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Food News

Hello blogging world! I know it’s been a while, but life has been a little crazy lately what with mass amounts of end of the year school work and the onset of warm weather, dragging me away from the computer any chance I get. It’s time for some more food news though, because as always there is plenty of interesting stuff going on! And hopefully after this, I’ll get back on the ball for the next few weeks until the end of the semester.

 

1. Cheesy Bread Bowl Pizzas? 

First I want to showcase this crazy new pizza Dominos is doing. Cheesy bread bowl crust?! And what about the fact that this article also discusses a Pizza Hut specialty only available in the Middle East that has a crust made of mini cheeseburgers? I like to consider myself a healthy and mindful eater, but I would petition to bring that to America. 

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This all seems like (delicious) fun and games, but as I was perusing the web I also found this article about the lack of progress chain restaurants have made in improving their children’s’ meals. There is an especially interesting debate that could be had here concerning how much choice should be left to the consumer. To an extent, maybe Applebee’s is right to defend themselves, since they offer both healthy and unhealthy children’s’ meal options. But in reality, what kid picks the steamed broccoli? With the New York soda ban in the news lately this is an especially relevant time to be thinking about the level of responsibility people should be entrusted with concerning their food choices. 

 

2. A “Freegan” Restaurant

This article may not provide the perfect Applebee’s alternative, but it does showcase one cool way to eat out. Tufts student, Maximus Thaler, is planning to open a café supplied by products he has accumulated through dumpster diving. This article raises some interesting questions surrounding the feasibility of a “freegan” restaurant. Since it is a grey area of legality, he will have to run it out of his apartment. Could there ever be a real, larger-scale “freegan”restaurant? Another important point made was that they can’t plan the menu in advance. What a unique factor for a restaurant to have to work with! To me, this seemed like it could be a good thing, taking us away from a mindset of being able to eat what we want when we want. 

 

3. Are Nutrients Really All We Need?

Here’s a short, but somewhat mind-boggling article for you. An Atlanta based software engineer is currently living off a liquid diet that he believes contains all the nutrients you need to survive. And he even looks pretty healthy in the picture, surprisingly enough. This was reminiscent of a really great book I’ve been reading (and that you should read), Michael Pollan’s, In Defense of Food. In this book, Pollan discusses the issues around reducing foods to just their nutrients and the ways that this actually affects our health in a negative way in the long run. Taking the nutrient out of the context of food is a harmful phenomenon that has gotten quite popular during America’s nutrition phase. And most importantly, it takes all the joy and pleasure out of eating!

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4. Vermont Is Awesome

Here’s one last thing because, well it’s just awesome. In this article  a Vermont farmer is building a sailboat in order to transport his produce to New York City. Enough said. Vermont is awesome. Here’s a link to the project as well (The Vermont Sail Freight Project).

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Food News

Hello fellow foodies, this week I have a couple of cool, food related articles for you, a feature I hope to be doing on a semi-regular basis. Food politics, environmental and agricultural issues, etc are really expansive, interesting fields right now, and it seems like every day there is more and more information put out there about various food issues. As someone who is really interested in these sorts of subjects, I do plenty of perusing various Internet sites and reading about such things while I am supposed to be doing homework. I consider it a somewhat better use of time, as it’s a way to educate myself on very prevalent, pressing issues, and maybe even become a better citizen of the world. So hey, take a break from homework or whatever obligations you have and take a minute to read and think critically about these articles.

1. The first thing I’ve got for you is a really fascinating debate that is going on involving problems of eating locally, vegetarians and veganism, and food disparity between countries. As food issues often do, this controversy revolves around a seemingly innocent and inconsequential food – quinoa.

First, check out the original article, a piece done about the price paid for quinoa in the countries that produce it.

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To follow up, here is a PETA fueled response that argues back that ultimately eating meat does more damage than vegan products such as quinoa do.

2. Next, here’s an issue that hits a little closer to home – the new soda ban happening right here in our own city. To be honest, I hadn’t given this much thought, seeing as I am not really a soda drinker. But, this article got me thinking about some of the broader effects that the ban might have.

