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Wakey wakey, eggs and… antibiotics?

November 2, 2011

I was inspired to write this post when I was helping to cook breakfast at a friend’s house and noticed how pale yellow the egg yolks were (I didn’t think to snap a pic at the time). I thought to myself: “These eggs look sick. Why are these so sad looking and the eggs I buy look so vibrantly orange?”. Sadly, I knew the answer immediately.

Have you noticed what color your egg yolks are? Aren’t all eggs created equal? The short answer is: absolutely not. To explain why might take me a while, but I’ll try my best to keep it simple because there are tons of things to know about chickens!

There are literally hundreds of different types of chickens, roughly divided by how they will best be used: egg-laying, meat producing, or dual purpose. Chicken breeds have all different types of characteristics, so Chicken farmers choose birds with desirable traits (like large breasts, frequent egg-laying capabilities, docile temperament, etc) and then breed them to continue those traits down the line.  This has given consumers plenty of uniform looking eggs and chicken parts, but it unfortunately has left no room for diversity. Some chicken breeds have basically been bred out of existence because they’re upkeep isn’t as efficient as the good ‘ole standbys, and that’s a shame because not all chickens or eggs are the same (or look the same for that matter- Did you know that the breed Americounas is also called the “Easter Egg Chicken” because it’s eggs are blue and green? Cool!) .Can you imagine a world where humans are bred to have the same color hair, eyes, skin and personalities? Wouldn’t that be boring? Don’t you think that removing diversity from our gene pool would have a profound effect on us? OK, I’m getting a little bit deep here, but I think you get the picture. Back to eggs.

Chickens are omnivores and naturally eat things like grass, insects, seeds and sometimes even mice or other little animals. When they eat bugs and grass that has been grown with energy from the sun, their egg yolks are a vibrant orange color and naturally contain Vitamin D and Omega 3 Fatty Acids (the good kind of fat!). Eggs are also an excellent source of cholesterol, which, contrary to popular belief is actually very healthy for us. Living mostly outdoors keeps chickens active, which we all know is essential for overall health. So, eggs can really be nutrient-dense sources of protein and raising healthy chickens is pretty simple. All you need to do is grow grass and they even help you out in the process by fertilizing it.

However, since we LOVE our eggs and we want massive amounts of them at any given time, we as consumers demand that farmers step their game up. Naturally raising chickens takes time, and since time = money, farmers have developed ways to tweak mother nature to increase yield & profits and stay financially afloat. Large, factory-style egg farms are generally not very profitable and big food manufacturers ensure that farmers live constantly in debt and at their mercy. (Check out this film for more info on this). Here the story gets even uglier. Birds are fed corn and soybeans (AKA fast food) to fatten them up and they are penned inside “batteries” or huge barns. To increase production more, birds are crowded together as closely as possible, which in turn causes illness and infection since they are literally living on top of each other &  their excrement. This creates the need for antibiotics to ensure that we don’t get sick. (Are you grossed out yet???). The animals are routinely fed a steady diet of pharmaceuticals, which eventually make the viruses and bacteria more powerful and immune to the antibiotics.

So basically, our food system is one in which unhealthy chickens produce unhealthy, pale yellow* eggs which are chemically “washed” and then sold to us which in turn make us sick and make farmers poor. Are you disgusted?? I routinely am, every time I see eggs that I know were raised in this fashion. That’s why I don’t buy them and I try my hardest to not eat them. The key to buying clean eggs is simple: know where your eggs are coming from. Rule #1: Do not buy eggs from a supermarket (yes, even Whole Foods). Rule #2: Only buy eggs that are labeled “pastured” and preferably “organic” (the terms “free range”, “cage-free” and “fed a vegetarian diet” should be ignored). Rule #3: Buy from a local farmer, at a local farmers market- this will be your healthiest source for eggs, and all other food for that matter. Also, don’t be alarmed if you open your carton and they look like this:

Multi-colored eggs are an indication that your farmer raises different breeds of chickens, which will add diversity to your diet. Besides, who doesn’t like a couple of green eggs once in a while? 😉

For more info about chickens, egg contamination and where to buy pastured eggs in the Philly area, check out this blog post where I explain things a little more.

*Note: Just because your egg yolks are bright orange does not mean that they are necessarily healthy. It is common for egg farmers to include things like flax seed and fish oil to chicken feed to increase nutrient quality in eggs, which can change the color, even though the chickens may be living under deplorable conditions.

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Where do I begin…

September 29, 2011

OMG HI!!!

