Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gluten Free Lemon Yogurt Banana Cake

4 cups gluten free flour blend
3 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoons xanthan gum
2 Meyer lemons, zest only
1 1/2 cups sucanat or coconut sugar
1 cup room temperature salted grass fed butter, cut into cubes
1 cup plain yogurt 
1 cup milk
4 eggs, room temperature
4 large ripe bananas, mashed
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, lemon zest, and xanthan gum. Combine milk, yogurt, lemon juice, and mashed bananas. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy on medium speed. Add eggs one at a time beating well in between. Lower speed and add half the flour mixture, followed by the milk mixture. Lastly add the rest of the flour.

Pour batter into large, lined, square cake pan. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes or until a stick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

Remove from the oven. 

Cooked Food Allowed Evolution Of Primates' Big Brains - December 19th, 2012
That's because humans would have to spend more than 9 hours a day eating to get enough energy from unprocessed raw food alone to support our large brains, according to a new study that calculates the energetic costs of growing a bigger brain or body in primates. But our ancestors managed to get enough energy to grow brains that have three times as many neurons as those in apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. How did they do it? They got cooking, according to a study published online today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

"If you eat only raw food, there are not enough hours in the day to get enough calories to build such a large brain," says Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroscientist at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil who is co-author of the report. "We can afford more neurons, thanks to cooking." 

Humans have more brain neurons than any other primate—about 86 billion, on average, compared with about 33 billion neurons in gorillas and 28 billion in chimpanzees. While these extra neurons endow us with many benefits, they come at a price—our brains consume 20% of our body's energy when resting, compared with 9% in other primates. So a long-standing riddle has been where did our ancestors get that extra energy to expand their minds as they evolved from animals with brains and bodies the size of chimpanzees?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Crispy Beef and Aged Cheddar Spring Rolls

Sauce Ingredients:
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup cranberry sauce

Whisk all the ingredients to fully combine. Simmer on low heat until it thickens and reduces (about 10 minutes).

10 Vietnamese spring roll sheets
1/2 cup cooked ground beef
1/4 cup aged cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon fresh sage
Sea salt and black pepper

Combine cooked ground beef, cheese, and sage. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Set aside. Fill a large bowl with warm water (not hot) Dip one wrapper at a time to soften (about 2 seconds).  Wrapper will get softer by the time you roll it.

Lay wrapper flat. Leaving about 2 inches uncovered on each side. In a row across the center, place meat mixture. Fold uncovered sides inward, then tightly roll the wrapper. Heat a deep sided frying pan with enough pure vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan (about 4 tablespoons) on medium heat until oil is ready for frying. Add 4 rolls at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan. Fry until crispy and brown (about 8 minutes on each side). Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels. Season with salt and black pepper.

Serve immediately with extra dipping sauce on the side.

Beef Investigation Uncovers Fecal Contamination - December 17th, 2012

This is the origin myth of the food safety system in the United States: The beef industry was a mess, led to awful practices by the profit motives of a few major processing companies, until investigative journalist Upton Sinclair exposed many of the atrocities of the packing plants in his 1906 novel "The Jungle," which spurred the establishment of federal meat inspections, improving safety forever. Today, beef and other meat sold in the U.S. is safer than ever.  

This is the true state of affairs, according to a yearlong investigation of the beef industry concluded by the Kansas City Star this week: just four companies process more than 87 percent of the beef packed in the U.S., and take advantage of novel, money-saving techniques that significantly increase the risk of contamination by foodborne pathogens, leading to hundreds of preventable illnesses every year.

The investigation spans dozens of articles, tens of thousands of words and graphic illustrations galore, and is worth browsing around in depth on the Kansas City Star website.

Here are a few of the paper's staggering findings:

The investigators found ample evidence of serious problems with fecal contamination in beef at major plants, despite industry claims that beef was safer than ever. Fecal contamination is obviously the most disgusting kind of contamination on earth -- but it also vastly increases the risk that beef will spread E. coli bacteria, which lives in the intestines of cows.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Drink Ingredient Gets a Look - December 13th, 2012
Sarah Kavanagh and her little brother were looking forward to the bottles of Gatorade they had put in the refrigerator after playing outdoors one hot, humid afternoon last month in Hattiesburg, Miss.