What do you think is more important here? Do you think the ban will even do anything to help obesity in the first place, because that’s another vital question all in itself? When it comes down to it, if I thought the ban was going to be really effective, I would say health is more important, and that the businesses will have to adapt. However, how effective is a ban going to be if someone can still get a huge slurpee at 7/11? And I think it’s a fair point made at the end, that education, encouragement, and community programs are often more effective than forcing the public’s hand.

3. And for our last article, I’ve got a little bit of comic relief to distract you from these heavy, pressing issues. I recently stumbled across this while skimming the food section of the Huffington Post. It’s funny, disturbing, and genius all in one. What a world we live in…

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Baking With Butternut

Well, I am officially on my fourth week back home in good ol’ Brattleboro, Vermont. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love this place. Vermont is truly a state like no other. This is, after all, where I cultivated my love and interest for food and all things related – in a tiny, eclectic town with a Coop that rivals the size of our Price Chopper (but, seriously check out their website, sometimes they post cool stuff, like this article ).

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However, fancy Coops aside, things have started to get a little dull. Vermont is beautiful during the winter, but if you aren’t willing to strap yourself into skis or don’t fancy ten degree weather it can be a little boring. And my favorite part of Vermont during the warmer months, my wonderful, luscious garden, is buried under three feet of not-so-fresh snow. Oh how life would be different if I could run into the garden, load up on wild blueberries and fresh thyme to roll into a flaky pie crust.

Whether you get your produce from the ground, a green market, or supermarket its much easier to feel culinary inspiration when the fruits and veggies are looking a little livelier. However, there are plenty of fun and creative ways to utilize winter produce – even in baking, as I’ve recently learned in some boredom induced, kitchen experimentation. Butternut squash may not be as popular as raspberries, but it makes a mean muffin and you can feel good that instead of paying four bucks for a pint of wilted berries shipped in from god-knows-where, you’re making a responsible, seasonally appropriate decision.

Anyway, I encourage you all to try out this recipe, which I’ve adapted from Heidi Swanson’s website (check it out if you haven’t – it rocks) and her Brown Butter Spice Cake Recipe. Basically, I made it a muffin because that’s more fun and tinkered with a few ingredients. Here you go!

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Butternut Squash Muffins Recipe

Ingredients

1/2 C melted coconut oil

1.5 C whole wheat pastry flour

1 tsp baking soda

3/4 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1/2 tsp cardamon

1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp sea salt

1/8 tsp paprika

few grinds of black pepper

3/4 C cane sugar, plus more for topping

1/4 C brown sugar

2 large eggs

1/2 C butternut squash pureed together with raisins

1/4 C almond milk

½ C thin sliced almonds

chopped chili infused chocolate to taste

 ½ tsp molasses whisked with water and ½ tsp honey

 Start by preheating your oven 350 and oiling and flouring a muffin tin. Now, prepare the almonds. Measure out about ½ C of thin sliced almonds and toast them in your oven. Toast them well, within an inch of their life. Toast them so they are just burnt, but not to a charred mess. Combine flour, baking soda, spices, and salt in a large bowl. In a small bowl whisk together the sugar, eggs, puree, milk, and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and fold in almonds and chocolate chunks to taste.

Whisk together molasses, honey, and water and use the back of the spoon to spread on top of muffins when batter is poured into pan. Top with cane sugar and more burnt almond slices. Bake for 25-30 mins, until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean, but do not over cook – you want to retain the moistness the puree lends to this recipe.

Have more butternut squash than can fit into a muffin? Do not fear! The reason I made these in the first place was to use up some leftovers from this delicious recipe. Got even more leftover? I had even more leftover too (wow, squashes are big). I sautéed mine in a pan with some butter, raisins, salt, pepper, and shredded coconut than mixed it together with some carrots I roasted in olive oil with oregano, mint, and cilantro. Enjoy!

