How John Muir is Revolutionizing the Farm-to-Table Food Movement

John Muir Quote

I have long been a fan of Dan Barber, chef of New York’s pioneering farm-to-table restaurant Blue Hill.  He has long been a champion of the local, organic food movement. But now he thinks it’s time for the movement to grow up.  Read the article to gain an understanding of how our current food system came to be, and what we need to do to get it back on track.

The most meaningful paragraph in this article, for me is:

“So what is the role of the chef? It’s to help with the hitching. To show there is pleasure, good taste, and environmental sustainability in fostering connections. After all, that’s what cuisine is: the way a region’s unique ecological relationships, and place-specific advantages and challenges, become manifested through delicious food.”

The Beauty of Summer Eating

Peaches

Now that summer has officially arrived, eating has become pretty simplistic (and delicious). I welcomed the morning with juicy blueberries & farm fresh eggs. My lunch consisted of cucumbers & heirloom tomatoes (courtesy of the Lynchburg Farmer’s Market) splashed with a little balsamic vinegar & olive oil.  Most dinners include grilled summer squash and my favorite, sockeye salmon.  The beauty of summer is that dinners are simply delicious, with the emphasis on simple. No need for fancy embellishments.  Of course, all of this fresh, local food would not be possible without our fantastic farmer’s market.  If you are not a regular customer of a market I urge you make a trip to your own local market (wherever that may be).  I must admit my heart beats a little faster when I arrive at the Saturday morning Farmer’s market and take in the view of the produce paradise.  Check out this recipe that features peaches & tomatoes, two summer market stars.

 

Fresh Grilled Peach Salsa

Moderation For Your Health

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There is no doubt sensationalism sells, just check out the latest cover of Time Magazine. Unfortunately what does not sell is sound science and simple explanations of how to interpret this science.  If you believe all the hype, one would think that eating butter (and other animal fats) to our heart desires would not lead to any ill consequences.

 

However, there is little doubt that both fat & sugar contribute to obesity, which in turn are contributing to our epidemic of type 2 diabetes (hence heart disease).  The solution to this problem has not changed, all things in moderation, which unfortunately is not a word that most Americans find exciting. What exactly is moderation? Moderation is “the avoidance of excess or extremes”, pretty simple stuff really.

Are you a Gadget Junkie?

Paderno

It was the middle of winter when summer squash was only a dream, but when the ad from William Sonoma popped up in my Inbox I knew I was about to make a purchase.  Although I am not a huge kitchen gadget junkie, there are certain items that I cannot live without (my Kitchen Aid Mixer & Vitamix to name a few).  Although I knew I certainly couldn’t classify the Paderno spiralizer as a necessity, this blog sealed the deal for me and the spiralizer has become my newest kitchen gadget.  I think this is the best way to avoid burn out with one of my favorite summer vegetables, after all variety is key.

Farmers Fishers Bakers

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I had the opportunity to dine at FFB’s in DC this past week.  The setting is gorgeous-right on the Washington Harbour and Georgetown Waterfront.  The food was delicious as well.  Sort of the perfect combo for a great night out!

Some facts about the restaurant from their website.

  • It’s owned by American family farmers that belong to the North Dakota Farmers Union.

  • Their menu is “crafted on a foundation of seasonal ingredients from abundant and healthy sources, and the sushi bar is constantly adjusting its offerings to meet and exceed the standards of sustainable seafood”.

  • Their “interior is designed and enhanced by North American artisans – from individually handcrafted chairs to our interlocking wood ceiling hand-installed by Canadian woodworkers, to our one-of-a-kind American flag mural and welcome desk mural, installed onsite by regional artists.”

  • “ Above all, Farmers Fishers Bakers seeks to honor and respect the strong values of the farmers who grow our food and the folks that harvest it, while celebrating the independent spirit of craftspeople and artisans from across the country.”