But before she took a sip, Sarah, a dedicated vegetarian, did what she often does and checked the label to make sure no animal products were in the drink. One ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, caught her eye.

“I knew it probably wasn’t from an animal because it had vegetable in the name, but I still wanted to know what it was, so I Googled it,” Ms. Kavanagh said. “A page popped up with a long list of possible side effects, including neurological disorders and altered thyroid hormones. I didn’t expect that.”

She threw the product away and started a petition on, a nonprofit Web site, that has almost 200,000 signatures. Ms. Kavanagh, 15, hopes her campaign will persuade PepsiCo, Gatorade’s maker, to consider changing the drink’s formulation.

Jeff Dahncke, a spokesman for PepsiCo, noted that brominated vegetable oil had been deemed safe for consumption by federal regulators. “As standard practice, we constantly evaluate our formulas and ingredients to ensure they comply with federal regulations and meet the high quality standards our consumers and athletes expect — from functionality to great taste,” he said in an e-mail.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Gluten-free Banana Date Caramel Bundt Cake

This recipe has been chosen for my upcoming book, "Rustic Modern Cuisine". To pre-order your copy, please click here.

Available for a limited time only!

The Biggest Food Safety Disasters Of 2012 - December 12th, 2012

From widespread salmonella outbreaks involving peanuts and cantaloupe to the discovery of mad cow disease in a California dairy cow, it's been quite a year for food safety.

There's promise that the Food Safety Modernization Act, which would be the biggest overhaul of the country's food safety regulations in decades, will finally be implemented now that the election is through. We hope so -- Bloomberg found this year that current FDA food inspections fail to catch the vast majority of pathogens. Perhaps that's what makes our story on the 10 most germ-infested areas in restaurants so disturbing.

Not that people are overly concerned; market research suggests that public concern about food safety this year is not remarkably different from past years, despite several high-profile recalls.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gluten Free Black Cherry Upside Down Cake

2 1/4 cup GF baking mix
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon all spice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
1 cup pure vegetable oil
2 large room temperature eggs
4 cups pitted frozen black cherries

Preheat oven to 350 F

Whisk all the dry ingredients to combine. Set aside. 

Toss pitted frozen cherries in 1/2 cup of sugar and add to the bottom of a greased, round 9" by 9" cake tin. Set aside.

Beat all the wet ingredients on low speed including 1 cup of sugar and add to the dry ingredients. Pour into the cake pan and bake for 90 minutes or until a stick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely until you turn it out.

The Rise of the New Food Culture - December 11th, 2012
So gassy are the arguments about our food system and its effect on life and health in America -- arguments that hop from obesity to Type 2 diabetes to GMOs to food deserts to e coli to high fructose corn syrup -- that it's easy to miss a heartening truth, one we can be thankful for in this season of eating. The truth is that America is in the middle of inventing a new food culture, and no one, not the foodies nor the food activists nor the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America, can predict how powerful a force for change it may be. This food culture, spreading across the land like the bloom on a soft-ripened cheese, has the power to cure a lot of what ails us. Deep cultural change is the one force that can overcome generations of political and market inertia that have led to our overweight condition. A taste for better food could lift us from the adolescent excesses of our 20th century eating habits -- and begin to reduce the obesity that has been the result.

American food culture in the last century swallowed the factory-to-table promise whole, a promise that seemed validated by the triumphs of nutrition science: Diet was perfectible for the shiny, fast-paced life that was God's destiny for Americans. Daily we would rise to vitamin-enriched spongy white breads and toaster pastries and powdered breakfast drinks; we would lunch on mass-manufactured hamburgers; we would snack on Hostess Twinkies; dine on huge steaks. We would replace water with soda, and make our beer taste like water. We would conquer the world on this high-octane fuel, in vast portions for our growing bodies. The anonymous food scientist was the de facto head chef of the nation. None of the factory foods, taken alone, was or is bad; taken together, though, and dominating our diet: That turned out to be a different story.

