The Dirty Dozen vs The Clean 15

Sep 19, 2013 0
Dirty-dozen-new

The dirty dozen vs the clean 15

No real food blog is complete without a “dirty dozen vs the clean 15” post, so here’s ours! If this is your fist time seeing these lists then we’re happy to have helped.

What are the dirty dozen and clean 15? “The Dirty Dozen” are the foods that you should always try to buy organics as they have been found to have the highest amounts of pesticide residues on them. The foods that were found to have the lowest amounts of these residues, even when not organic, are “The Clean 15” (I love creative naming.)

The Environmental Working Group (an organization of scientists, researchers and policymakers) have expanded the typical “dirty dozen” and added domestically-grown summer squash and leafy greens, specifically kale and collards.

You can refer to their website for more detailed information at www.ewg.org

The Good

Good news first? These are the foods that even when not organic you don’t have to worry too much about.

The Clean 15

Asaparagus

Asparagus

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

Grapefruit

Grapefruit

Mushrooms

Mushrooms

Pineapples

Pineapples

Avocados

Avocados

Corn

Corn

Kiwi

Kiwi

Onions

Onions

Frozen Sweet Peas

Frozen Sweet Peas

Cabbage

Cabbage

Eggplant

Eggplant

Mangoes

Mangoes

Papayas

Papayas

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes


The Bad

 

The Dirty Dozen +

Apples

Apples

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Nectarines - imported

Nectarines – imported

Spinach

Spinach

Kale / Collard Greens

Kale / Collard Greens

Celery

Celery

Grapes

Grapes

Peaches

Peaches

Strawberries

Strawberries

Summer Squash

Summer Squash

Cherry Tomatoes

Cherry Tomatoes

Hot Peppers

Hot Peppers

Potatoes

Potatoes

Sweet Bell Peppers

Sweet Bell Peppers

(images courtesy of www.ewg.org)

What does that all mean?

PBS also has a very informative article posted about these two lists and you can read further details here on www.pbs.org.

Here’s the bottom line. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Conventionally grown is better than none at all.  They truly can and should be snack foods more often than they are. Using this now common guide will help you avoid buying foods that have been found to have higher amounts of pesticide residues on them so you can make sure you get the cleanest nutrition for you and your family.

Read More

Grind your own flour at home

Sep 12, 2013 1

 

grind-grains

Grind your own flour at home

Ever walk in to an actual bakery in the morning and you could smell the freshly baked breads that had just come out of the oven? There’s that yeasty aroma, the feel of the moisture, and warmth in the air that you can’t help but fall in love with. That smell just seems to resonate within us on some deep level…we just love baked breads.

Grains are truly the staff of life. Bread however has been getting a bad reputation these days. Why? Our industrial food system. Grains, whole grains, will last almost (maybe even entirely) indefinitely if the entire bran is left in tact. However, once the bran is broken open the grains start to oxidize and go rancid due to the oil content inside.

Rancid before you get it home?

How does flour on the shelf of the grocery store last for weeks and months in the bags until you buy it, and then for however long it sits in your pantry until you’ve used it all? The processing the wheat goes through strips all the nutrition out leaving a dead, nutrient-less product.

Why strip all of this nutrition out of the flour? As stated before, fresh ground whole grain flour goes stale and rancid quickly (think a couple weeks). How can you turn a profit on a product that can’t sit on the store’s shelf for months? You can’t, so you have to remove the parts that cause the product to go bad.

 

whole-grain-nutrition

 

Wheat, for instance, as a complete whole grain is rich in proteins, vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, minerals and healthy fats. The complete grain is made up of the wheat bran and middlings (the outside layers), the wheat germ and wheat germ oil, and the endosperm. The endosperm is the wheat’s power house providing the energy to the young plant to shoot roots down into the soil and send up sprouts to bathe in the sun. What is white commercial flour? Ground up endosperm, essentially pure energy without the fiber and protein to balance the energy absorption. It’s is so devoid of nutrition that it must be “enriched” with small amounts of synthetic thiamine, niacin, B1, B2, folic acid, and iron. Store bought whole wheat flour just has some of the bran added back in to the white flour which is better than pure white flour, but still lacking some nutrition and a lot of flavor.

Doesn’t bread make you fat?

Would eating breads made of this commercially processed, high energy content flour cause you to gain weight? Sure, if you’re not burning off those calories they will convert to fat and get stored. If you were active enough could you burn it off without the weight gain? Also, sure, but that doesn’t solve the problem of the nutrition that’s missing. Now, what if you were eating a complete grain that contained all the parts intact? It would provide you a long lasting supply of energy and nourishment. You really do not get hungry as quickly when you eat complete grains because all the parts work together to regulate how the body digests the food to give it staying power you need for you day. You need the higher fiber content found in freshly ground grains.

