with salt and black pepper.

Spread 1/3 cup of spinach artichoke mixture along center of each piece. Roll up to enclose filling. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

On a large baking dish, arrange Cannelloni in a single layer. Spread roasted red pepper sauce generously to cover the top. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese. Bake for 40 minutes to 50 minutes or until golden brown.

Here Come Slow Cocktails - On The Heels of Slow food

Remember the ’80s, when drinks were sticky and sweet and had names like Sex on the Beach, Creamsicle and Blue Hawaii? We see the Excess Era recycled continually in fashion but so far we have avoided a return trip to Long Island Iced Tea and its ilk.

And yet it now seems the ’80s — the 1880s, that is — are making a comeback at the cutting edges of Western civilization (London and New York) and at smart bars around town.

There’s been a pronounced return to the classics of cocktail culture — 19th-century potions, heavy on the gin and brown liquors, laced with old-fashioned tastes like bitters and flower extracts. Often, they favour all-natural, preferably organic, ingredients. And the recipes forsome of these complicated concoctions would not look out of place in an alchemy text.

One might think we reached the zenith of this trend with the $45 hickory-smoked Vanilla Manhattan at Bar Chef on Queen West.
But now the race is on among the city’s leading bar stars to come up with their own inventions — aged in wooden casks.

“At the end of the day, it is quality over quantity,” says Robert Montgomery, the beverage director at the Miller Tavern on Yonge St. (just south of the 401). “People are drinking less and drinking better,” says Robert Montgomery. (And not a second too soon: This month the tavern opens two new locations —

The Fox and the Miller Tavern downtown, both at the foot of Bay Street.) Montgomery sees barrel aging appealing to “the hipseter crowd — early adapters, bleeding-edge types.”

Monday, August 29, 2011

Marmalade Cream Cheese Muffins (gluten-free)

2 cups baking and biscuit mix (gluten-free)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons orange zest
2/3 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, room temperature
3 tablespoons orange marmalade
12 1 inch cubes cream cheese, cold
2 tablespoons orange marmalade (glaze)

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Whisk all the wet ingredients to fully combine. In a separate bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. Add wet ingredients to dry and fold to combine. 

Scoop into a lined 12 cup muffin pan 3/4 full. Insert cream cheese cube into the center. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until muffins are baked and golden color. Remove from oven and glaze with orange marmalade.

National Buying Club for Organic And Non-GMO Foods - August 26, 2011
Green PolkaDot Box™ founder Rod Smith and the Organic Consumers Association, an online and grassroots non-profit 501©3 public interest organization campaigning for health, justice, and sustainability, are pleased to announce a much needed solution to consumers seeking accessibility to affordable organic and non-GMO foods.

The Green Polka Dot Box (GPDB) is a new national distribution service focused on the home delivery of organic and natural non-GMO products at 30-50% below the cost of retail, providing an inexpensive alternative to supporters of the Organic Consumer Association.

According to Ronnie Cummins, National Director, the Organic Consumers Association (OAC), in his recent essay, Whole Paycheck and Organic Food Deserts: The Challenge, he challenges Americans to step up the pace and qualitatively expand and support the sales of organic foods and products across the United States by ordering non-perishable organic and non-GMO products offered through the Green PolkaDot Box buying club at 30-50% below average retail prices.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Salmon Basil Quiche

1 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, frozen and cut into small cubes
5 tablespoons icy cold water
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch salt

Place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until it resembles bread crumbs. Form into ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Roll out pastry dough. Place in a prepared 12 inch by 12 inch quiche pan. Cover sides also.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

6 ounces cooked salmon
5 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup cream
1/2 cup goat cheese, crumbles
1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped
1/4 fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
1/4 cup fresh parmesan cheese, crated (garnish)
Salt and black pepper

Whisk eggs, cream and mustard to fully combine. Season well with salt and black pepper. 

Arrange salmon, red onions, basil and goat cheese crumbles in pastry shell. Pour egg mixture into pastry shell. Season with salt and black pepper.

Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until set.

Sprinkle extra parmesan cheese on top. Allow to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

Can Farmers’ Markets Help Save America? - August 23rd, 2011
Farmers’ markets grew 17% over the past year, bringing our national total to 7,175. Could this trend help reap a more sustainable future?
Farmers’ markets are taking root from coast to coast. One thousand new, food-centric bazaars have opened over last year, according to fresh USDA numbers. That brings our national total to 7,175 markets across the nation, more than double the 3,706 from in 2004. This trend could have a huge impact on our economy and way of life.