I was very impressed by how many local items were featured, and how much of their menu is prepared in house.  Here’s what we enjoyed:

Brick Oven Pretzels with Pimento Cheese, BBQ Mustard, Sour Cream & Onion Dips

Pretzels & dips were excellent!  Pretzels came out still hot, crispy on the outside, tender & light on the inside.  The pimento cheese has a little kick from jalapeno, and the bbq mustard has a great horseradish bite to it.  And they made the onion dip right-starting with caramelizing the onions!

Authentic Field Tacos: Fried White Fish on a Sweet Corn Cake

Other options for the taco fillings include Chicken, Pork Belly, Marinated Steak, Pulled Pork, Beer Braised Beef & Plancha Tuna.  Tortilla choices included Fresh Masa Puffy Corn Taco or Griddled Flour Tortilla.  The taco was topped by dates, mango, radishes & peanut cider slaw.  Amazing flavor combo!

Shrimp Scampi, Gnocchi, Leafy Greens

‘Caroline White Shrimp’ with Potato Gnocchi in a rich, velvety Garlic Lemon Sauce…with enough Sautéed Spinach to make it seem like maybe what you were consuming is actually healthy.  Then there was the Grilled Bread to sop up the extra sauce.  It’s all about balance, right??

I highly recommend FFB!  Again, setting & food can’t be beat.  You feel good about having helped the environment & American family farmers after eating all the local/sustainable deliciousness.  And prices were the best I’ve seen anywhere in DC!  I was amazed at the quality & quantity of food for a very reasonable price!!!  Check it out!

The School Lunch Debate

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When my son Oliver started public school this year, I told myself I was going to keep an open mind about the lunchroom offerings.  Sadly, my preconceived notions about the food were right on target.  Admittedly there is some healthy food to be had; it is just not prepared in an appealing manner.  Furthermore, my son is only eager to buy on the most unhealthful days of the week, hot dogs, prepackaged peanut butter and jelly (really) & of course chicken fingers.

Granted, I don’t want to appear to be the food police, but I consider these foods to be “fun” and not ones I am happy to see on the regular lunch rotation.  Though I believe in food choice, my almost 7 year old would happily eat M & M’s for dinner, washed down with a cup of Gatorade.  So how can my son make proper food choices at school if there are so many more appealing, yet very unhealthy options?  Is it possible for schools to offer more healthy appealing choices and stay within their budget? I recently read a very insightful column by Mark Bittman discussing these issues.  Click the link to read.

Save Our Children

The Doctor’s Always Right, Right?!

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Recently I had the privilege of hearing a very well respected physician speak on the topic of health and nutrition.  However, when this physician started quoting Dr. Oz, my inner skeptic went on overdrive.  All credibility was lost on me when this speaker began quoting NYT reporter (and major propagandist) Gary Taubes.

Sensationalism. That is the word I think of when I hear Gary Taubes (not a physician by the way), Dr Oz and other “experts” speak about nutrition and weight loss.  The quick fixes, the pills, the supplements, no sugar, no gluten, no grains, no wheat, hey how about no food!

Not to say that these physicians and reporters don’t give us something to think about; science is ever changing and these “experts” certainly give us food for thought.  However, no matter the credentials a practitioner has we need to be skeptics of the quick fixes and promises that simply do not work.

For a very enlightened view on this topic, check out Drop it and Eat by credible health & nutrition expert Walter Willett.

Ramen at Foo Dogs

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I had a fabulous dinner at Foo Dogs ramen bar in Richmond a couple weeks ago. The company was the best part (Chris Blain, the hot new chef at the governor’s mansion!). But the food was a close second!

We started with

BAO WOW (love the name!)

Two pork belly bao sliders with cilantro, red onion,

plum sauce drizzle and sprinkled with cashews 

Basically pork buns served taco style. The shell was the typical chinese pork bun dough. It was folded around perfectly tender, fatty & sweet pork belly. The accompaniments finished it off nicely!

FOO WINGS

Eight Wings tossed in a fiery Foo Dog signature

sauce, Korean BBQ Sauce or Malay Curry Sauce

We had the fiery Foo Dog signature sauce. It was delicious, but pretty much your typical hot wing sauce. Loved that the wings were small, really crispy & not breaded!