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Winter Windowsill Gardens

It’s that time of year again. The air is becoming cold with the anticipation of snow and the windows warm with the glow of fluorescent bulbs. It’s winter and even before Thanksgiving plates were cleared this past week, New York went into full Christmas swing. But as window displays, panicked shoppers, and yummy peppermint themed products become prominent, there is something missing – the little bit of nature that we city dwellers hold on to so dearly. The occasional fall foliage fades, leaving spindly trees bare in the park and scattered flowers say goodbye till next year. The big tree at Rockefeller is just not going to cut it.

How to solve this problem? What about a windowsill garden? CommAg has discussed starting a network of window gardens, and my roommates and I are giving it a try.  It’s proved…moderately successful (kind of). Our downfall can be blamed partially on our lack of knowledge, but definitely on our lack of plant watering skills as well.

Anyway, in an effort to re-motivate myself (and now you as well!) I have compiled some tips about makeshift window gardens.

(check out our pretty pepper plant dried flowers)

First off, what should one grow on a windowsill garden?

My roommates and I have tried a myriad of different herbs, which have been pretty successful, as well as a decorative mini-pepper plant, some surprisingly robust Moroccan mint that has been going since the beginning of the semester, and an attempted avocado that never was. Of course you will want to add some flowers too, in pretty vases or maybe wine bottles. It is a garden after all, it should be pretty, right? Plus, when those flowers inevitably die they will become wonderful dried wall decor.

Additionally, it’s recommended that you grow herbs that won’t crowd each other, ones that won’t grow too tall or too wide – chives, lavender and thyme being good examples. Mint won’t get too out of hand either, but is anti-social and can’t be put in the same pot as other herbs.

What are some other things you should know before starting your brand new, lush windowsill garden?

1. Sun. Well, perhaps most obviously, you need a sunny windowsill – preferably South/Southeast facing, anywhere that gets at minimum 5-6 hours of sun a day. You could also look into purchasing grow bulbs – available on Amazon.

2. Buy your plants. I recommend purchasing plants rather than seeds. It’ll be a little pricier, but buy at the Union Square Greenmarket and you’ll get great quality and the satisfaction of supporting good people. Seeds will take a lot more time and are more likely to be forgotten and neglected in the corner of your room. Also, not all herbs grow from seed very well, and actually its often recommended that instead you start with cuttings (literally a little piece of herb cut from an already established plant). If you’re feeling adventurous, you could experiment with cuttings – its not complicated. Here’s a link to starting rosemary from a cutting to get you started.

3. Get the right container. Make sure your container is big enough! About 6 – 12 inches deep. And more herbs in one pot = a bigger pot. Seeds can be started in a small pot and eventually transferred to a larger one. If more potting soil is needed, you can get a really great mix from the compost collection table at the Union Square Greenmarket for $6-$12.

4. Water. This was our downfall. Just remember to water them. Google it, figure out how much water your specific herbs need and then water them this amount no matter what, or else I promise (from personal experience) they will die. But also make sure that they get good drainage. Too much water can be just as detrimental as too little. Just watch your plants closely – they will tell you when they are thirsty.

5. And finally, EAT THEM. These herbs don’t just exist to be checked off your bucket list – they are fully functional (and delicious). Experiment with different mints to be used in your tea. Add them to salads, pastas, and homemade dressings! Basil is good on everything in my opinion. Feeling adventurous? Get creative then, these fresh herbs won’t last forever so use this as an excuse to go on a daring chefs binge. Lavender can be an especially yummy culinary tool – a new flavor added in to shortbread, cupcakes, and glazes – or used to spice up your seasonally appropriate hot chocolate (because everyone should be drinking hot chocolate at least from now until December 25).

And on that note – get creative with the garden too. If you frequent Pinterest as much as I do you have probably seen these adorable pictures of plants growing in tea tins. Genius!

(you would water your plants if they looked like this)

Of course, winter break is coming up so one last helpful tip – wait till after break to start your garden. Your plants need attention and care and can’t be left to fend for themselves in an empty dorm for five weeks. Use this time to plan and inspire yourself, so that you are ready to start your own personal paradise when you return! I know I will (perhaps even re-doing the failed avocado tree? There might be more to come on that…)

(our failed avocado plant…maybe more on that to come…)

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