On an individual or family level, the increase of farmers’ markets will have a direct impact on people’s health. It’s impossible to deny that fresh fruits and vegetables, stripped of their pesticides, preservatives and image-enhancing waxes, are far better for our bodies than mass produced produce. And 12% of all locations accept food stamps, thereby ensuring that low-income families have access to at least some of the bounty.
Then there’s the fact that independent emporiums allow consumers a more intimate shopping experience, which brings peace of mind during the seemingly ubiquitous food recalls.
“Whenever there is a food-borne outbreak, it drives more consumers to farmers’ markets,” Dianne Eggert, executive director of the Farmer’s Market Federation of New York, told Reuters. “They can ask more questions about how their food is produced.”
But obviously farmers’ markets aren’t just about hippie-dippie love and happiness that yield strong, trusting, healthy communities. They’re businesses, and they’re booming in surprising places.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Coconut Sweet Potato Broccoli Soup

2 containers vegetable broth (32 fluid ounce each)

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 pound broccoli florets
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks
1 cup coconut cream
2 tablespoons green curry paste
Salt and black pepper
In a large soup pot.  Bring all the ingredients (except coconut cream) to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 1 hour. Add coconut cream. Season with salt and black pepper. Blend to your desired consistency. Serve hot.

Grass-Fed Beef Better For You Than Grain-Fed

Think all red meat is bad for your health? Maybe not. A new study in the British Journal of Nutrition is linking grass-fed beef with higher blood levels of omega-3s, which have been associated with positive health benefits, compared to more common grain-finished red meat.

As food blog Foodista affirms, cows are genetically designed to eat grass, not the grain diet of conventional farming, so it stands to reason that grass-fed cows would be healthier (and healthier for us) than factory farmed cows. This study backs up that notion, concluding that:

Red meat from grass-fed animals may contribute to dietary intakes of LC n-3 PUFA [Omega-3 fatty acid] in populations where red meat is habitually consumed.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish, walnuts, and some fruits and vegetables have been recommended for several health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease—interesting because red meat is commonly seen as a villain when it comes to heart health.

People who seek out grass-fed beef usually do so for ethical and environmental reasons, as grass-fed ranchers are typically small, local producers who raise cattle humanely on open pastures (in addition to giving the cows their natural diet). Grass-fed beef is also leaner. This study's findings may offer another compelling reason for meat eaters to choose grass-fed beef over the conventional kind, even though it's more expensive and more difficult to find.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Orange Berry Scones

2 cups all purpose gluten free flour
4 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
2 teaspoons guar gum
1/2 cup coconut sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup salted, cold, grass fed butter
3/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 egg, room temperature
1 large orange (zest only)
1/2 cup fresh mixed berry preserve
1/2 cup fresh citrus marmalade

1/2 cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons raw honey or pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350 F

Combine all the dry ingredients and cut butter in until mixture is crumbly. Whisk yogurt and egg in a separate bowl. Add enough liquid to bring dough together (not wet).

Pat dough out onto a lightly floured surface (about 2" thickness). Spread preserve over the dough leaving about an inch all the way around free of preserve. Roll up like a Swiss roll and cut into equal pieces. Place on a prepared 12" by 12" round tart pan or similar (refer to picture).

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until cooked and golden brown. Drizzle orange syrup over the top. Enjoy.

Coriander Oil Could Tackle Food Poisoning and Drug-Resistant Infections - August 23rd, 2011
Coriander oil has been shown to be toxic to a broad range of harmful bacteria. Its use in foods and in clinical agents could prevent food-borne illnesses and even treat antibiotic-resistant infections, according to the authors of a study published in the Journal of Medical Microbiology.

The researchers from the University of Beira Interior in Portugal tested coriander oil against 12 bacterial strains, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella enterica, Bacillus cereus and meticillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Of the tested strains, all showed reduced growth, and most were killed, by solutions containing 1.6% coriander oil or less.

Coriander is an aromatic plant widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. Coriander oil is one of the 20 most-used essential oils in the world and is already used as a food additive. Coriander oil is produced from the seeds of the coriander plant and numerous health benefits have been associated with using this herb over the centuries. These include pain relief, ease of cramps and convulsions, cure of nausea, aid of digestion and treatment of fungal infections.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Eggplant Parmigiana

1 (one) medium, very firm, shiny eggplant
26 ounces of fresh tomato sauce of your choice
8 thick slices fresh mozzarella
3 large room temperature eggs
2 cups GF all purpose flour
2 cups GF Panko-style  Bread Crumbs
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450 F

Season flour with sea salt and black pepper. Cut eggplant into 8 equal size discs.  Toss eggplants in flour to fully coat. In another bowl, whisk eggs. Dip eggplants in the egg mixture making sure to get it fully coated.  Roll eggplant discs in bread crumbs (make sure to get a thick coating).  Line eggplant discs in a single layer in a lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20 minutes, turning eggplant over halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven. 