How are you? What’s been happening in your life!? I have been an absolutely neglectful blogger, gallivanting, living my life and forgetting all about you. I’m sorry, but don’t take it personal, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with me.

I have been experiencing so many changes, realizations, inspirations and inclinations since we’ve last spoken. One thing’s for sure: I need to keep blogging.

I have still been cooking up a storm, eating seasonal, local (mostly vegetarian) foods and experimenting in the kitchen, but I’ve also had a major shift that I’m sure you can appreciate… I’m present. Right now. I’m here and I’m paying attention! And you know what? I’m OK with it. Right now, that is. Even if “right now” isn’t the most fulfilling, most inspiring, happiest place on earth. I’m content with where I am in this moment in time and can see the good in it, the positive, the gratitude.

Think that’s not a big deal? Maybe we’re not as close as I thought. Maybe you’re not paying attention. Balance hasn’t generally been my strongest attribute, but I’m striving, and slowly finding it. I’ve really been experiencing the reality that things don’t have to be all or nothing. Black and white. Yes or no. I can actually think and feel and BE BOTH.

OK, OK, I’ve gotten ahead of myself. Before I show my entire hand here, I just want to say that I’m back, and I’m ready to cook up a storm and help you to eat healthier foods and get more plants into your belly. Also, all of this gratitude has me realizing my true potential and sending BIG intentions out into the universe so I will need your support in bringing them to fruition. Say a prayer, do a dance or just think a bright thought about me. I promise I will do the same for you.

Until soon,

Peace.

Jen

Easy Peasy Lunch in a Pinch

March 10, 2011

Most of the food I eat is from my own kitchen. Sure, I love going out to eat and enjoy being waited on, but to eat healthy food on a budget one must plan and prepare meals at home. And that’s the key word: PLAN. I will usually cook a few dishes per week and make enough to have lots of leftovers. I rarely, if ever, buy lunch while at work. Sure, I could waste money and order lunch, but in my neighborhood the pickin’s are slim and I don’t like to waste money. Besides, home cooking is tastier and better for you, plus you don’t have to wait for a delivery man. So, I pretty much ALWAYS brown bag it (or glass container it, hehe).

Sometimes, I don’t have a readily made leftover to bring for lunch and I have to get creative. The other evening, I was feeling tired and was still trying to get over this nasty cold I picked up last week and realized I hadn’t thought about the next day’s lunch.  I was in no mood to start. I took stock of the fridge and came up with this dish that was so yummy, I snapped a pic with my phone. It literally took me 5 minutes to assemble and contains a Sunshine Burger, which is pretty much the only boxed burger I will eat. They are soy free, wheat free, gluten free, GMO free, contain whole grains and only have 4 ingredients. Hard to beat that! Also, if you don’t have the time or desire to make the tahini dressing, you can substitute with Annie’s Goddess Dressing. With 330mg of sodium and almost all of it’s calories from fat it’s hardly a health food, but it is delicious and if you eat it in moderation, you won’t die. 🙂

Easy Peasy Lunch in a Pinch
Serves: 1

Ingredients:
Leftover cooked quinoa
Cooked chick peas
Frozen green beans
Frozen peas & carrots mix
About 1/4 cup (or more!) shredded red cabbage
Sunshine burger (frozen)

Tahini Dressing:
1 Tbsp tahini
1 Tbsp water
Lemon juice
Minced garlic
sea salt

Directions:

  1. In a glass container, place a small handful of the first 4 ingredients.
  2. Add cabbage and put unwrapped burger on top. Set aside.
  3. To make the tahini dressing, place tahini and water in a small bowl & mix well.
  4. Add lemon juice, garlic and sea salt to taste. Adjust as necessary until you like the flavor.
  5. Put dressing in a small container and refrigerate everything.
  6. The next day at work, leave the glass container on the counter for a few hours before you intend on eating.
  7. Heat for 2 minutes in the microwave & stir well, breaking the burger up into small pieces.
  8. Voila!

Ground Turkey & Veggie Pasta

February 26, 2011

It’s been a while! Did you miss me? I changed jobs (again) and am now working as a Real Estate Agent at the office where I began my real estate career. Although this is a different position than the one I initially held, things have been a bit surreal since my surroundings are so comfortable and familiar. I have been spending a lot of time getting myself situated for this next chapter of my life, and now that things are starting to settle down a bit, I’m back to blogging! Art and I also spent 10 fabulous days on vacation in California, spending time with family and friends, so I am well-rested and ready to cook!