Invest in your health and invest in a grain mill. Aside from all of this, the flavor you get from fresh grains isn’t even a comparison to buying flour from the store. One of the first purchases we made when we started trying to eat better was a grain mill. Ultimately I will end up having two, and electric and a manual hand crank. We bought the electric one first. We chose this Grain Mill primarily because it’ll turn popcorn into corn flour and it’s quiet. It’s no louder than a vacuum and with kids in the house noise level was a big factor. My typical whole wheat bread recipe takes 6-7 cups of flour and this mill will grind all of that in about a minute (maybe even less)

The processing, and the synthetic add-in just can’t match the flavor of the real deal as nature intended it. We are still not even sure about how well the synthetics are absorbed nor about how efficiently our bodies can use them. So the bottom line is to just make it the real way. You’ll love the richer, deeper flavor. Your body will love getting the nutrients it’s expecting in their original forms. For me, there’s just something a little primal about going through this process that’s thousands of years old right in my own kitchen. It really is, truly satisfying.

Read More

Using dried herbs or fresh herbs

Sep 10, 2013 0

_DAV0744

Using dried herbs or fresh herbs

How to convert between the two

Depending on whether your recipe calls for using dried herbs or fresh herbs; when it comes to herbs you can almost always substitute dried herbs for fresh herbs (and vice versa)

The general rule to follow:

Dried to fresh
Multiply dried amount by 3 (1/3 C dried = 1 C fresh)
Fresh to dried
Divide fresh amount by 3 (1 C fresh = 1/3 C dried)

Flavors in fresh herbs are always more pure, and flavors in dried herbs are always more concentrated. Fresh is always more desirable, but dried herbs are always on the spice rack and handy. If using dried herbs they should be bright or deep in color. If the color has faded then the herbs have probably gone stale. If you can crush a few leaves and not get the strong aroma of the herb then it’s gone stale. Dried herbs do not have an infinite shelf life.

Herb life expectancy

According to shelflifeadvice.com

Dried whole herbs
Pantry for 1-3 years
Dried ground herbs
Pantry for 6-12 months
Fresh herbs
Refrigerator for up to 1 week

Is anyone else guilty of at one time having 5 year old basil (or worse?) on the spice rack, or just me? Ideally we would just buy the amount of fresh that we needed. If you have left over fresh herbs make sure you dry them out and put them in a spice jar.

It is also best practice to buy whole spice and use a spice mill or coffee grinder to grind them fresh each time as needed. Always having some on hand is very convenient so make sure you store what left and rotate them out when they’re too old and the food you’re taking the time to prepare will taste even more amazing.

Read More

Cows are herbivores

Sep 6, 2013 0

Cows

Cows are herbivores (mainly grasses).

A cows’ natural diet is typically a “grazing” diet. “Graze” comes from Middle English grasen,  from old English grasian, from graes grass. When you put the cattle “out to pasture” it is traditionally out to the pasture land where the cows will graze on the grasses that are growing. On their website at cattletoday.com the authors state

“Real cattlemen show their true colors and don the hat of a “grass farmer.” Not “sodbuster,” but yes, “grass farmer.”

“Grass farmers” then do not rely on expensive, oil consuming machinery to harvest the crop, they rely on “machines” of the four-legged variety who can not only harvest the grass, but also fertilize the next crop. Repeating this process over the same areas of pasture if called “rotational grazing” or “managed grazing.” We have seen this ourselves on a small farm here near Phoenix at Farmer Goose. Here they explain “Managed Grazing.”

Cattle were not designed to eat a diet consisting of grains such as wheat, corn and their byproducts. They especially weren’t designed to have candy mixed into their concentrated feed (read here how farmers are feeding candy to cows because corn prices increased.) Grains are an excellent energy source and when cows are confined in feed lots (industrial farms) that energy can’t get burned so it converts to fat. This gets that cow up to weight so it can go to slaughter sooner. It also creates a cow with higher fat content and this is where the marketing machines kick in and call fatter cattle as having “superior marbling for better flavor”, as opposed to the leaner grass fed cows.

Conditions

The conditions pictured above look idealistic right? However, the American demand has been “more food for less money.” Cheaper, cheaper, cheaper! How many of us have bragged about how cheap a food purchase we made was (guilty!) That has led us to the industrialized feed lots which aren’t exactly ecological havens (see Google Earth pictures of a feed lot here). That’s a whole lot of brown by the satellite image. Does this system do what the consumer has demanded? Yes, and they do it very efficiently with the latest technologies. However, it’s not healthy for the planet, surely not healthy for the cows, and it’s definitely not producing healthy food for us.