Cover the bottom of a serving platter with hot tomato sauce and add eggplant discs in a single layer.  Add a thick slice of fresh mozzarella on top of each disc followed by extra sauce (refer to picture). Scatter freshly grated parmesan cheese over the top. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil generously over the top and grilled until cheese is bubbly. 

Serve immediately.

Health Dilemmas: Should I Give Up Fizzy Drinks?

On a hot day do you reach for a cool can of Coke or a glass of water, and does it matter? Obesity (the body doesn't seem to regulate its appetite in response to calories in drinks so the sugary drinks are extra calories), dental caries and an increase in diabetes are uncontested risks of drinking sugary fizzy drinks. Fatty livers and pancreatic cancer have also more recently been linked to a hefty intake of sugary, fizzy drinks (up to four cans a day) by researchers, but the studies are not conclusive.

Those of us watching our weight, meanwhile, may have switched to diet drinks, which contain artificial sweeteners, some many hundreds of times sweeter than natural sugars, but without the calories. Coca-Cola's website says Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Lilt Zero contain aspartame and acesulfame-K. Slimline drinks such as Schweppes slimline Canada Dry ginger ale contain a blend of aspartame and saccharin.

Aspartame has been dogged by controversy ever since it was approved as a food additive over 35 years ago. A report in the Daily Mail last week said that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is being asked to bring forward a safety review of it by members of the European parliament following a Danish study showing an increase in premature births in mothers drinking diet drinks and research showing cancer growth in mice who were fed aspartame.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Roasted Sweet Pepper Cheddar Cheese Salad

2 pounds mini sweet peppers
3 cups mixed salad greens
10 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese, shavings
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 500 F.

Arrange peppers and garlic cloves on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper.  Bake for 20 minutes, turning vegetables over halfway during cooking.

Remove from oven and set aside to reach room temperature( about 2 hours). Cover the bottom of a large serving platter with the mixed salad greens. Season with salt and black pepper. Arrange sweet peppers and garlic on top (refer to picture) and drizzle generously with any fruit flavoured balsamic vinaigrette of your choice. 

I used raspberry balsamic vinaigrette.

Dirty Little Secrets: Neither Antibacterial Soaps Nor The FDA Help Us.

This just in from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: “Keep waiting.”
I was on the FDA website the other day, and it seems the FDA has quietly made a small change to a webpage that has big implications for all of us.  In a 37-year history of delays, FDA is again delaying protecting us from potentially unsafe chemicals in antibacterial soaps.
Back in April, 2010, FDA announced that it was studying the safety of triclosan (the chemical used in antibacterial soaps). It promised to communicate its findings to the public in spring, 2011. But with no public announcement, FDA recently edited the page to say that it would communicate its findings in the winter, 2012. Check it out for yourself: here’s a link to the page as it appeared when we filed our lawsuit this past summer and here’s a link to the webpage from today.
No explanation of why it needs the extra year and a half. No update on what it’s done so far. Nothing.
Mounting evidence shows that antibacterial soaps containing the chemicals triclosan and triclocarban are neither safe nor effective. In lawyer speak, that is a death sentence for any product awaiting FDA approval. But for the past 37 years, FDA has done nothingto protect us from these products. Neither pressure from a U.S. Congressman nor alawsuit by NRDC has been enough to push the FDA. And now FDA is giving itself another extension. We’re taking note – and so has the New York Times.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Quinoa Warm Roasted Vegetable Salad with Balsamic Pear Vinaigrette

Roasted Vegetables:
3 large zucchinis, cut into spears
1 large eggplant. slice into discs
12 asparagus 
8 cremini mushrooms 
8 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 medium red onion, cut into wedges

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Use two baking sheets. Arrange eggplants and garlic cloves in a single layer on the first sheet pan. Drizzle a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil all over. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, turning vegetables over half way during cooking. On the second sheet pan, arrange the rest of the vegetables. Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake during the last 10 minutes of the first pans cooking time. Keep vegetables warm while you cook the quinoa.

