Good Egg, Bad Egg

We are all familiar with the idiom, a bad egg, which means someone dishonest or not to be trusted.  What is amazing is how many ‘bad eggs’ are out there.  My research revealed some disheartening means to which eggs are brought to market.

Let’s start with a regular cartoon of eggs.   These hens are permanently caged.  Their living area is less than a piece of letterhead paper.  The hens are so close that their beaks are burned off so they don’t peck each other. 1

But then there are cage-free or free-range eggs.  I was fooled on this one.  The USDA’s requirement is for the hen to have access to outdoor areas.  It does not regulate how long the hen goes out or if it even spends any time outside at all. 2   Therefore, a farmer could label his eggs cage free because he opens a door for 5 minutes. The hens could go outside but are not required.

Well, we have organic eggs right?  Yes, organic eggs are regulated more but only with regards to what the hen can eat and the removal of antibiotics and hormones.  This is at least a step in the right direction.

The last label is the best – pastured eggs.  This means the hens are able to run around outside.  They have beaks so they can chase bugs and eat what chickens like to eat, rather than what the farmer wants them to eat.  They are out in the sunlight and absorbing all that Mother Nature has to offer.

But does a pastured raised chicken mean a healthier egg?  Here’s the facts:  3

Pastured raised eggs have:pastured eggs

–       1/3 the cholesterol
–       1/4 the saturated fat
–       2/3 more vitamin A
–       7 times more beta carotene
–       3 times more vitamin E
–       2 times more omega 3

Yes, pastured eggs are more expensive.  But think of it this way, so are cholesterol pills and vitamin supplements and by-pass surgeries.  Somehow we need to learn that cheaper food is not always cheaper.

Perhaps being educated is the best defense against ‘a bad egg’.

 

1   http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/confinement_farm/facts/cage-free_vs_battery-cage.html
  http://www.fsis.usda.gov/factsheets/meat_&_poultry_labeling_terms/index.asp#4
3 http://www.motherearthnews.com/eggs.aspx

 

3 Ways to Cook Steak

With these winning strategies, you can cook the perfect steak any day of the week.

The “Two-Step” Steak

A technique commonly used by chefs, the “two-step” is a quick cooking method where steaks are first seared in a pan and then finished in the oven. This process allows for even cooking with restaurant quality results.

Start with your favorite 1 3/4 to 2-inch thick cut steak — tenderloin, ribeye, top loin. Pat dry and season with salt and pepper as desired. Heat the oven to 350°F. In the meantime, heat a heavy, ovenproof nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Place steaks in the skillet and brown for two minutes. Turn steaks over and immediate place skillet in the preheated oven. For medium rare, cook steaks for about 18-20 minutes (or until the internal temperature reads 125°F) and for medium, cook 20-22 minutes (or until the internal temperature reads 135°F). Remove from the oven and allow the steaks to rest 5-10 minutes as the temperature will continue to rise about 10°F to 135°F for medium rare and 145°F for medium.

Make the Most of Marinating

steak frubMarinades are a quick and easy way to tenderize beef and enhance flavor. Foods containing acids (e.g., citrus juices, yogurt, wine) or enzymes (e.g., fresh ginger, papaya) soften proteins, while spice rubs and pastes add flavor.

Flat cuts of meat benefit most from marinades since the liquid penetrates only about 1/4 inch into the meat. The simplest method is to use a heavy duty zip-top plastic bag. Place the meat in the bag along with only 1/4-1/2 cup of marinade per 1 to 2 pounds of meat. Be sure to squeeze out as much air as possible to ensure the marinade makes contact with all surfaces of the meat. For tenderizing, marinate for 6 to 24 hours maximum to avoid a mushy texture. For flavor, marinate 15 minutes to 2 hours. Remove meat from the bag and discard the marinade. Pat the meat with a paper towel to remove excess marinade and to keep the meat from steaming when cooked.

Make Small Changes to Eat Sustainably

Sustainability is the current buzzword, and many people think they have to eat grass-fed beef to make a difference. But what if grass-fed beef isn’t available near your home and you still want to help the environment? Making one small change can make a big impact on the environment, as well as your personal health. That change is eating the right portion size.

The recommended serving of protein at one meal is 4 ounces raw or 3 ounces cooked. That’s about the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. If you eat the right amount, you can buy less meat and help the environment. Added bonus: You’ll be reducing your calorie intake.

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Special thanks to Kari Underly — Kari is a third generation, Chicago-based butcher and author of The Art of Beef Cutting (2011). She is also the founder of Range, Inc., a consultancy dedicated to helping companies in the meat industry develop merchandising tools and new market strategies. 

Back-to-School: 5 No-Cook Breakfasts

According to a national nutrition and health survey, one in three American teens start the school day without breakfast, which can affect academic performance. Earlier this month, nutrition experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) warned that lack of energy and lower test scores are not the whole story.

Studies show that children and adolescents who skip the morning meal have higher body fat than those who eat breakfast. And that, according to AICR Registered Dietitian Alice Bender, can set kids up for serious health problems in the future.