Nutrition

Grassfed products tend to be much lower in total fat than grainfed products. Grassfed products have an added benefit of having the highest levels of CLAs (conjugated linoleic acid). Studies show that a small amount of CLA in your diet will greatly reduce tumor growth. A Finnish study has shown that women with the highest levels of CLAs in their diet had a 60 percent lower risk for breast cancer. Sources found in footnotes 12 and 14 on the bottom of this page at americangrassfedbeef.com.

The grain-fed diets produce cows that have normal amounts of Omega-6 and are virtually devoid of all Omega-3. As humans, we need a balance of both at a 1:1 ratio. A typical western diet has a ratio of about 15-16.7:1 high in Omega-6 fatty acids. This imbalance can cause cardiovascular disease, cancer, and inflammatory and autoimmune diseases per the National Center for Biotechnology Information found here. Dr Weil also has a good write up on his site here on the differences in Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. Grassfed products have 2-6 times more Omega-3s than their grainfed counterparts.

Fats are still fats and fats should not be the base of our diet, so we should consume in moderation and at healthy levels. However, our bodies do need the right fats to be healthy. Eating the healthy fats and eating them in the correct proportions will greatly increase our health and/or reduce our risk for certain disease.

Read More

We Americans need more culture

Sep 3, 2013 2

cultured-dairy

We Americans need more culture

It’s butter, you can’t get any better than butter right? Wrong. If you love butter, sour cream, buttermilk (the kinds that are available more commonly here in the US at least), etc. already then this is going to be, well….cruel.

Sweet cream

In The United States, by law, dairy products are pasteurized to reduce/eliminate the threat of pathogens inside the dairy growing and causing disease. Info on pasteurization is readily available and I won’t dive into a dissertation on the history of that. Long story short, pasteurization kills much of the bacteria inside dairy products. This is both good and bad. As stated, it eliminates/reduces the risk of disease, so that’s good. However, it also kills the beneficial bacteria that are actually good for us (see this post on gut bacteria).

After pasteurization, the cream we end up with is known as sweet cream. In this case, it’s sweet as opposed to “sour”. Not sour like lemon sour, but sour like sour cream and sourdough. Sweet cream has not been soured or fermented, as nothing can grow inside it anymore. This leaves the cream sweet in that it has higher levels of lactose (aka dairy sugar.)

Soured Cream

On the other hand, in Europe and many other countries most dairy products like this are fermented or “soured”. Sour cream in Europe is called crème fraîche (or similar soured creams)(what I don’t understand is why they call a soured cream “fresh cream”, but that’s all on them for being confusing)(at least we got the name right haha.) It is a naturally soured cream. The preferred butter in Europe is also a cultured butter and not a sweet cream butter.

If cream is allowed to sit at fermenting temperatures without having been pasteurized, that same bacteria that we kill here grow and begin to ferment the cream. That is how the term “sour cream” came about. It was initially cream that had been soured so that it had thickened and the flavor compounds had changed to a more yogurt like tanginess.

Side note is we can find cheesemakers and other “artists of cultures” who can use culture starters and grass-fed cream to create crème fraîche from pasteurized cream. This crème fraîche by this brand here I have bought and it is amazing. I can only imagine what it might taste like traditionally made. This brand here sells a grass-fed variety. Also, just use your own grass-fed cream and make your own! For instructions on how to make cultured butter and buttermilk see our post here.

Why do I care?

Diacetyl, lactic acid bacteria, and good digestion. Diacetyl is the compound that gives butter it’s buttery aroma (whoever invented English got real creative with the adjectives on that one “ummm, it’s….”buttery”?). Anyways, as the cream ferments, this compound is concentrated and intensifies. If you’re a butter lover and you haven’t smelled cultured butter before I hope you have strong will power or you may gain weight just by smelling it over and over and…well, you get the point. It can be added to foods to give a buttery flavor (stay away from these foods (if something doesn’t taste like butter because it has butter in it then it shouldn’t taste like butter)), but here we get it the way nature intended it.

Lactic acid bacteria is responsible for giving a tangy flavor. Imagine a butter or sour cream or buttermilk with an even more intense butter flavor AND the slightest tangy undertone similar to yogurt. Are you following me now?

Those who are lactose intolerant may find cultured creams easier to deal with. The fermenting process converts lactose to lactic acid. It takes the sugar that some people have troubles digesting and turns it into flavor. Win, win, right!? The bacteria in the culture are also probiotic and aid in the digestive process. If you were able to add more naturally probiotic foods to your diet there would be less searching labels for foods specifically formulated to have probiotics added in.

If you love butter, sour cream, buttermilk…etc. then I feel you owe it to yourself to experience cultured butter, cultured buttermilk, and crème fraîche. You’ll fall in love all over again, and your gut will thank you.

Read More