1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons butter
salt and black pepper to taste

Bring broth to a rolling boil, add quinoa and butter. Stir to combine. Season with salt and black pepper and reduce heat to low. Put the lid on and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and quinoa is cooked but still firm to bite (al dente) about 15 - 20 minutes.

Balsamic Pear Vinaigrette:
1 Bartlett pear (or similar),peeled, cored, and chopped finely
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons raw brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and black pepper to taste

Simmer balsamic vinegar, raw brown sugar, and pear on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and add extra virgin olive oil and fresh thyme leaves. Blend to fully combine. Season with salt and black pepper. Drizzle over salad.

Cover the bottom of a large serving platter with quinoa and arrange roasted vegetables on top. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Serve warm. 

China Arrests 2,000 in Food Safety Crackdown

BEIJING–China has arrested around 2,000 people and closed nearly 5,000 businesses in a major crackdown on illegal food additives after a wave of contamination scares, the government said.

China launched the campaign in April following a spate of tainted food scandals — included toxic milk, dyed buns and pork found on the market so loaded with bacteria that it reportedly glowed in the dark.

Nearly six million food businesses have now been investigated as part of the crackdown, launched in an effort to shore up plummeting public confidence in Chinese-made food products.

More than 4,900 were shut down for “illegal practices”, the government’s Food Safety Commission said in a statement late Wednesday.

Police have also destroyed “underground” food production and storage sites, and arrested around 2,000 suspects, it said, adding that anyone found breaking the law would be severely punished.

“All regions and relevant departments will continue to carry out the crackdown on illegal food additives and firmly punish criminals and spare no effort to safeguard peoples’ food safety,” it said.

China has repeatedly pledged to clean up its vast food industry after milk products tainted with the industrial chemical melamine, added to give the appearance of high protein content, killed at least six babies and sickened 300,000 in 2008.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Saffron Corn Risotto Stuffed Poblano

6 large poblano peppers (1 per serving)
1 cup fresh corn
1 cup arborio rice
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon saffron threads
1 cup pecorino cheese, grated
3 tablespoons butter
salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Lay poblano flat (the way it naturally sits without falling over).  Cut a slit along one side (refer to picture). Using your fingers, pull the seeds out. Arrange on a single layer on a baking sheet and drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Bake for 30-40 minutes, turning over halfway through cooking. Remove from the oven. Set aside.

Heat broth in a pot on medium to high heat. Reduce heat to very low to keep the broth hot during the whole cooking process. In a heavy-bottomed, deep sided pan, melt butter and saute the arborio rice to coat the grains (about 1 minute). Add two full ladels of the vegetable stock to the arborio, plus saffron threads. Stir until all the broth is absorbed. Season with salt and black pepper. Continue to add two ladels at a time repeating the process until the rice is cooked (about 30 minutes). Stir in fresh corn and pecorino cheese.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Stuff poblano with risotto.  Arrange in a single layer in the same baking sheet.  Sprinkle extra pecorino on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.

Bisin: Is This The Food Industry’s Holy Grail?

I know some people buy their Christmas presents in July, but soon they will be able to buy their turkey in the height of summer too. And keep it fresh until December – and possibly beyond.

How? Well, it’s due to a too-good-to-be-true substance called bisin. This preservative occurs naturally in certain types of I know some people buy their Christmas presents in July, but soon they will be able to buy their turkey in the height of summer too. And keep it fresh until December – and possibly beyond.

How? Well, it’s due to a too-good-to-be-true substance called bisin. This preservative occurs naturally in certain types of bacteria (eg, Bifodobacterium longum) that are harmless to humans. Microbiologists at the University of Minnesota discovered bisin by accident when studying organisms that populate the human gut. We are told it is safe to use. Its seemingly magical powers are said to be based on its ability to kill the bacteria that trigger decomposition in the fresh proteins found in meat, dairy, eggs and fish (but not fresh vegetables or fruit). It also prevents the growth of food-poisoning bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella and listeria.

So is this end of the sell-by date? If so, is it something to be applauded – or to be concerned about? Personally, I find something unnatural and disturbing about cheese that never moulds or milk that never sours.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Velvety White Chocolate Mousse

11 ounces good quality white chocolate chunks
2 cups fresh cream
3 egg yolks

Place chocolate and one cup of cream in a heatproof bowl over a small pot of hot water. Melt chocolate over low heat. Stir and leave to cool (about 5 minutes).

Add egg yolks to the chocolate mixture beating well to combine.