This recipe was a work in progress. I had some defrosted ground turkey from Griggstown Quail Farm and a bunch of veggies in the fridge, but I was a little bored with making turkey burgers or meatloaf. I figured if I cooked the turkey & veggies & served it over pasta that I would have atleast 5 or 6 servings, enough to feed us lunch & dinner a couple times. I threw this recipe together and I knew immediately how good it was by Art’s reaction: no words, just grunts. Always a good sign.

As with most fresh foods, the hardest part is the prep: cutting veggies can be time consuming. The easiest way for me to get started is to take out all of my ingredients and place them on the counter. Then I wash & cut up all the veggies, and place them in bowls on the counter (kind of like cooking shows do) that way when showtime starts, everything is ready and at your fingertips. I used green beans because they were leftover, so feel free to substitute with peas, broccoli or any other veggie you fancy. I tried to simplify the cooking by blanching the chard and green beans with the pasta. It saves a burner, a pot and lots of time.

At the last minute, I decided to top off this dish with a touch of truffle oil. Although it added major flavor, I think it masked the taste of the rest of the veggies and this dish would probably still taste phenomenal without it. In case you’re wondering, truffles are “the fruiting body of an underground mushroom”. They are considered a delicacy and come with a high price tag. Truffle oil is olive oil that has been infused with the flavor of truffles, and is a lower-cost alternative to the real thing. My sister gave us a bottle at Christmas time and I’ve been dying to use it. I think it added a nice twist to this dish, but beware: it is very potent, less is definitely more.

Ground Turkey & Veggie Pasta
Serves: About 6 hungry eaters

Ingredients:
1 Pound 100% whole wheat penne
1 Pound ground organic turkey
1 Head of chard (I like red), stems cut into 1/4″ chunks, leaves roughly chopped
Handful or two of green beans, ends trimmed and snapped in half
Handful of (crimini) mushrooms, sliced thick
1 Leek (white part only), thoroughly cleaned and sliced
1 Clove garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp Italian spices (basil, rosemary, thyme, oregano, Italian blend, etc)
1 Medium onion
1/4 Cup fresh parsley, chopped finely
Olive oil
Sea salt & pepper
1 1/2 Teaspoon truffle oil (optional)

Directions:

  1. While you wash & prep the veggies, put a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring to a boil.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Two minutes before it’s done, stir in chard, chard stems and green beans.
  3. Drain and return pasta & veggies to the pot, stirring in a little olive oil so it doesn’t stick together. Set aside.
  4. In a large skillet over a medium-high flame, sauté onion, Italian seasonings and a little sea salt with 1-2 Tbsp olive oil. Cook for about 4 minutes or until onions become soft.
  5. Stir in leeks and mushrooms. If mixture seems a little dry, covering with a lid for a few minutes will increase moisture, but take care not to steam the veggies. Cook for about 4 minutes.
  6. When veggies seem 3/4 done, add turkey to the pan. Make sure to chop it up into smaller chunks so it cooks evenly.
  7. Once turkey is cooked completely through, add garlic to the pan.
  8. Transfer turkey mixture to the pasta mixture & stir well.
  9. Add salt and pepper as needed. Stir in parsley.
  10. If desired, add a small bit of truffle oil and mix well.
  11. Bon appetit!

Warm Thoughts

January 18, 2011

I’m over the winter. I’m tired of the snow, ice, cold and shivering. I’m not a fan of being hunched over, bundled up and closed off. More importantly, I’m sick of complaining about it. I decided to switch my thoughts to something more positive: my memories. Enjoy:

 

Searing sea of sand, flip flops are a must. Once icy, now boiled water from your overcooked canteen, baked from sitting out too long. Scalding, silky SPF on your shoulders, for a second  too much to bear, then cooling when the breeze blows. Rays so bright you can barely read the screen on your cell phone that you should have left in the car because now there’s sand in all of the ports.

Sitting under the umbrella, the sliver of shade too small to cover your whole body, you rotate every 15 minutes or so. Feeling fried, skipping to the water to jump in, only to find it numbingly cold and heading back after dipping just your feet in. Brushing the sand off to avoid unevenly hued toes. Cracked lips, quenched by melted, slimy chap stick that seems to come off in chunks when applied. Sun-kissed cheeks, lemony tresses, skimpy tops make way for assorted tan lines as bright as the full moon on a clear night. Stinging sunburn in random places like under your butt, the middle of your back or a crescent on your ankle that remind you of their existence while on the Tea Cups, being jolted against the person next to you, or when you’re jostled about on the roller coaster.