The perfectible diet revealed its fatal flaws when chronic disease rates (first heart disease, much more recently Type 2 diabetes) rocketed and were linked as early as the 1950s to the supersized, supercharged, supersalted, superfatted foods we loved. But we would also awaken, slowly, to the limitations -- in variety and in taste -- of the food we ate. Newly prosperous Americans traveled and encountered deep food cultures abroad, in Europe, India, and Southeast Asia. Maybe pasta in cans wasn't the best pasta? Among the travelers were people like Alice Waters, who brought the real-food word home and insisted that a whole new story about American food was possible. The environmental movement blossomed, throwing light on problems with farming and fishing, and beginning to reconnect the idea that quality of food supply depends on quality of farming practices.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Gluten Free Gruyere Basil Scones

3 cups all purpose gluten free flour blend
1 cup grated gruyere cheese
1 tablespoon sucanat or coconut sugar
3 teaspoons gluten free baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons xanthan gum
8 tablespoons cold grass fed salted butter, cut into chunks
1 large egg, room temperature
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 F

Whisk egg and milk to combine. Set aside. Pulse butter, cheese, and all the dry ingredients in a food processor until it binds together. Add just enough of the egg and milk mix to form a soft dough (but not runny - you may not need it all).

Drop tablespoonfuls of the dough onto a lined baking sheet, leaving room in between. Bake for roughly 40 minutes (more or less) or until a stick inserted into the center comes out clean.

Processed Foods are Killing Us - December 10th, 2012
As American society became more industrialized and modernized, we focused the same innovation to our foods in an effort to make them more affordable and accessible, resulting in processed foods. While this made food cheaper and allowed Americans of all walks access to more calories, it did not lead to better nutrition nor a healthier society. This change to a heavily-processed food supply also can be correlated to the rise in Type 2 diabetes.

So why are processed foods so bad and how is it linked to the rise in Type 2 diabetes? Until the turn of the century, most Americans either produced their own foods or bought them from local producers in an unprocessed state. With advancement in food storage and preservation, foods were altered to have longer shelf lives and foods once produced at home, like bread, could now be mass produced in baking factories. Mass production led to processed foods appearing cheaper by their convenience.

The act of processing a food product breaks down the item to its basic components, often leaving healthy and nutritional things behind, like fiber. While this allows manufacturers to store products, like flour or corn syrup, easier and longer, it’s not necessarily better for your body. I like to use the example of a log and stack of papers. If you were to set a log on fire, it would burn slowly and release energy and smoke over a prolonged period of time. However, take that same log and “process” it into paper then set that pile of paper on fire. It would burn quickly, releasing it’s energy and smoke over a very short period of time. The same happens with food. For example, corn in its whole form takes time to break down and release its energy. Corn syrup, on the other hand, beaks down very quickly once ingested, releasing its energy all at once.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Truth About Sea Salt - December 7th, 2012

Regardless of how you feel about iodine, here are the simple facts about this popular mineral.

Of the many things we eat, few things are as evocative as sea salt. (To the poetically minded eater, at least.) A dash of the saline crystals can bring to mind the mysteries of the ocean … mermaids, tide pools, mythic sea gods, ancient sailing ships, Greek islands. It’s the sea, condensed into grains we can hold between our fingertips. For many a foodie, it’s imbued with romance for its primal nature and the purity of its essence. (And for others, well, it’s just salt.)

But beyond the reverie it may incite, does salt harvested from the sea offer anything extra beyond what regular table salt provides? Some say it has less sodium, others say it has more minerals, some say its lack of iodine is a problem. Here’s how the facts bear out.

Sea salt helps boost your minerals
Unlike some foods that are harsh to the environment, sea salt is relatively gentle because it's produced by evaporating water from the ocean until all that remains is solid minerals. Much of it is harvested by hand (although there are larger operations in the Mediterranean). Table salt is made by solution-mining, while salt is extracted from underground deposits and then purified. Mining is an extractive industry and disturbs the natural environment, and the waste stream from the mined salt industry has an impact as well. 

Sea salt is a low-impact food
With its minimal processing, sea salt retains many of its minerals. While all salt comes from the sea, salt that is mined comes from ancient sea beds and many of its minerals have dissipated — and the minerals that remain are lost in processing. Some sea salts have as many as 84 trace minerals, in addition to calcium, magnesium and potassium. Many other flavoring agents (like packaged seasoning mixes) have no minerals at all.