In a separate bowl, whisk cream until stiff peaks starts to form. Gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Refrigerate overnight.

Whisk mousse until stiff peaks starts to form. Pour into parfait glasses. Refrigerate to set (about 1 hour) before serving.

Marketing Sustainability: A Consumer-Centric Approach

Eighty-nine percent of consumers in the United States are participating in the world of sustainability, according to new research from The Hartman Group.
Tamara Barnett presented the group's new findings during the Truitt Bros. Northwest Discovery Tour session, Marketing Sustainability.
Of those 89 percent, 13 percent are core consumers to the practice of sustainability. This year, that core group – referred to as the sustainability leaders and trendsetters – are more concerned than in the past about local and community issues.
In consumers' minds, not only is how they practice sustainability changing, but so is the definition.
"There are a lot of different definitions floating around and the definition from a consumer perspective is evolving. Literal definitions are losing their prominence as people are becoming more familiar with the term," Barnett said. "What has risen is responsible farming methods as a more meaningful way to describe what sustainability is."
Read more

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Roasted Celery Cherry Tomato Goat Cheese Soup

1 1/2 bunches celery stalks with leaves, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes
4 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 large red onion, chopped
4 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup goat cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
4 cups vegetable stock
Salt and black pepper

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Toss celery, red onions and garlic cloves with a generously amount of extra virgin olive oil. Arrange on a single layer in a baking sheet. Season with salt and black pepper. Slow roast for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Add cherry tomatoes during the last 20 minutes of cooking. Remove from oven. Set aside one cup of the roasted cherry tomatoes for garnish.

In a medium soup pot on medium to high heat, add all the roasted vegetables to the vegetable broth. Blend until smooth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add goat cheese add cream(optional). Mix well to combine. Make sure goat cheese is fully melted. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. 

Garnish with whole roasted cherry tomatoes and fresh green herbs of choice.

The Color of Controversy - August 15th, 2011
When it comes to the safety of dyeing food, the one true shade is gray.

Artificial colorings have been around for decades, and for just about as long, people have questioned whether tinted food is a good idea. In the 1800s, when merchants colored their products with outright poisons, critics had a pretty good case. Today’s safety questions, though, aren’t nearly so black and white — and neither are the answers.

Take the conclusions reached by a recent government inquiry: Depending on your point of view, an official food advisory panel either affirmed that food dyes were safe, questioned whether they were safe enough or offered a conclusion that somehow merged the two. It was a glass of cherry Kool-Aid half full or half empty.

About the only thing all sides agree on is that there would be no discussion if shoppers didn’t feast with their eyes. Left alone, margarine would be colorless, cola wouldn’t be dark, peas and pickles might not be so vibrantly green, and kids cereals would rarely end up with the neon hues of candy. But as the 1990s flop of Crystal Pepsi showed, consumers expect their food to look a certain way.

Some of the earliest attempts to dye food used substances such as chalk or copper — or lead, once a favorite for candy — that turned out to be clearly harmful. Most of the added colors in use today were originally extracted from coal tar but now are mostly derived from petroleum.

Read more

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Why Those 'Super Healthy' Foods Are Simply a Gimmick

Sitting side by side on a supermarket shelf is a block of cheap butter and an expensive margarine that is ‘proven’ to reduce cholesterol. So which would you choose?

At first glance, it seems obvious — the margarine, of course. But is it? A closer look at the extensive list of artificial preservatives, colourings and flavourings on its label suggests that the butter, which is entirely devoid of additives, is the healthier option after all.

The margarine in question is a perfect example of a ‘functional food’ which, along with ‘digestion-aiding’ probiotic yogurts and ‘brain-boosting’ omega-3 eggs, claims to have fantastic, health-promoting properties.

Having investigated thoroughly, my opinion of these so-called ‘super-healthy’ products is that they are nothing more than a dangerous gimmick: Read the small print and you’ll quickly discover just how jam-packed they are with sugar, sweeteners, artificial colours, flavourings and preservatives.

The problem is that they are marketed so effectively, it’s easy to see why the ‘worried well’ of Britain are spending more money on them than ever before, in the hope of achieving better health.

According to new figures from Mintel, we’ll be buying a whopping £951million worth of functional foods every year by 2015 — but if it weren’t for the convincing health claim on the box, they would look no different from any other highly  processed junk.

I analysed ten products from the most successful brands on the market to find out what each of them really contains. (Warning: my findings may shock you into changing your shopping habits for good.)

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