“Skipping breakfast is one of several unhealthy habits that can put young adults on track to becoming overweight or obese older adults,” says Bender. “As our obesity rate continues to increase, we’ll see more people at high risk for chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”

No Time for the Most Important Meal

Parents know that breakfast is important, but busy schedules and hectic mornings have a way of quashing even the best intentions. The challenge is finding the right combination of healthy choices — and the time to prepare and eat them.

To help moms and dads send their teens and children to school with a healthy start, AICR has developed some fast and easy healthy breakfast ideas and tips for getting breakfast on the menu more often.

Good for Kids, Good for Moms and Dads

A good start, Bender says, is for parents to get in the breakfast habit. When parents have a morning meal, kids are more likely to eat breakfast too. Healthy choices are important, but keep it simple: A whole grain ready-to-eat cereal with fruit and milk or plain instant oatmeal with raisins and yogurt take less than 5 minutes to have on the table.

Ask your children and teens for menu ideas and invite them to help shop and even prepare some things on the weekend. Make extra whole grain waffles on Sunday morning and freeze the leftovers for a quick toaster meal later in the week.

AICR’s Five Healthy No-Cook Breakfasts

These meals take just a few minutes to prepare and can be eaten at home or on the way to school.

  1. Breakfast Trail Mix (see recipe below) + reduced-sodium string cheese
  2. Peanut butter on brown rice cakes + apple (whole or slices) + 1 cup milk
  3. Breakfast smoothie (berries, yogurt or silken tofu, 100% juice) + whole grain mini-bagel
  4. Breakfast Fruit Wrap – whole-wheat tortilla with ricotta cheese, a little fruit spread, sliced strawberries and chopped nuts.
  5. Whole-wheat pita bread with hummus, fresh fruit, or a small box of raisins

Breakfast Trail Mix

  • 1/2 cup unsalted peanuts
  • 1/2 cup unsalted almonds
  • 1/2 cup dried apple pieces
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup oat circles
  • 1/2 cup bran cereal flakes

Put all the ingredients into big bowl. Stir well with wooden spoon. Divide into six equal amounts in small resealable plastic bags.

Makes 6 servings. Per serving: 210 calories, 12 g total fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 24 g carbohydrate, 7 g protein, 4 g dietary fiber, 50 mg sodium.

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AICRSpecial thanks to AICR — AICR’s website and brochure “The New American Plate for Breakfast” are filled with practical tips, recipes and tools that can help you make breakfast quicker, healthier, and a part of your family’s life, every day.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user ms.Tea

Jamie Oliver Talks Fresh With Jillian Michaels

She has a hard-earned reputation as “TV’s toughest fitness trainer” and she has the credentials to back it up.

He’s a British chef who set out on an ambitious mission to change the way we cook, eat and feed our children.

In a recent interview shared by our friends at EveryDayHealth.com, Jamie Oliver revealed to Jillian Michaels his motivation for starting Food Revolution, his take on how Americans really feel about the healthy concepts he promotes, and he even included his tips for eating healthfully on a budget.

Fooducopia supports their mission of healthy living through good nutrition. In “The Art of War”, Sun Tzu tells us that the general who wins the battle makes many preparations before the battle is fought.  By cooking together as a family, drastically reducing take out and fast food, and shopping local farmers’ markets for fresh produce, we make the necessary preparations for the war on obesity.

Now on to the interview…

Jillian Michaels: First, I want you to know that I am a huge fan and have been for years! Literally since I discovered you while Bob and I were living in Australia — a mad fan.

Jamie Oliver: Thanks so much, it’s still funny to think that I’ve been doing this now for 12 years. The Aussies have always been very good to me. I try and get there every other year.

JM: I really appreciate your taking the time out of your schedule to answer these questions. I wish it was over cocktails. Not so sure what this is about, but I imagine you’d be a fun guy to grab a beer with — make that a light beer. All in moderation, right?

JO: I’m English, so we don’t drink light beer — lagers, ales, stouts — and usually in moderation. It’s a funny thing now that Americans put me with healthy food. I’m not the food police or a diet guy. I am trying to teach people about cooking skills and choosing fresh food over processed. Eat a wide variety of things, in reasonable portions. As a chef, it’s the only way that makes sense.

JM: I appreciate your perspective as one of not only health, but common sense. So that said, let’s get down to business. I loved Food Revolution. How did you originally come up with this concept, and why are you so passionate about fighting childhood obesity? Is there a personal connection to this cause of any kind?

JO: Food is personal. What we choose to eat or feed our families every day is the most personal choice we can make. Next to the mortgage, the food bill is going to be a large investment. When I started looking at school lunches (what we call dinners in England) I was disgusted by what I saw: Turkey Twizzlers, no real food or cooking, just processed crap and reheating. And the more people I talked to — teachers, school cooks, students — I realized how much they wanted to change the system and return to cooking and eating real food. I also saw many studies that showed the correlation between the rise of obesity and type 2 diabetes with the increase in processed food. So I wanted to try and figure it all out, and the best way I know how to do that is film it and give people watching TV more knowledge so they can make different choices. It’s sort of grown from England to America and around the world. 