Sea salt decreases the additives you consume
Table salt is stripped of its minerals and has anti-caking agents, such as sodium aluminum silicate, or additive E-554. In fact, there are a total of 18 food additives that are allowed in salt. Sea salt contains no chemical additives. If you season with salt, you'll get fewer chemicals in your food if you use the sea salt variety. 

Sea salt may lower your sodium intake
Although it has been reported that sea salt has less sodium than table salt, it’s not true. They both contain the same amount of sodium chloride by weight. However, sea salt has more flavor impact and so most people use less of it. The minerals enhance its flavor, and its larger grains deliver salty bursts in food, rather than the overall saltiness of fine table salt.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Turkey Cranberry Black Olive Sub with Horseradish Spread

This recipe has been chosen for my upcoming book, "Rustic Modern Cuisine". To pre-order your copy, please click here.

Available for a limited time only!

Would You Like Extra Ractopamine With Your Pork, Sir? - December 6th, 2012
If you haven't heard of the drug ractopamine before, you're probably not alone. But if you've eaten intensively reared pork, beef or turkey, then you will almost certainly have consumed meat from an animal that's been fed the drug -- and probably eaten ractopamine yourself.

In a recent test of pork chop and ground pork samples from six U.S. cities, Consumer Reports found low levels of ractopamine in almost one-fifth of the 240 pork products analyzed, as well as a range of other nasties -- including several strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Ractopamine is a growth promoter drug. It is widely used on intensive livestock farms in the U.S. because it increases the rate of weight gain and carcass leanness in pigs, cattle and turkey. It's estimated that up to 80 percent of the U.S. pig herd is fed the drug every year. Of course, the drug doesn't come without its costs.

The European Union, China, Taiwan and more than 100 other countries have long banned its use in livestock farming because of concerns about the effect of ractopamine residues in meat on human health. As a result, many countries will not import U.S. meat from animals that have been fed the drug.

Of course, proponents of industrial farming are very quick to point out that ractopamine is perfectly "safe" and that there is no risk to humans from consuming meat from treated animals. Indeed, they argue that the ongoing ban on ractopamine-tainted meat imports by China and the EU is simply an act of trade protectionism to protect their farmers from the more "efficient" production practices of U.S. industrial farms. Or perhaps it's because their government food and safety agencies are a whole lot better at putting human health concerns above industry interest and profits. I'll leave that for you to decide.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Gluten Free Lavender White Chocolate Shortbread

1 teaspoon dried lavender powder
2 tablespoons white chocolate powder
1 cup of butter
1/2 cup pure vegetable oil
1 cup powdered sugar
2 1/2 cups GF baking and biscuit mix

Preheat oven to 350 F

Sift flour and set aside. Cream butter, oil, and sugar on high speed until fluffy and light (about 6 minutes). Add lavender and white chocolate powder, followed by the dry ingredients to make a firm cookie dough. Transfer dough to a piece of parchment paper. Roll into a rectangle log (about 13" by 2"). Wrap with plastic wrap and put in the freezer until firm (about 30 minutes). Remove from freezer and remove warp. Use a very sharp knife and cut into 1/2" circles.  Arrange in a lined cookie sheet leaving room in between.

Bake for 15 to 17 minutes or until cookies are cooked. Remove from the oven to cool completely before frosting.

1 1/2 cups powdered/icing sugar
1 large Meyer lemon, juice and zest

Combine the ingredients and whisk until smooth. Drizzle over the cookies.

Are Pesticides and Food Allergies Linked? - December  5th, 2012

More Americans have food allergies than ever before, and a new study suggests chemicals in tap water may be partially to blame.

"Previous studies have shown that both food allergies and environmental pollution are increasing in the United States," study author Dr. Elina Jerschow, an assistant professor of allergy and immunology at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City, said in a press release. "The results of our study suggest these two trends might be linked, and that increased use of pesticides and other chemicals is associated with a higher prevalence of food allergies."

Researchers analyzed more than 10,000 Americans who were part of an ongoing U.S. survey of health and nutrition. They analyzed their urine levels and found more than 2,200 patients had measurable levels of dichlorophenols in their urine. That's a chemical used in pesticides and weedkillers, which is also used to chlorinate drinking water.

