Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Gene Revolution: The Future of Agriculture

Thierry Vrain retired 10 years ago after a long career as a soil biologist and ended head of a department of molecular biology running his own research program to engineer nematode resistance genes in crops. In his retirement career as a gardener he learned five or six years ago how the soil ecosystem really functions and have been preaching ever since. He find himself with a good knowledge of genetic engineering technologies surrounded by people in fear of being hurt by the food they eat. He found that he cannot ignore them anymore and has joined the campaign to educate consumers about the potential health problems reported in the recent scientific literature.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Classic Pesto

    1/2 cup roasted pine nuts
    4 cups fresh basil leaves 
    1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
    1 garlic clove
    1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
    Sea salt and black pepper

    Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add more olive oil if pesto is too dry. Season with sea salt and black pepper.

    To store, pour into an airtight container and press cling wrap directly on top of the pesto to prevent it from oxidizing. It will keep for up to five days in the refrigerator.

    Thursday, June 13, 2013

    Is Outrage Over the Monsanto Protection Act a Turning Point for the "Real Food" Movement? - June 13th, 2013

    In March, when I first wrote about how the biotech rider -- called the Monsanto Protection Act by its vocal opponents -- undercut the constitutional concept of separation of powers, it seemed hardly anyone (other than the usual advocacy groups) was paying attention. But then a lot of people got mad, really mad.

    Within a few short weeks the issue exploded in the mainstream media, with the surest sign the issue had hit the big time being (what else?) coverage by The Daily Show (hilariously titled, "You Stuck What Where?"). Another indication was outrage even from a Tea Party blogger.
    Quick refresher: Biotech companies have to get permission from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to plant new genetically-engineered crops. In recent years, groups such as the Center for Food Safety have been gaining traction by filing lawsuits challenging federal approval, thereby stopping some novel crops from being planted when courts agreed that USDA failed to conduct proper environmental oversight.

    Tuesday, June 11, 2013

    Heilala Vanilla

    Heilala Vanilla began as an aid project to assist a village in one of the most beautiful and remote places on the globe, Vava'u Islands, Kingdom of Tonga. The family fell in love with the people and the environment, and using their horticultural background and research facilities in Tauranga, New Zealand they established a Vanilla Plantation. A partnership of people, united by their passion for the worlds most sensual and exotic flavour and aroma. I received a sample pack from them a few weeks ago and I am hooked. 

    The story of a Tongan aid project that blossomed into a business that has executive chef’s and foodies who can’t get enough of Heilala Vanilla.

    Meet the Boggiss and Ross family. John Ross, his daughter Jennifer and her husband Garth.  They started Heilala Vanilla in 2002 and still own and operate the business today.

    Before 2002, John was a retired dairy farmer, Jennifer was an accountant and Garth worked in IT. They worked a dormant piece of land in Utungake, Tonga gifted to them by the local village. Little did they know at the time that the piece of land was destined for something great. 

    John and Garth put to practice their horticultural know how to kick start the plantation by researching countries around the world that grew vanilla in the narrow band 20 degrees on each side of the equator. The plan was to help to provide the locals with employment and hope that the demand for vanilla blossomed.

    It then took three years to develop and nurture the vines through the on-going art of careful training, weeding and looping, all while ensuring organic sustainable farming was being practised. 

    John who was once a frequent holiday maker to Tonga is now virtually a local spending up to six months a year at the Tongan plantation.

    In 2005 the first 40kg harvests of Vanilla pods were ready. Time passed, the plantation went from strength to strength harvesting a healthy two tonne in 2010. All the tender love and care has resulted in the richest grade of Vanilla in the Asia Pacific region with its distinctive aroma, shine and plumpness coveted by chefs all around the world.

    An annual crop is brought back from Tonga to the company’s base in Tauranga, New Zealand. Heilala Vanilla is then packaged for each order; the Pure Extract and Vanilla Paste, Syrup and vanilla bean sugar are manufactured, and dispatched to Executive Chefs, gourmet food manufacturers and a selection of specialty retail outlets.

    Several years have passed and the plantation has matured, but the research and development of more exciting 100% pure vanilla ideas continue. The practice of true sustainability with the local village also continues and has enabled resources for education and infrastructure, which the community otherwise may not have had. It is recognised by the local Agriculture Ministry as a true example of a Pacific partnership in practice something that is rather special to us.

    Tasting vanilla creations are something we never get bored of. We now have a small plantation in Tauranga which is a great opportunity for chefs and media to come and visit and get a feel for the most labour intensive crop on the planet.

