Archive for October, 2009
This morning, Good Morning America had a segment about how coupons can stretch your food dollars. Their featured mom, who has a family of six, spends an average of $4 a week on groceries. Now, how much of that is fresh produce? I can’t say, but it does make you think twice about throwing the circular away every week. You can see the rest of the article here.
A New York Times article last month pointed out that coupon use has increased during the recession, particulary digital coupons from websites that compile bargains. A few websites that are especially useful if you are pinching pennies are:
Stuffed Acorn Squash Serves 2
- 1 average acorn squash
- 1 tsp of cinnamon
- 1 tsp of nutmeg
- 2 1/2 Tbs of olive oil
- 2 cups of cooked short grain brown rice (cooked according to rice package instructions)
- 1 celery stalk diced finely
- 1 cup of raisins (golden raisins are best)
- 1 large Golden Delicious apple diced finely
- ½ medium red or yellow onion diced finely
- 1 teaspoon of maple syrup or to your taste
- Salt and pepper to your taste (optional), or Braggs Amino Acids to your taste
- Heat oven to 350 degree f.
- Take acorn squash, wash it off with soapy water and dry.
- Cut in half and take out the seeds and set aside.
- Mix together: 1 tsp of cinnamon *, 1 tsp of nutmeg *, and 2 ½ Tbs of olive oil
- Mix ingredients together and rub into each half of the squash.
- On a non-stick pan or glass dish, place squash face-down and bake in the oven for 30 – 35 minutes or until you can pierce the squash membrane with a fork.
- Remove squash from oven and set aside.
- Stuffing is prepared by mixing rice, raisins, vegetables, maple syrup and seasonings together until well mixed. Mixture is then placed in the squash and is ready for serving.
- Optional: Place stuffed squash back into the oven and cover for about 15 minutes for flavors to savor more.
- Serve by cutting in quarters and enjoy!
* Narrative of spice nutritional properties:
Cinnamon is said to be a strong stimulant for the glandular system and helpful with stomach upsets, colds and sore throat.
Nutmeg grated is excellent in custards, cakes, biscuits and pumpkin pie.
How closely do you read calorie postings at restaurants? There was an interesting article on The New York Times’ Web site about a recent study on New York’s labeling law. According to the study by professors at New York University and Yale, fast food customers ordered slightly more calories than the typical person had before the law requiring postings at restaurants went into effect last year, the New York Times reported. So even though there was information saying a Whopper had a whopping 670 calories and 40 grams of fat, most likely people went ahead and ordered it anyway.
The study, by professors at New York University and Yale, examined customers at McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King and Kentucky Fried Chicken in poor NYC neighborhoods where there are high rates of obesity, which is also a huge problem in Detroit. In 2007, Detroit ranked No. 5 on Forbes.com’s America’s Most Obese Cities, with an obesity rate of 30.4 percent.
The researchers studied more than 1,000 customers’ receipts. At a McDonald’s, one customer who was in Harlem for a job interview ordered two cheeseburgers for $2. The total caloric count: 600.
“It’s just cheap, so I buy it. I’m looking for the cheapest meal I can,” he told the newspaper.
The Times also reported an advocate suggested low-income people were more interested in price than calories.
“Nutrition is not the top concern of low-income people, who are probably the least amenable to calorie labeling,” said Michael F. Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit health advocacy group in Washington.
In a city like Detroit, there are many areas designated as food deserts, meaning “areas that require residents to travel twice as far or more to reach the closest mainstream grocer than to reach the closest fringe food location,” according to LaSalle Bank study on the topic. So without access to affordable and nutritious food, it’s easy to grab something at McDonald’s. But it’s not the best choice for you.
Teaching participants how to make educated food choices is what we try to do in our classes at Operation Frontline. For example, instructors do a fun exercise called Blubber Burger, which sounds as disgusting as it is. Participants choose a fast food meal, for example the typical burger, fries, shake combo and then calculate how much fat is in it. Then using spoonfuls of shortening, they pile on the equivalent of fat grams onto a hamburger bun. Seeing a bun full of shortening makes you think twice about whether to eat that burger!