The researchers reported of those with measurable levels of dichlorophenols, 411 people had a food allergy and more than 1,000 had an environmental allergy, such as to pollen. People with the highest levels of the chemicals in their urine were more likely to have an allergy than those with the lower levels.

"Our research shows that high levels of dichlorophenol-containing pesticides can possibly weaken food tolerance in some people, causing food allergy," said Jerschow.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Gluten Free Mini Caramel Hazelnut Flan

2 large ripe bananas
1 cup salted caramel sauce
1 cup organic chocolate hazelnut spread
3 large room temperature egg yolks

Preheat oven to 325 F

Whisk all the ingredients until smooth. Put through a strainer and divide into 8 extra small ramekins (3" by 2"). Place ramekins in a roasting pan with at least 2" around the sides. Fill the roasting pan with hot water to cover the bottom half of the ramekins. The pan should be in the middle rack in the oven. Cover pan with foil loosely and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes or until set (they will not be completely set in the center). Remove foil and leave to cool completely in the oven before you take them out.

Refrigerate for three hours before serving.

Kenya Bans GMO Foods - December 4th, 2012

Scientists fear that Kenya's recent banning of the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be a significant blow to progress on biotechnology research and development in the country.

A cabinet meeting chaired by Kenya's president, Mwai Kibaki, this month (8 November), directed the public health minister to ban GMO imports until the country is able to certify that they have no negative impact on people's health.

In a statement to the press, the cabinet said there was a "lack of sufficient information on the public health impact of such foods".

"The ban will remain in effect until there is sufficient information, data and knowledge demonstrating that GMO foods are not a danger to public health," it added.

The directive comes three years after the government's establishment of the National Biosafety Authority (NBA), tasked with exercising general supervision and control of the transfer, handling and use of GMOs.

The NBA board chair, Miriam Kinyua, tells SciDev.Net that for now, the government directive will stand. However, she added that researchers will continue to provide the government with information arising from research into GMO safety, so that a possible review of the directive can be undertaken.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Artisan Pesto Kielbasa Pear Sandwich

Whatever happened to well-designed and stylishly presented sandwiches? Somewhere with the introduction of focaccia and panini this mainstay has exited stage left! Fresh artisan bread delicately spread with fresh pesto, fresh pear, and kielbasa is hearty and delicious!

4 thick slices of fresh Artisan Sourdough Bread 
2 links Polish Kielbasa (pre-cooked and chilled) 
2 slices of aged cheddar cheese 
1 large very ripe anjou pear, sliced length-wise Fresh Basil Pesto
Green Olives (optional) 
Sea salt and black pepper

Spread a thick layer of fresh pesto over two of the bread slices. Cut sausages in half length-wise and place on top of bread. Arrange sandwich ingredients on top. Mildly season with sea salt and black pepper to taste and close with remaining two bread slices. Serve at room temperature.

Fast Food 'Healthy Options' Don't Mean Fewer Calories - December 3rd, 2012
We at Healthy Living have long known that the 'healthy' items on fast food menus can be anything but. And now, a new study has confirmed that observation: although menus grew between 1996 and 2010 to include 53 percent more items, the average number of calories in each item hasn't changed significantly.  

The major growth area on menus during this 14-year period has been toward "healthy" salads, yogurt parfaits and other lighter-seeming fare. Unfortunately, these items aren't rendered less caloric merely by the addition of iceberg lettuce or apple slices.

"Entree salads, which are increasing in number, can be bad, too. With fried chicken on top and regular dressing, they can have more calories than a burger," lead researcher Katherine Bauer, an assistant professor in the department of public health at Temple University, told HealthDay.

As part of their study, which appeared in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Bauer and team analyzed the menus of eight national fast food restaurants -- McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy's, Taco Bell, KFC, Arby's, Jack in the Box and Dairy Queen -- using the University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center Food and Nutrient Database. They found little difference in the average calorie value of entrees, which clocked in at an average 453 for things like salads and sandwiches. Side dishes like fries, soups and bread maintained an average 263 calories. The researchers did find a slight increase in the caloric values of drinks and condiments.

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