Jillian Michaels: Your show, Jaime’s School Dinners, was a smash in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, etc. Your American show, Food Revolution, has been critically acclaimed and even won an Emmy, yet still Americans are slow on the uptake. Why do you think that Americans have been seemingly resistant while the concepts of these shows have deeply resonated with people in other countries?

Jamie Oliver: I don’t think Americans are resistant to the concepts at all. We have an incredibly active Web site and Food Revolution Facebook communities in almost every state in America. Americans care about the issues, absolutely. I think it’s more a choice in what kind of television they want to watch. Food Revolution was a serious show that illustrated painful issues. It was sometimes hard to watch. Sure, there were great emotional moments too, but a lot of it is hard and makes you think. Sometimes it’s easier to just change the channel. ABC was really brave to air it, and try and compete with Glee and your show too on Tuesday nights.

Read the interview in its entirety here.

Have you changed the way you shop, cook and eat?  What inspired you? Please leave a comment below … we love hearing from you!

7 Chef Tips to Improve Your Time in the Kitchen

We’re always on the lookout for great tips that will improve time spent in the kitchen, so recently we decided to ask some professionally-trained chefs to share their best cooking or kitchen tips with us. Here’s what they had to say!

Forget the Clock

“Cooking times are really useless in my opinion. My oven and your oven might be off by as much as 100 degrees from one another. Your sauté’ pan might not retain heat as well as mine. When using the oven, check halfway through the published cooking time and constantly be checking after that. A good chef always uses their eyes, nose, and fingers to check food, not their timer.”

— Tom Fabbri, Professional Chef & Personal Trainer

Frugal & Fit

“If you buy more herbs than you plan to use in two to three days, make pestos or blend the herbs with a little water and freeze in ice cube trays to use in dressings, soups, or even in shakes at a later date. Pestos can also be frozen or else they must be used within one week.

Another frugal tip: Save vegetable peels and the carcass of a roasted chicken to make a ‘free” chicken broth, since you would have thrown all these scraps away anyway. By making a broth, you extract every last nutrient out of these “scraps.” The broth can be used in soups or stews or it can be frozen in canning jars, baggies, or ice cube trays for future use.”

Elizabeth Brown, Registered Dietitian & Holistic Chef

 

Grow Your Own

“Eating on and from the land harks back to earlier times. It’s a reinvention of the old-fashioned block parties and village picnics that used to characterize America’s small towns and close-knit communities when every household boasted a famous pie or chicken-with-dumplings recipe. Although I love the produce we get from our garden, what I enjoy more is the way it attracts our next-door neighbors, our back-door neighbors, our across-street neighbors and our across-town neighbors. Everyone likes to gather in the garden; our family, our kids’ buddies, neighbors, dear friends, and new acquaintances. Some people help with the garden, others prepare food picked from it, and still others provide entertainment. Everyone has a good time and there’s room for everyone and what they bring to the table.”

— Michel Nischan, Sustainable food pioneer, chef & author

Secret Thickening Agent

When making hummus or muhammara (or any type of strong flavored Middle-Eastern dip), if the texture of the dip is too runny here is a solution: Either add 1/2 cup (or more depending on need) of instant oatmeal flakes that have been soaked in boiling water and drained or a couple of handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs to restore the needed texture to the hummus, baba ghannouj, muhammara, etc. The taste of the oatmeal or breadcrumbs will not be detected and the texture will be improved.

— Joumana Accad, Pastry Chef & founder of Taste of Beirut

Le Cordon Bleu Mini-Lesson

  • Add a splash of vinegar to eggs before you boil them for bright yellow yolks and pearl white skins.
  • Always let meat sit at room temperature for one hour before you cook.
  • Use white sea salt to finish seasoning after cooking and gray sea salt to season before cooking.
  • The flavor must decide what a dish will look like, never the other way around.
  • Be a minimalist; less is more. Let the food do all the work with its true God-given flavor; you just help it along.
  • Taste everything you make the entire time you are cooking.
  • The use of seasoning is 80-percent allowing the dish to taste great on its own.

— Ivan Flowers, Chef Owner of Fournos Restaurant & former instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Scottsdale

Stay Sharp

“Invest in the highest quality knives you can afford, even if you can only afford to buy one knife at a time. Start your arsenal with a supreme paring knife. Once you make the investment, keep your knives sharp! Use a professional sharpening service or invest in the proper sharpening tools and learn how to do this yourself. There is nothing worse than a dull blade in the kitchen!”

— Christina Sleeper, Chef & Owner of Sleeper’s Gourmet

 

Ginger Trick

“Peel ginger with a spoon — it’s easier, safer, more efficient, and so cool.”

— Simon Sheridan, Head Chef at Exquisite Food

A special thanks to all of the chefs for sharing their advice with us!