    The Deadly Fake Fat Lurking in the Supermarket -- Still! - June 11th, 2013

    Artificial trans fat -- the kind that comes from partially hydrogenated oil -- has been called a "metabolic poison" and the "most dangerous fat in the food supply." It promotes heart disease by raising one's "bad" cholesterol (LDL), which clogs arteries, and lowering one's "good" cholesterol (HDL), the kind that guards against heart disease. According to the Institute of Medicine, there is no safe level for trans fat intake, and the American Heart Association recommends limiting it to less than 2 percent of calories per day. That's about two grams. Unless you're a vegan, that's about as much as you can expect to get from the smaller amounts of naturally-occurring trans fat in milk and meat. In other words? There's no room in your diet for anything partially hydrogenated.

    Since 2006, when the federal government required trans fat to be listed on nutrition facts labels, most responsible manufacturers of processed foods began reformulating their product lines to get rid of artificial trans fat. (And fortunately, these reformulated products typically end up lower in saturated fat as well as trans fat.) But as a new paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Preventing Chronic Disease (I'm a co-author) shows, some stubborn manufacturers are still sticking with this discredited industrial ingredient despite the consensus that it is dangerous and unnecessary.

    Monday, June 10, 2013

    Gluten Free Gooey Double Chocolate Vanilla Brownies

    1 3/4 cups gluten free flour blend
    1 teaspoon guar gum 
    2 1/2 teaspoons gluten free baking powder 
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 cup pure cocoa powder 
    1 1/2 cups pure dark chocolate chips 
    1 cup sugar 
    1 egg, room temperature
    8 tablespoons salted grass fed butter, room temperature
    2 teaspoons Heilala vanilla paste

    Preheat oven to 350 F

    Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla paste, beating well to combine. Turn mixer of and use a spoon to mix in the dry ingredients including chocolate chips.

    Drop teaspoonfuls of the cookie dough into the palm of your hand and roll into a perfect ball.Arrange in a single layer on a lined cookie sheet.

    Put cookie sheet in the middle rack and bake for 20 minutes.

    Sunday, June 9, 2013

    The True Cost of Food

    It seems everywhere we turn there's more scary news about the fish on our plates.Genetically modified salmon appears headed for supermarket shelves, even as a recent study revealed the salmon could escape into the wild and cross-breed, posing a huge environmental risk for wild fish populations. Another investigation uncovered the dirty secrets of the Thai seafood industry, a major provider of shrimp to the U.S, and one of the worst culprits for human trafficking. That's just the tip of the iceberg. Ninety percent of all shrimp on American plates is imported from Asia, where it is grown on farms using high levels of antibiotics and chemicals that damage surrounding ecosystems, not to mention diners. And while salmon farming is being proclaimed as the way of the future, Monsanto too sees industrial aquaculture as a growing source of revenue for their genetically modified soy feed.
    We can do better than this. There are healthy, sustainable fishing communities in our own backyard. So why, then, do we continue to support a seafood industry run on the backs of slaves? Why do we welcome factory-fed fish into our diets? Low food cost is the siren call. It was the promise of a lower cost, high profit protein source that makes Frankenfish seem like a good idea, and that never-ending shrimp buffet sure does taste good. When we turn a blind eye to where our food comes from in the name of convenience and price, we allow others to make our choices about what kind of food system we want to have. Ignorance may be bliss, but we can no longer afford to ignore the impact of our food choices.

    Friday, June 7, 2013

    Gluten and Sugar Free Mini Apple Pies

    Yields: 6 mini pies or 1 large pie

    1/2 cup grass fed salted butter 
    2 cups gluten free high protein flour blend 
    1 cup high starch gluten free flour 
    1 teaspoon guar gum 
    1/2 teaspoon gluten free baking powder 
    3/4 cup cold milk 
    5 large apples, remove skin and core, chopped 
    2 teaspoons cinnamon 
    1/2 raw local wild honey

    Preheat oven to 350 F

    Combine apples, cinnamon and honey. Set aside. Combine all the dry ingredients. Cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. Drizzle in enough milk to bring the dough together. Divide dough into 12 equal size portions. Put a piece of dough in between two pieces of parchment paper and roll into a 6" round and place in a small tart pan. Fill with the apple fillings and add another piece of pastry to cover the top. Cut a small slit on top.

    Bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until crispy and golden.

    Trending Now