Did you read the recent New York Times article “Woman’s Shattered Life Shows Ground Beef Inspection Flaws”? A young woman named Stephanie Smith who worked as a children’s dance instructor fell ill to a severe form of food borne illness caused by E coli. Where did the illness come from? The Times wrote:
Ms. Smith, 22, was found to have a severe form of food-borne illness caused by E. coli, which Minnesota officials traced to the hamburger that her mother had grilled for their Sunday dinner in early fall 2007.
“I ask myself every day, ‘Why me?’ and ‘Why from a hamburger?’ ”Ms. Smith said. In the simplest terms, she ran out of luck in a food-safety game of chance whose rules and risks are not widely known.
What is E coli?
According to the CDC, E. coli “are a large and diverse group of bacteria. Although most strains of E. coli are harmless, others can make you sick. Some kinds of E. coli can cause diarrhea, while others cause urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, and other illnesses. Still other kinds of E. coli are used as markers for water contamination—so you might hear about E. coli being found in drinking water, which are not themselves harmful, but indicate the water is contaminated.”
Smith’s tragic story emphasizes why it’s not only important to be conscious of where your food comes from but also to remember the basics of kitchen safety to avoid contamination.
Here are some more things to be mindful of from the article:
- The Times reported the pathogen that struck Smith was so powerful that her illness could have started “with just a few cells left on a counter. ‘In a warm kitchen, E. coli cells will double every 45 minutes,’ said Dr. Mansour Samadpour, a microbiologist who runs IEH Laboratories in Seattle, one of the meat industry’s largest testing firms.”
- The Times did a test with some help from the labs and found that E. coli remained on the cutting board even after being washed with soap. Large amounts of bacteria were picked up by a towel.
- Speaking of cutting boards, the article mentioned people should use bleach to sterilize cutting boards.
Through our cooking-based nutrition classes, Operation Frontline Detroit teaches participants the basics of kitchen safety and keeping food safe (i.e. cooking to proper temperature). One of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs is proper hand washing.
As noted in our post, “Battling Childhood Hunger,” the ability to serve good, healthy meals in schools is compromised by the amount of federal funding provided. When you’re on a $2.70-per-child budget, what is the incentive of providing fresh food?
The New York Times published an article on Tuesday that talks about schools’ inability to cook healthy meals with the equipment they have. Here is an excerpt:
Many advocates for better, healthier school food have begun to believe that the only way to improve what students eat is to stop reheating processed food and start cooking real, fresh food.
But little actual cooking goes on in the nation’s largest public school system, largely because little of it can. Barely half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have enough cooking and fire-suppression equipment so cooks can actually sauté, brown or boil over open flame.
Even in those that do, aging ovens sometimes don’t heat properly, equipment is hidden away in storage rooms or broken, and the staff isn’t trained to do much more than steam frozen vegetables, dig ravioli out of a six-pound can or heat frozen chicken patties in a convection oven.
New York is not that unusual. More than 80 percent of the nation’s districts cook fewer than half their entrees from scratch, according to a 2009 survey by the School Nutrition Association.
The slide didn’t happen overnight. As many American families stopped cooking and began to rely on prepared and packaged food, so did the schools. It became cheaper to cut skilled kitchen labor, eliminate raw ingredients and stop maintaining kitchens.
“In school food 30 or 40 years ago, they roasted turkeys and did all of these things,” said Eric Goldstein, the chief executive of the Office of School Support Services.
“We all recognize we want to be scratch cooking again, but we have some challenges to get there.”
You can read the rest of the story here.
When we see what kinds of foods students are allowed to eat in school, it’s no wonder that we have an obesity problem amongst children and adolescents. More to be said on that in future posts.