For out entrees, we shared two ramen dishes:

MALAYSIAN STYLE

Red miso & curry broth with Chicken breast, soft cooked egg, bean sprout and scallion

CHINESE STYLE

Stir fried with Chasu pork (Chinese flavored bbq pork), shitake mushroom

and green onion (no broth)

The broth on the Malasian ramen was incredible! Light, just enough sweetness & heat to know you were eating curry. The noodles were floating in the sauce, so they were soft & silky. The richness of the egg yolk just takes it over the top!

The Chinese ramen was by far my favorite dish of the evening! The Chasu (aka Char siu or Chashu) pork was salty, sticky & delicious! There was no broth, just the pork, vegetables & noodles stir fried. It was delicious on its own, but even better with a ladle of the curry broth from the Malasian ramen.

I highly recommend trying Foo Dog! It’s a great little place, right on Main Street in Richmond. Fairly new, but doing a booming business! You won’t be disappointed!!!

 

Internet Nutrition Information is Often Misleading—or Worse

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Recently I had the privilege of attending the annual meeting of the Virginia Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.  One theme that kept popping up was the endless amount of nutrition misinformation on the Internet.  Do a Google search on the latest nutrition hot topic and you will find an extraordinary amount of “expert” information which in reality is simply a layperson giving their opinion.  Next time you conduct a health related search remind yourself that anyone can create a blog or website with a catchy name.  Follow these helpful tips by true nutrition experts from Appetite for Health to find the most reliable and evidence (i.e. science based) health & nutrition information.

 

Five ways to Get Better Internet-Based Nutrition Information

 

Look for peer-reviewed references:  Almost every nutrition article we write on our blog, we provide the references and links to the abstracts or full research articles, when available. Of course, there’s a big difference in the quality of research with human clinical trials being the gold standard while animal studies or laboratory analyses don’t carry the same clout.

Check the writer’s bio:  A quick search about the writer can turn up all kinds of useful information. You can see if she/he holds a research or clinical position at a hospital or university; or you can see if they have degrees that make them qualified to be able to provide the most accurate information. You can also see the relationships the writer may have with corporations that may influence his or her point of views on various nutrition issues. For example, a writer who consults with Monsanto or DuPont may have a strong pro-GMO stance.

Use .gov sites:  We have a lot of wonderful government resources on the Internet that have accurate information, so use them.  As a dietitian, I turn to Health and Human Services, FDA, USDA and many other government-based sites when I’m researching topics.

One study or source isn’t enough:  Credible, peer-reviewed science needs to be replicated several times–and from various research labs–before you change eating habits based on the results.  Often times, Internet stories fail to note that the study was preliminary or the results have only been found from one laboratory.  Unless there is consistency in results with several studies, it’s probably not worth making changes based on the results.

Be a healthy skeptic:  Probably the best piece of nutrition advice I can give to anyone is to be a critical thinker and if something sounds too good to be true, know that it’s 99% likely to be a sham. The Internet today is full of modern-day charlatans that may have degrees or even TV shows, but they too can have hidden agendas, and may have a financial incentive to mislead consumers.

Does Willpower Equal Weight Loss?

willpower

Given the topic of my previous blog I thought it was fitting that I stumbled upon this article. Many of us (falsely) believe if only we had better willpower we would surely eat less, and then surely we will be “bikini body” ready or weigh the same we did in high school (20 years later).
Statements that really stuck with me from this article:

 “Many people go through life believing that they can’t stick to a diet because they have no willpower. They believe that some innate force is keeping them from resisting food temptations,” The truth is that the ability to stick to a weight loss diet has little to do with will — and everything to do with changing the way we think about food.


Believing that willpower is at work only serves to make you feel less in control of your eating habits, experts say.


 One of the best ways to avoid eating too much of the foods you don’t want, is, ironically enough, to allow yourself to eat them. “The more you deny yourself what you want, the weaker you will feel when you’re around it, and the harder it will be to resist.”

 

This last statement is one I firmly believe. Before you go another day (or minute for that matter) berating yourself about your lack of willpower to avoid eating that brownie, I encourage you to read this article and re-frame your thoughts about willpower.