Being awoken in the middle of the night from voices outside, teenagers dipping into a dark side-street to make out. Curtains blowing in the warm breeze, car radios blaring muffled beats from blocks away. Waking to the sun tugging on your eyelids, begging you to bask in the beauty of the day. Just a sheet on the bed, comforters hibernating with the knee-high socks. Africa in the bathroom, Haiti in the bedroom, thick juicy air blankets your skin, muffles your ears, eyebrows drenched with sweat.

Seasonal Food: Kale

January 5, 2011

I’m sure you’ve heard of kale, it’s all the rage these days. But did you know just how nutritious it is? It’s a superfood that’s loaded with so much good stuff that if I were to be stranded on a deserted island and had to choose 5 foods to keep me healthy forever, kale would be the first thing I picked. It’s so nutritious that it tops the list of healthiest foods on the ANDI Score with a rating of 1000. (The only other food to be rated that healthy is collard greens).

Although kale can be found in the supermarket year round, it is most plentiful in mid-winter through early spring. Like cabbage, collards and Brussels sprouts, it is a member of the brassica family, which is known for its high level of phytonutrients. Kale has an enormous amount of Vitamin K (1327% of our daily value!) which helps to build healthy, strong bones. It is an excellent source of Vitamins A & C (192% and 89% DV, respectively), a great source of manganese and fiber and provides many other important nutrients like calcium, potassium, magnesium, omega 3 fatty acids and some B Vitamins. Kale is a powerhouse of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties. It provides cardiovascular support by lowering cholesterol. It helps to detoxify our cells and organs. All of these health benefits and just 36 calories per serving!

There are a few varieties of kale, including:

Curly Kale:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Ornamental Kale (also known as Salad Savoy):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


and my favorite, Lacinato Kale (also known as Dinosaur Kale or Tuscan Kale):

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Look for kale with firm, deeply colored leaves and moist hardy stems. Store it in a plastic bag in the fridge for up to 5 days (or more), although the longer you store it, the more bitter the taste becomes. To prepare it, first bathe it in a bowl of cool water, swishing it around to remove any dirt. Rinse thoroughly. Cut off the ends of the stalks and discard. Finely chop the stems (they’re edible but chewy, so they taste better smaller) and cut the leaves into 1-inch chunks.

The easiest way to prepare it is to steam it for a few minutes, then top with your favorite dressing, flax seed oil, sesame seeds, etc.

Kale chips are a family-friendly snack and can be made in the oven in a snap. After cutting leaves into small pieces, toss with some olive or sesame oil and/or some tamari. Top with sesame seeds or sea salt and bake in a 350 degree oven for just a few minutes. Remove promptly and voila! crunchy, nutritious kale chips!

I prefer to sauté my greens with some onions and mushrooms. The other day, I sautéed some coconut oil with one chopped leek, a handful of mushrooms and a handful of sliced carrots. After the veggies got soft, I added the kale and some sea salt. After a few minutes and a couple of stirs, I had a delicious veggie medley that was super tasty!

Please post your questions and experiences with kale below. What’s your favorite way to eat it?

Overeating: Why it’s probably not your fault

January 2, 2011

When most people eat too much food, or go overboard with sweets or junk food, they blame themselves. “I don’t have will power” and “I’m too weak” are common sentiments. Those thoughts perpetuate the idea that there is something wrong with us if we can’t eat perfectly 100% of the time.

NPR posted this article which takes the burden somewhat off of our shoulders and proves that there are external factors that contribute to overeating. The article states that one reason why people may binge on junk foods is because they don’t pay attention when they eat. Distractions like TV, cell phones and music can  take our mind off of what’s on our plates and cause us to consume more. Researchers also found that not only do people tend to eat more when they’re not paying attention to a meal, but food also seems to taste duller.

The article also claims that noise can distract us and distort the brain’s ability to gauge other senses. Researchers found a link between sound and taste, and discovered that as noise gets louder, people lose their ability to perceive saltiness and sweetness. “We also found an intriguing link between food liking and background noise preference, such that when the person quite liked the background noise, they reported the food was more liked”.

One way to avoid overeating is to eat your meals mindfully. Turn off the TV, play some calm, pleasant music and light a candle at the table. Put your fork down between bites and really chew to enjoy the experience of eating. Don’t be so hard on yourself if you can’t stick to your eating plan all of the time. Realize that there are other, external factors that have a powerful effect on your choices and that you have the opportunity to make a better choice each time you eat.

 

 

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